The Miami Dolphins’ 2023 regular season gets underway in eleven weeks. Between now and then, the team will complete their vacation period through the first part of July before reporting to training camp and completing the preseason. There will be plenty that changes between now and the regular season, with surprise cuts, late roster additions, and breakout players claiming depth chart spots not anticipated.
One place where the Dolphins appear to be set is the top of the quarterback group, where Tua Tagovailoa is heading into his fourth season and is cemented atop the depth chart. The biggest question about Tagovailoa is his health, not the play on the field.
Last season, Tagovailoa led the league with a 105.5 passer rating and an 8.9 yards per attempt average. He threw for 3,548 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the year, but he only played in 13 games, missing four regular season contests plus the team’s playoff game.
In his career, Tagovailoa has thrown for 8,015 yards with 52 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, and a 7.4 yards per attempt average, giving him a career 95.0 passer rating. He ranks fifth on the team in passing yards, touchdown passes, and yards per attempt (minimum 50 passes attempted) all time, while leading the team in passer rating (minimum 50 passes attempted).
The NFL is a team sport, with 11 players on the field for each team at any given time and half the game spent on defense. Quarterbacks do not actually face off against each other, but it is often the focal point of pre-game analysis of the game, with the performance of each passer a major talking point after the game. Winning may not be solely based on the play of the quarterback, but they are the only position in football that gets a “win” or their team’s record reflected on their stat line.
How does Tagovailoa stack up to the other quarterbacks he will face this season? Here is the 2023 Dolphins’ schedule, based on the quarterback matchup.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Justin Herbert
Sunday, September 10
Miami starts the season with a meeting between two quarterbacks who will forever be linked by the 2020 NFL Draft. The first-overall pick was LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals. Miami held the fifth-overall pick that year, and every quarterback other than Burrow was still on the board for their selection. After the “Tank for Tua” fan campaign throughout the year, the Dolphins selected Tagovailoa from Alabama, choosing him over Herbert. The Los Angeles Chargers were happy with Miami’s move, using the next pick to add Herbert to their roster. Not to be forgotten, Jordan Love was also selected in that year’s opening round and, as he takes over as the starter for the Green Bay Packers this year, the 2020 NFL Draft could find itself mentioned with the 1983 Draft, which included John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino all as first-round picks.
Last year, Herbert threw for 4,739 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a 6.8 yards per attempt average and a 93.2 passer rating. The Chargers were 10-7 on the season.
For his career, Herbert has thrown for 14,089 yards, 94 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions with a 7.2 yards per attempt average and a 96.2 career passer rating. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2021.
The Chargers hired Kellen Moore as their offensive coordinator this offseason, in large part to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their running game. Moore could look to exploit the effectiveness of running back Austin Ekeler in the passing game while keeping some of the things that have made Herbert the NFL record holder for passing yards in a player’s first three years.
This will be a great matchup between two of the younger star quarterbacks in the league.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mac Jones
Sunday, September 17
The New England Patriots 2021 first-round pick, Jones is the presumed starter here, but 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe could actually make a move to unseat Jones this season. Last year, Jones threw for 2,997 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with a 6.3 yards per attempt average and an 84.8 passer rating in 14 games played. Zappe appeared in four games, starting two of them, with 781 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and an 8.1-yard average. He finished the year with a 100.9 passer rating in the small sample size.
For his career, Jones has thrown for 6,798 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions, with a 6.7 yards per attempt average and an 89.0 passer rating. He was named to the 2021 Pro Bowl.
Miami would appear to have the quarterback versus quarterback advantage here, though Tagovailoa took a leap forward in his third year, so Jones could see the same thing this year - especially as the Patriots fix their offensive coordinator situation from last year with the newly hired Bill O’Brien taking over play calling from Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, and (sometimes) Bill Belichick. A better, cohesive offensive play calling and game planning could help Jones in 2023.
Russell Wilson vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Sunday, September 24
Russell Wilson joined the Denver Broncos in 2022 and it did not go well. Denver finished 4-11 in the 15 games Wilson played and he missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in six years and for just the second time in his career. He threw for 3,524 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions on a 7.3 yards per attempt average, giving him an 84.4 passer rating - by far the worst passer rating of his career. Wilson and the offense just never looked comfortable during the season.
For his career, Wilson has thrown for 40,583 yards, 308 touchdowns, and 98 interceptions, with a 7.8-yard average and a 100.2 passer rating. He has nine Pro Bowl selections in his career.
The Broncos hired Sean Payton as their head coach this offseason, looking to the former New Orleans Saints coach to right the offense led by the former Seattle Seahawks quarterback. Will it work? Will Wilson rebound after a disappointing 2022, or were the Seahawks right to move on from him?
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Josh Allen
Sunday, October 1
Allen is among the elite quarterbacks in the league, but it feels like Tagovailoa is closer to him than a lot of people - especially Buffalo Bills fans - are willing to admit. In 16 games last year, Allen threw for 4,283 yards with 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, along with a 7.7 yards per attempt average giving him a 96.6 passer rating.
He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in the first of three meetings with Miami last year. In the second game, he had 304 passing yards and four touchdowns. In the playoff meeting, Allen threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Over his five years in the league, Allen has 18,397 passing yards, 138 touchdowns, 60 interceptions, a 7.2-yard average, and a 92.2 passer rating. He has two Pro Bowl selections.
Add in Allen’s ability to scramble, and the Dolphins have a tough test early in the season.
This should be a meeting between the two teams most likely to win the AFC East this year and should be a great matchup.
Daniel Jones vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Sunday, October 8
Jones is a hard one to figure out. It feels like the fans and media have been trying to get the New York Giants to replace Jones from the moment he was drafted, but he also has played well. It might be similar to the situation Jay Fiedler was in for the Dolphins as he replaced Dan Marino, with Jones the replacement for Eli Manning. Every slight stumble is the end of the world and Jones is a bum, but when he plays well, that is just what is expected.
Last year was a good one for Jones and should give him some assurances that he is locked in as the Giants starter. He threw for 3,205 yards with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on the year, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and finishing with a 92.5 passer rating.
Over his four years in the league, Jones has thrown for 11,603 yards with 60 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. He averages 6.7 yards per attempt and has an 86.5 career passer rating.
Tagovailoa has the advantage here, but if Jones plays like he did last year, it is not as big a gap as it may have been.
Bryce Young vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Sunday, October 15
We are going to assume that the number one overall pick by the Carolina Panthers this year will be the starting quarterback this year. A rookie out of Alabama, Young threw for 3,328 yards 32 touchdowns, and five interceptions, though that was down from the 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns, and seven interceptions he threw in 2021 as he won the Heisman Trophy.
The Dolphins' defense will be looking to force rookie mistakes from Young. Miami has the advantage here as Young works to adjust to the NFL.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jalen Hurts
Sunday, October 22
Alabama teammates now facing off in the NFL. Tagovailoa replaced Hurts as the starter at Alabama, with Hurts staying for the 2018 season despite having been demoted. He then transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season in 2020, becoming a second-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. Now coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles and Hurts will be looking to prove they are among the league’s elite.
Last year, Hurts threw for 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, with an 8.0 yards per attempt average and a 101.5 passer rating. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the season.
In his three years in the league, Hurts has thrown for 7,906 yards with 44 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He has a career 7.6-yard average per attempt and a 92.2 passer rating.
Similar to the Week 1 meeting with Herbert, this is another marquee matchup between two young quarterbacks on the verge of being stars in the league. This one adds in the Alabama storyline and will be a primetime game on Sunday Night Football.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mac Jones
Sunday, October 29
See Week 2.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Patrick Mahomes
Sunday, November 5
The Dolphins play the defending Super Bowl champions in an away game this year - but they are not facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, but rather will head to Germany for this game. That is the good news. Of course, when it comes to looking at quarterback matchups, this may be the toughest on the schedule for the Dolphins - and that may be the bad news.
Patrick Mahomes is a two-time NFL MVP, two-time Super Bowl MVP, an Offensive Player of the Year, and a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He threw for a league-leading 5,250 yards, just 10 yards or 30 feet from hitting the mile mark, in 2022. He also led the league with 41 touchdowns while throwing 12 interceptions. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and was just behind Tagaovailoa with a 105.2 passer rating.
For his six-year career, Mahomes has thrown for 24,241 yards, 192 touchdowns, 49 interceptions, an 8.1-yard average per attempt, and a 105.7 career passer rating.
Mahomes has the reputation as the best quarterback in the league and the hardware to backup it up. This will be a tough one for the Dolphins, but if Tagovailoa can play up to his potential, he could go toe-to-toe with Mahomes.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jimmy Garoppolo
Sunday, November 19
This is an interesting one. Who is Jimmy G? Is he the quarterback who showed flashes that made people think he was the player who would push Tom Brady out of New England? Is he the player who led the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record in 2019, a Super Bowl appearance, and threw for nearly 4,000 yards? Or is he the player who San Francisco nearly let go in 2022, only to re-sign him for a year and then allowed him to leave this offseason? Now with the Las Vegas Raiders, there are a lot of questions about who is Garoppolo.
Teaming up with former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels could bring out the best in Garoppolo.
Last year with the 49ers, Garoppolo threw for 2,437 yards with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 11 games. He averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and finished the season with a 103.0 passer rating. He has the potential to be a top-tier passer, but he has not been the most consistent passer in the league, so who knows exactly what the Raiders will have at quarterback?
For his career, Garoppolo has thrown for 14,289 yards with 87 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. He averages 8.3 yards per attempt and he has a career 99.6 passer rating - but he has only appeared in more than six games in a season three times out of his nine years played.
There is some health concern with Garoppolo, who had surgery on his foot after he joined the Raiders.
This probably leans toward Tagovailoa unless McDaniels gets something special out of Jimmy G.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Aaron Rodgers
Friday, November 24
The newcomer to the AFC East, Rodgers, faces Miami for the first time as a member of the New York Jets. The analysis and oddsmakers believe Rodgers makes the Jets a Super Bowl contender. Will he be the player who won the league MVP award in 2011, 2014, 2020, and 2021?
Last year, Rodgers threw for 3,695 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It was the first time in his career he was under 3,700 passing yards when he played an entire season and the most interceptions he has had since his first season as the starter for the Packers back in 2008. His 6.8 yards per attempt and 91.1 passer rating were the lowest marks of his career as a starter.
Those are still really good numbers, but as he enters his 19th year in the league and turns 40, was last year the start of time catching up to Rodgers, or will he turn out to be another Tom Brady who holds off age for another several years?
For his career, Rodgers has thrown for 59,055 yards with 475 touchdowns, 105 interceptions, an 8.3 average per attempt, and a 103.6 passer rating. He is a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, a four-time First-Team All-Pro, a four-time NFL MVP, and a Super Bowl MVP. Until last season, he had made the Pro Bowl in every year he played at least 10 games since 2011.
This could be a tough matchup for Tagovailoa, facing a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback, especially given the Jets should have a good defense to pair with Rodgers. Unfortunately for Miami, the first of the two games against New York did not get scheduled before Week 12, giving Rodgers a chance to work out all the timing and chemistry issues he may have early in the season as he gets used to New York. This game will take center stage as the league introduces the Black Friday game. The Dolphins and Jets also face off twice in the span of three weeks, meeting again in Week 15.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Sam Howell
Sunday, December 3
Who will be starting for the Washington Commanders in Week 13? Will it be Howell, the 2022 fifth-round pick who started in the season finale last year? Could it be Jacoby Brissett, the former Dolphins quarterback? Could Jake Fromm or undrafted free agent Tim Demorat somehow move into the top spot?
The assumption here is it will be Howell, because there seems to be momentum to him starting with Brissett serving as the backup. He only had the one appearance last year, starting the last game of the year, and going 11-for-19 for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception, giving him a 7.6 yards per attempt average and an 83.0 passer rating.
At the University of North Carolina, Howell was a three-year starter, throwing for 10,283 yards with 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He averaged 9.2 yards per attempt.
The advantage here has to be with the Dolphins and Tagovailoa until Howell (or Brissett) proves otherwise.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Monday, December 11
Former Dolphins quarterback Tannehill comes back to Miami with the Tennessee Titans for a Monday Night Football showdown in Week 14. That is assuming Tannehill is still the starter for the Titans, who have 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis and 2023 second-round pick Will Levis on the roster as well.
Last year, the Titans saw Tannehill start 12 games, during which he threw for 2,536 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and finished with a 94.6 passer rating. An ankle injury bothered him throughout the season, eventually landing him on injured reserve with Willis filling in for him.
For his career, including six years in Miami, Tannehill has thrown for 33,265 yards with 212 touchdowns and 108 interceptions. He has a career average of 7.3 yards per pass and a 91.9 passer rating. Tannehill was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, his first season with Tennessee.
Going into his 11th season, Tannehill is a veteran who will be looking to make an impact back in Hard Rock Stadium. The true measure of what the Dolphins will be facing may be how effective the Titans’ run game is. Tannehill’s strength is the play-action pass and using the run to set up his aerial attack. Derrick Henry is still the top running back on the Titans’ depth chart and he was a Pro Bowl selection and league leader in rushing attempts last year. He has carried the ball at least 200 times every season since 2018, and he has 300 or more carries in three of the last four years - and the only year he did not reach 300 is when he was limited to eight games in 2021, carrying 219 times in half a season. The Titans' success will come with Henry and third-round rookie Tykae Spears, followed by Tannehill’s passing.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Sunday, December 17
See Week 12.
Dak Prescott vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Sunday, December 24
Prescott is an interesting case for the Dallas Cowboys. It feels like he is a good quarterback who the fan base is not sold is the quarterback for them, even though he is seven years into his career. Entering his eighth season, Prescott is under contract through 2024 (with two voided years after that for salary cap purposes), but likely will have to have a contract extension at some point, given he will count for $26.8 million this year against the cap, $59.5 million next year (with an additional $2.5 million against the cap if he is released), then will have a $36.5 million cap number in 2025 as his contract is voided. The Cowboys seem locked into Prescott for at least a few more years - even if he has seasons where he leads the league in interceptions.
That is exactly what happened in 2022, with Prescott throwing 15 picks. He also had 2,860 passing yards with 23 touchdowns, but he only played 12 games.
For his career, Prescott has thrown for 24,943 yards with 166 touchdowns and 65 interceptions. He has a career 7.7 yards per attempt average and a 97.8 passer rating. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2022, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice.
There is so much confusion around Prescott, yet the Cowboys have won 12 games each of the last two seasons.
Will the Dolphins see a Prescott playing like a Pro Bowl quarterback? Or will they see a quarterback who is inconsistent, forces passes, and drives Cowboys fans crazy?
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Lamar Jackson
Sunday, December 31
The highest-paid player in the league, Jackson could be a tough matchup for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. Not only is Jackson a top-tier passer, but his legs make him a tough matchup for Miami, a team who has struggled with running quarterbacks for several years.
Last year, Jackson played in 12 games, throwing for 2,242 yards with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He averaged 6.9 yards per attempt last season and finished with a 91.1 passer rating.
Over his five-year career, Jackson has thrown for 12,209 yards with 101 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. He averages 7.4 yards per attempt and has a career 96.7 passer rating. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2019 MVP.
Late in the season, this game could have all kinds of playoff implications for both teams. This should be a fun New Year’s Eve game featuring an established star quarterback and one who is on the brink of putting himself in that tier.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Josh Allen
See Week 4.