Tua Tagovailoa didn’t have much such getting the ball downfield as a rookie, averaging only 9.7 yards per completion. Does this mean that he’ll never be a successful deep-ball thrower? Or is there some chance of him turning things around?

The Dolphins, after all, have pumped a lot of speed into their wide receiver group. They signed Will Fuller, who at times has been about effective as anyone at getting downfield for chunk plays. And they selected Jaylen Waddle with the 6th pick of the draft. With his speed, he can score long touchdowns, either by getting behind defenses or by turning short catches into big plays.

And not to forgotten is DeVante Parker. He’s not as fast, but he’s bigger, friendlier target who at times has looked like one of the league’s top dozen receivers. Parker really ripped up the league in the second half of the 2019 season.

Some of Tagovailoa’s struggles last year can be tied to his playing style. As a rookie, it looked like he was just trying to avoid mistakes, settling for short, safe throws underneath. He’ll presumably be more willing to take chances in his second year. (This was the same theory with Drew Lock heading into last season; it didn’t go well for him.)

If we’re going off what we’ve seen on tape, it doesn’t look good. Tagovailoa is a small quarterback with limited mobility, and it doesn’t look like he has much of an arm. If you took the 32 starting quarterbacks to a field and asked them to throw the ball as far as they can, Tua doesn’t look like he’d be able to outperform much of anyone.

I poked around with the numbers some on this, looking at stats from the last 20 years. Considering only quarterbacks who started at least half of the season, there are 80 who ranked outside the 25 in average yards per completion – after length of throws – and who then came back and started at least half of the next season.

Only 4 of those 80 quarterbacks who ranked outside the top 25 were able to come back and rank in the top 5 the next season. And I see 25 of 80 (almost a third) who at least ranked above average. In the chart below, the four in the top 5 are tagged with two dots (••). The other 21 ranking between 6th and 15th are tagged with one black dot.

There have been 14 quarterbacks who’ve averaged under 10 yards per completion (like Tua). Of that group, 2008 Chad Pennington moved up to 15th, while 2018 Carson Wentz improved from 28th to 3rd. Like Tua, Wentz was in his second season.

Of the 80 quarterbacks listed below, over half (43) ranked 20th or lower again the next season, and that’s what I’m expecting we’ll see this year.

Not listed, there are another 52 quarterbacks who ranked outside the top 25 in yards per completion but who didn’t start at least eight games the following year.

2011Andy Dalton, Cin.11.332611.1527
2011• Mark Sanchez, NYJ11.282711.7212
2012• Andy Dalton, Cin.11.152711.8311
2012Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buff.11.112811.3121
2004• Byron Leftwich, Jac.11.012612.139
2015• Kirk Cousins, Was.10.992612.117
2015•• Philip Rivers, S.D.10.972712.573
2003Kyle Boller, Balt.10.86269.9231
2014Drew Brees, N.O.10.862611.3818
2011Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buff.10.862911.1128
2008Marc Bulger, St.L.10.842710.4929
2013Joe Flacco, Balt.10.812811.5917
2008• David Garrard, Jac.10.812811.4615
2009• Matt Cassel, K.C.10.792611.8913
2008Peyton Manning, Ind.10.792911.4516
2014Alex Smith, K.C.10.782711.3620
2015Sam Bradford, Phil.10.77309.8231
2013Alex Smith, K.C.10.762910.7827
2006Chad Pennington, NYJ10.71269.8629
2015Matthew Stafford, Det.10.713211.1520
2011Matt Cassel, K.C.10.713011.1626
2016• Alex Smith, K.C.10.682611.858
2012• Philip Rivers, S.D.10.672911.8510
2019Kyler Murray, Ariz.10.662610.5922
2019Daniel Jones, NYG10.662710.5124
2018Derek Carr, Oak.10.632711.2318
2018Joe Flacco, Balt.10.632810.6528
2016• Blake Bortles, Jac.10.612711.7012
2001Rich Gannon, Oak.10.602611.2216
2019Drew Brees, N.O.10.602910.7020
2011Blaine Gabbert, Jac.10.543110.2630
2000• Tony Banks, Balt.10.522812.059
2009Chad Henne, Mia.10.502810.9726
2015Joe Flacco, Balt.10.49339.9029
2002• Jake Plummer, Ariz.10.462611.5414
2009Alex Smith, S.F.10.443011.6220
2003Drew Bledsoe, Buff.10.442911.4520
2005Brett Favre, G.B.10.432711.3319
2004Steve McNair, Ten.10.412910.8323
2002Tim Couch, Cle.10.412710.9922
2019Carson Wentz, Phil.10.413010.4426
2014• Blake Bortles, Jac.10.392912.476
2011•• Josh Freeman, T.B.10.383213.282
2010• Matt Ryan, Atl.10.382912.0414
2009Matt Hasselbeck, Sea.10.343111.2824
2014• Ryan Tannehill, Mia.10.323011.5914
2010Drew Brees, N.O.10.313011.7020
2014• Jay Cutler, Chi.10.303111.7711
2008Jason Campbell, Was.10.303011.0623
2018•• Matthew Stafford, Det.10.293113.363
2013Matt Ryan, Atl.10.283311.3120
2003• Drew Brees, S.D.10.283012.0615
2001Brian Griese, Den.10.282811.0418
2001Jon Kitna, Cin.10.272910.8121
2000Jon Kitna, Sea.10.263010.2729
2002Drew Brees, S.D.10.262810.2830
2005Brad Johnson, Min.10.242910.1929
2000Donovan McNabb, Phil.10.203111.3420
2002• Jeff Garcia, S.F.10.202912.028
2008• Brett Favre, NYJ10.123111.5813
2004Mark Brunell, Was.10.123011.6418
2018• Kirk Cousins, Min.10.113211.7412
2002Tom Brady, N.E.10.093011.4217
2001Jim Miller, Chi.10.083010.8022
2007• Drew Brees, N.O.10.052812.276
2006Joey Harrington, Mia.10.033110.3027
2001Brad Johnson, T.B.10.023110.8519
2016•• Carson Wentz, Phil.9.982812.443
2010Sam Bradford, St.L.9.923211.3325
2004Kyle Boller, Balt.9.923110.5226
2016Joe Flacco, Balt.9.90298.9229
2007• Chad Pennington, NYJ9.862911.3815
2017Eli Manning, NYG9.852711.3116
2012Christian Ponder, Min.9.783210.8427
2020Tua Tagovailoa, Mia.9.7531??
2005David Carr, Hou.9.72329.1634
2019Mitchell Trubisky, Chi.9.633210.3327
2014Derek Carr, Oak.9.403211.3917
2003Joey Harrington, Det.9.323111.1223
2017Joe Flacco, Balt.8.922910.6328
2008Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cin.8.623211.2020

—Ian Allan