South Florida Sun Sentinel
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — I’m old enough to remember the days when people were saying the AFC East had the potential to be the best division in football. I’m also old enough to remember when people were saying that the AFC East had the potential to have a memorable quarterback battle.
Well, midway through the marathon that is the NFL season, it’s advantage Dolphins and advantage Tua.
The latter is more impressive than the former. It means in the quarterback-leaning NFL, and in the Dolphins’ quarterback-heavy offense, things are trending in the right direction for seasonlong and possibly postseason success.
So, as we acknowledge the Dolphins are the overwhelming favorites at midseason to win the AFC East, we must also acknowledge Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the overwhelming favorite at midseason to be the AFC East Quarterback of the Year (no, there is no such award).
It’s an impressive single-season path to be on, considering the competition going into the season was New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, the men who finished 1-2 in the 2020 NFL MVP voting, and New England’s Mac Jones.
This was shaping up to be a three-man Battle Royale among Rodgers, Allen and Tagovailoa.
So far, it’s been nothing close to that. Tagovailoa is the clear leader, and you see that in the standings.
Disclaimer time: It’s important to note we’re only halfway through the season. Things can and will change in many areas. I’ve got to keep repeating that because we know Tua has been injury-prone, and we know the Dolphins were 8-3 last year before finishing 9-8.
Having said that, here’s where we’re at right now:
— Rodgers, the future Hall of Famer, never got his season going. He sustained an Achilles injury in his first series as a Jets quarterback. Zach Wilson is the starter and he has five touchdowns, six interceptions and a cringe-worthy 74.6 passer rating, which ranks 30th in the NFL;
— Allen, the All Pro and Pro Bowl selection, is leading a struggling Buffalo team that has a 5-5 record, fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey on Monday and could have three or four more losses on its schedule among Dallas, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Miami. Allen has 19 touchdowns, which is tied for the league lead with Tagovailoa, a league-leading 11 interceptions, and a 96.6 passer rating, which ranks 12th in the league;
— Jones, who earned a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie in 2021 (he was originally a second alternate) and helped lead the Patriots to a wild-card berth that same season, was benched last week. Coach Bill Belichick has declined to name Jones as the starter this week. Jones has 10 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a miserable 80.2 passer rating, which ranks 27th in the league;
— Tagovailoa, who has had well-documented injury concerns in the past, is trending in the right direction health-wise, team-wise and individually. He has 19 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 106.4 passer rating, which is second in the league.
Most importantly, the Dolphins are 6-3 and leading the division, while Buffalo is 5-5 and in second place, followed by the Jets (4-5) and Patriots (2-8).
Again, it’s way too early to say for certain things will end the way they’re going right now.
But just as we hand out midseason awards, we can make other midseason observations.
Tagovailoa’s tenuous accomplishment is impressive for a variety of reasons. The top three reasons, in no particular order, being his competition, his injury history and his injury-riddled offensive line.
And, let’s be honest, Tagovailoa has the best supporting cast among AFC East quarterbacks.
He has the best coach ( Mike McDaniel), the best running game, the best wide receivers, and soon he might have the best defense.
The offensive line, for all the doubts cast its way, has only allowed 15 sacks, third-fewest in the league.
It takes a village, right?
It also takes a strong individual effort, and Tagovailoa has given that in many ways, including the offseason jiu-jitsu classes that taught him how to fall properly (tuck the chin to the chest) to help prevent the back of his head hitting the ground and getting concussions.
This is a dream scenario for the Dolphins. This is just the way they drew it up.
They’re the best team in the AFC East, and, so far, they have the season’s best-performing quarterback in the AFC East.
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