Tua Tagovailoa expected NFL ‘to be a lot harder’

The rookie Dolphins quarterback has the Dolphins sitting just a half game back of the Bills in the AFC East

When Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores made the decision to bench veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of rookie Tua Tagovailoa coming out of the team's bye week a month ago, there were questions about whether Miami should've given the 2019 fifth overall pick more time to prepare.

After three games with Tagovailoa at the helm, it's looked the right decision as he's won his first three starts and helped extend the Dolphins' winning streak to five games to sit with a 6-3 record. With a road win on Sunday over the Denver Broncos, the Dolphins would pull even with the Buffalo Bills for the top spot in the AFC East at 7-3.

For Tagovailoa, the adjustment from playing collegiately at Alabama to the pros has been pretty easy.

"I expected it to be a lot harder," Tagovailoa told Pro Football Talk. "Not that it's not hard."

It's only been three games, but his starts have come against some pretty solid teams in the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers.

The 22-year-old has completed 62.7% of his passes for 510 yards with five touchdown passes, a 104.8 passer rating and no interceptions in his three starts.

"I would say I'm comfortable, but a lot of that starts from practice," Tagovailoa said. "Just being able to talk with our center, Ted [Karras], on Thursdays, going over our protections, just being able to talk to the [offensive] line about what I'm thinking and then hearing from them what they're thinking, talking to the receivers, what we're thinking, and just kind of a combined thought process for all of us together to all kind of be on the same page."

Tagovailoa's numbers haven't been mind-blowing.

His best game coming against the Cardinals, throwing 20-for-28 of his passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, but he has brought consistency to the quarterback position and is the first Dolphins quarterback to win his first three starts since Damon Huard in 1999.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban even gave praise to his former quarterback on Monday.

“I thought he played really well,” Saban said. "I was really proud of him. Made some really good throws. Led the team to victory. Moving them down the field, answered the bell when they needed to in the fourth quarter."

if Tagovailoa continues this consistent play while continuing to improve, he'll have the Dolphins in prime playoff contention.