Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins look healthy and evolved — which should scare the rest of the AFC

Having Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Tua Tagovailoa and one of the best offensive minds in the league is a good formula to score a ton of points, quiet as it’s kept.

The Miami Dolphins picked up right where they left off last year with a healthy Tagovailoa under center — shredding every defense that lines up across from them. The Dolphins being able to score is expected, but they actually cleared a hurdle that wasn’t guaranteed coming into Week 1.

Last December, the Chargers held the Dolphins to just 17 points with Tagovailoa throwing for 145 yards and completing just 10 of his 28 passing attempts. Tagovailoa ultimately missed the last three games of last season, including a wild-card loss, due to concussions.

Sunday was a completely different story, with Tagovailoa throwing for career-high 466 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-34 win over the Chargers. Hill also had another dominant outing, catching 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with less than two minutes left.

“We really didn’t spend any time talking about last year,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said afterward. “Just because it was erroneous, I thought.”

Tua Tagovailoa (1) was healthy and on point in the Dolphins' Week 1 win over the Chargers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Tua Tagovailoa (1) was healthy and on point in the Dolphins’ Week 1 win over the Chargers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The Dolphins didn’t just bounce back against the Chargers this time around, they absolutely throttled the Chargers defense and scored 36 points — and they needed every one of those points to get past Austin Ekeler and the revamped Chargers’ rushing game.

That was about as big of a statement win as a team like the Dolphins can have in Week 1. The expectations for them are already sky-high with the standard they set last season, but to win this specific game over this specific team in the manner they did showed this might be an evolved form of the offense from a year ago. That’s a terrifying thought for the rest of the AFC and the Dolphins’ division rivals. They did this while turning the ball over twice and they were missing their best offensive lineman in Terron Armstead, who missed the game due to numerous injuries. The team that just dumped 36 points on the Chargers isn’t even going to be the most complete version of the Dolphins that takes the field this season.

Tagovailoa and Hill were in sync Sunday, especially throwing down the field. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Hill and Tagovailoa combined for 188 yards on passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. McDaniel’s offense has mastered the ability to not only throw over the middle of the field, but also getting their explosive playmakers in a spot to create yards after the catch. Hill was the fastest ball-carrier of Week 1, reaching a whopping 21.7 miles per hour on a 47-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Waddle also reached over 20 miles per hour on a 35-yard reception in the first quarter.

“Everything was more fluid,” Hill said in his postgame press conference. “Last year I was banking on speed … this year I was in my bag.”

Hill also appreciated how much Tagovailoa fed him at the end of the game and made the throws he needed to help get the Dolphins across the finish line. “He leaned on me towards the end,” Hill said. “That just means more targets for me and I enjoy that.”

Moving forward, the Dolphins should feel like they can score on anyone now that they’ve moved past one of few challenges their offense faced last year as a healthy unit. It was an emphatic statement that the Dolphins are serious this season in what looks to be another loaded AFC. If they can get a bit more help from their defense moving forward, this is going to be one of the flat-out best teams in the entire NFL and can carve a real path toward a deep playoff run.

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