Tua Tagovailoa NFL Draft scouting report: Analyzing the New Mexico State tape to see what went well and what needs work

Tua Tagovailoa diced New Mexico State, right? Wrong. 

His outing on Saturday was a prime example of a quarterback's individual performance sometimes not being as good as the stats indicate. He went 16 of 24 for 227 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions but wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in the season-opening win over Duke

Was Tagovailoa terrible? No. But the vast majority of his completions were easy, and his accuracy left a little to be desired. He made some unusually bad decisions too.

Let's go inside Tagovailoa's effort -- something we'll do every week here at CBS Sports -- and provide some of the finer details of this surprisingly lackluster contest from him.

What he did well

Despite not being impressed overall with Tagovailoa's performance -- and against lesser competition he might not always have to make a variety of difficult throws -- he did go full Aaron Rodgers on a touchdown to Jerry Jeudy in the first half. 

Remember that crazy throw Rodgers unloaded to Marquez Valdez-Scantling in the first game of the 2019 NFL season? Basically the only big play in the game. The one where, as he drifted to his left, A-Rod threw the ball more than 50 yards down the field away from the momentum of his body? Here, I'll show you. 

Tagovailoa, the lefty, essentially did the same thing on Saturday, except in the opposite direction of course. 

Note the pinpoint accuracy, as the ball sailed just over a defensive back underneath Jeudy in the end zone. While I've made mention of Tagovailoa's lack of a monster arm, it certainly was strong enough on this play.

And that was really it in terms of what stood out from a positive perspective from Tagovailoa in this game. Just about all of his other completions were high-percentage, wide open swing passes, bubble screens, or slants without tight coverage.

Where he must improve

Tagovailoa's ball placement was uncharacteristically off in this game, and the first demonstration of that came in the first half on an intermediate crosser to Henry Ruggs, the burner. 

Now, Tagovailoa's step up into the pocket was textbook, but the throw forced Ruggs to adjust to the football, thereby slowing him. 

And while the play still went for a 39-yard gain, the imprecise ball placement could've been the difference between a chunk play and a touchdown, especially when considering Ruggs' speed.

Drifting forward into the pocket may have interrupted Tagovailoa's timing, but Ruggs needs to be led further across the field on that route. The throw shows that not every completion is a positive for quarterbacks. 

Later in the game, Tagovailoa made two strange decisions to launch deep balls that simply weren't there, and he overthrew both passes. Two bad developments. The first came in the first quarter, with the cornerback giving major cushion before the snap. As the play progressed, that corner sunk into his deep portion of the field, and, had the throw been better, probably would've had a relatively easy interception. 

In his defense, Tagovailoa did have to release the ball a split second early because of an oncoming free rusher. But the decision was worse than the accuracy. Deep to the receiver on that side was simply not where Tagovailoa should've gone with the football. 

Near the end of the half, Tagovailoa overthrew another deep ball, but this throw was made into double coverage. As you see the ball land, you'll wonder what the Alabama quarterback had in his mind when he chose to release it. 

Sure, aggressive downfield shots were a staple of the Alabama offense a year ago and will likely be a big part of what the Crimson Tide do all season in 2019. But after not showcasing pinpoint accuracy deep in 2018, Tagovailoa has not demonstrated improved ball placement on those downfield throws so far in 2019, and his decision-making against New Mexico State on those long balls was concerning.


Does this game signal the end of Tagovailoa at No. 1 on my Big Board? No. However, if the dips in accuracy and questionable choices with the football continue, they will likely lead to game-changing plays for opposing defenses as Alabama gets into its SEC schedule.  

So they're worth monitoring. Maybe Tagovailoa played down to his competition against the Aggies. Maybe he'll play up to his competition when it matters most. But despite outstanding numbers, Tagovailoa was just a bit off in Week 2. 

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