Former teammates turned NFL foes, Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa are in for quite a season as the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins look to climb back into contention territory. The pair were teammates at Alabama in 2018 and 2019. Both men were responsible for winning a national championship.
Tagovailoa was a freshman during the 2017 championship. He replaced Jalen Hurts halfway through the championship game and led his team to the win. Mac Jones was the starting quarterback all season for the 2020 championship team. He had an incredible stat line of 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The two teammates faced off in Week 1 of the NFL season on Sunday for the first time. The Miami Dolphins ultimately eked out a 17-16 win, but the question is which Alabama QB will have a better season?
Mac Jones vs Tua Tagovailoa: The battle of the Alabama stars
In their first head-to-head game, Tagovailoa had an up-and-down showing. After last season, the pressure was on the young Miami quarterback to take the next step. He quickly got rid of the ball against a New England Patriots front seven that was all over him. Under pressure, Tagovailoa's faults showed. With an offensive line that could be shaky all season, that's something to be wary of.
He primarily threw to his check-downs but took a couple of deep shots. On two plays he threw jump balls that were caught. When the Patriots played soft coverage, he connected with his passes and let his receivers do the work after the catch. His final stats included 202 yards, two total touchdowns and an interception.
Mac Jones, on the other hand, was impressive. After the Patriots QB showed poise under pressure in the preseason, he repeated it in Week 1. Jones had a stat line of 281 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. His accuracy was on point against a decent Dolphins secondary. His only mistake was a fumble on his opening dropback.
Something to note was that Mac Jones was more conservative than Tagovailoa. Jones averaged 7.2 yards per attempt on 39 attempts. Tagovailoa, meanwhile, averaged 7.2 yards on 27 attempts.
Looking at Mac Jones going forward
Mac Jones is far from a finished product. He has a lot working for him already, though.
He's bought into "the Patriot way" and is obsessed with football. His accuracy and decision-making are terrific for a rookie. The Patriots won't have to worry too much about his mistakes costing them the game.
What Mac Jones will need to work on is his mobility to escape the pocket. He's poised under pressure but lacks the mobility to escape if the pocket collapses. Athleticism is something you either have or don't have. But Jones can learn to get better at running and throwing it away when needed. Otherwise, he's set up for a great rookie season.
Looking at Tua Tagovailoa going forward
Tagovailoa showed some of what Dolphins fans wanted to see in year two. Last season, he was 29th in yards per attempt. He's 15th after one game in 2021. He took a couple of deep shots that were missing from last year. Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball fast. But you have to have big plays in the NFL.
Going forward, as long as he's more aggressive, Tagovailoa will have a great season. Better weapons are surrounding him this time around and the play-calling is more aggressive. He's a year more experienced than Jones, which gives him an edge. The final aspect he must improve on is performing better under pressure. His offensive line played poorly against the Patriots and could be an issue all year.
Which QB will be better in 2021?
Ultimately, Mac Jones will likely be better than Tagovailoa in 2021. It's a tough call because both are incredibly young. The Dolphins' offensive line is concerning. They have better weapons than the Patriots. But it won't matter if Tagovailoa has no time to throw. For 2022 and beyond, it's anybody's guess.