Patriots

Patriots prepping for an improved Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday

Bill Belichick, Kyle Van Noy, and the Patriots defense are bracing for a Tua Tagovailoa who has shown "a lot" of growth heading into Year 2.

Tua Tagovailoa Patriots Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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Much of the buzz heading into the Patriots-Dolphins Week 1 matchup has centered around the ascendant rookie Mac Jones and how he’ll fare in his first NFL action.

But New England’s defense will be more concerned with another former Alabama quarterback Sunday afternoon: Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.

The 2020 first-round pick has drawn positive reviews for his growth heading into his sophomore season after an up-and-down rookie campaign that saw him benched at one point.

Few Patriots defenders have a better vantage point on what to expect from intriguing young Dolphins quarterback than Kyle Van Noy, who practiced against Tagovailoa every day during his sojourn with Miami last year.

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“Tua’s a good guy. I got to know him well over the year I was with him,” Van Noy said when asked about his ex-teammate Wednesday morning. “I think his growth in one year is a lot. Just the progressions of his reads. [He’s] just a really good football player, and he’s getting great coaching.”

The veteran Patriots edge rusher also praised Tagovailoa’s leadership earlier this week and added the Dolphin passer’s ball placement will be a key to his success.

Quick thinking. Good leadership. Solid accuracy. Sounds like another young quarterback we know.

Bill Belichick said Wednesday that the Dolphins offense as a whole poses a challenge to the Patriots defense because of its balance, boasting pass catchers with size (like tight end Mike Gesicki) and speed (like rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle), versatile backs and the mobile Tagovailoa at quarterback.

But that chess match goes both ways.

Tagovailoa admitted Wednesday morning that he’s already trying to play out the first few moves of how Belichick and the Patriots defense will attack him this weekend.

“I try to put myself in a situation where I’m Bill Belichick,” the Dolphins quarterback said. “If I was Bill Belichick, what would I want to do to stop myself?”

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The Patriots defense certainly made life tough on Tagovailoa in Week 15 last season, limiting him to just 145 yards passing with no touchdowns and an interception and sacking him twice in their only game against him. But the Dolphins still got out of that game with a 22-12 win down in Miami.

This time, Belichick and his crew will be hoping an improved roster on both sides of the ball will be enough to stymie a better version of Tagovailoa and repeat last year’s Week 1 win over their division rivals.

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