Brett Whitefield's Week 1 Game Ball


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Brett Whitefield's Week 1 Game Ball

Welcome, NFL fans, to the first edition of my new weekly column!

With Week 1 officially in the books — and all of our Fantasy Points Data Suite charting done — it's time to shine a spotlight on the league's standout performer and hand out a "Game Ball." I will do this every week from now until the end of the season.

After grinding every single snap from the week, I will be bringing to the table a combination of film analysis and advanced data to break down the week’s most outstanding player.

And with that said…. The Week 1 game ball goes to Miami Dolphins’ signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa.


Tagovailoa showcased his mettle in a thrilling opening-day showdown, leading the Miami Dolphins to a heart-pounding 36-34 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Tua delivered a defining moment late in the fourth quarter with a clutch game-winning drive.

The drive began in spectacular fashion, as Tua unleashed the throw of the week – a dazzling 47-yard missile down the right sideline on 3rd-and-10, connecting with wide receiver Tyreek Hill in stride.

Tua's performance on opening day was nearly historic, as he amassed a staggering 466 passing yards and fired three touchdowns — the 466 passing yards were third-most in Week 1 of all time (although only second-most in Dolphins history, behind some guy named Marino).

With a pair of superstar receivers in Hill and Jaylen Waddle, plus the tutelage of head coach and master play-caller Mike McDaniel, the Tua I watched in Week 1 looks primed to lead the Dolphins to their best season in years.


When I turn on the tape, I see a quarterback who is slinging the rock more confidently than any in the league. He is seeing the field quickly, which demonstrates a strong understanding both pre-snap and post-snap, and is responding with decisiveness delivering the football.

On Sunday, Tagovailoa routinely delivered the ball on time with fantastic, repeatable mechanics. We already knew that Tua was a quarterback who thrived throwing in rhythm between the numbers, but he is taking his game to a whole new level right now.

Timing and Anticipation

This game features a litany of throws featuring exceptional timing and anticipation. When Tua hits his back foot on the top of his drop, the ball is coming out, often throwing into windows that don’t yet exist.

Creating out of structure

Going back to his time at Alabama and the first few years of his career, Tua has been a quarterback who scared me when the structure of the play broke down. He takes a lot of unnecessary hits and has been guilty of putting the ball in harm's way when he holds it too long.

But this week, he put on a creation clinic — evading pressure, throwing accurately off platform, throwing on the move. It was all there.

The juiciest of deep balls

Tua doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude him from being a fantastic deep ball thrower. However, I have been highly critical of Tua’s ability to push the ball downfield.

Last year, he was the beneficiary of having multiple YOLO balls bailed out by his incredible group of pass catchers. This week looked like a turning point. Disciplined mechanics, timing, and incredible accuracy allowed him to consistently deliver strikes downfield — against a highly touted secondary at that.

Eye-popping data points via Fantasy Points Data Suite
  • Led QBs with 7 “Hero Throws.” Hero Throws are throws of the most difficult and spectacular variety that either beat coverage itself or maximize the result of a big play.

  • Led QBs in “accurate ball %” at 71.9% despite also leading in aDOT (12.4).

  • Was 6 of 9 for 123 yards when on the move.

  • Had a passer rating of 145.8 on 24 dropbacks against middle-of-the-field open looks.


From a processing standpoint, this was easily the best game of Tua’s career. While it wasn’t always perfect, he has shown signs of improvement in how quickly he gets through his progressions and playing within the structure and intent of the play.

While it is just one game, If he keeps this up, combined with his accuracy and ability to create, he should have a career year and lead the Dolphins to being legitimate contenders in a stacked AFC.

Brett Whitefield is an experienced professional in football analytics, with more than a decade in the business. He has held several key positions with some of the top companies in the industry, including as a process manager at Pro Football Focus (PFF), where he spent more than seven years. Brett has also worked with and consulted for multiple NFL teams and Power-5 NCAA football programs.