Tua Tagovailoa's first NFL start comes at an ideal time for any rookie -- after the bye week -- but that doesn't mean it is without pressure.
Any rookie's first start is packed with a combination of excitement, nervousness and expectation. This one means a little more, though, because Tagovailoa is replacing a quarterback who was doing a solid job.
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't bashful about his disappointment following the news of the impending change under center, which he equated to being fired and forced to work alongside his replacement. The switch stings, no doubt, but is part of the Dolphins' succession plan that places Tagovailoa firmly in the center for the future. Dolphins coach Brian Flores believes the culture he's fostered is built to handle the change.
"I think the guys rally around each other," Flores said, via the Palm Beach Post. "I think they support one another. To think there would be division because a guy doesn't play well -- I don't think we have that on this team. I think when guys make mistakes, I think this team, they kind of rally around each other and pick each other up."
At least one of Tagovailoa's targets, receiver Preston Williams, expressed excitement related to the rookie's start, and it's likely he isn't alone. Dolphins fans have been waiting for this moment since April.
Waiting for Tagovailoa on the other side of the line of scrimmage will be the NFL's No. 6 defense and Rams star Aaron Donald, who makes fools out of most offensive linemen and won't slow down just because Tagovailoa is back there.
"I don't want to put expectations on anyone," Flores said. "It's a team effort. It won't be just Tua, but he's going to have to do his part as far as communication, getting us lined up, making good decisions. We're asking of him what we what we would ask of anyone."
The Tagovailoa era, which followed a winding path of significant injury, grueling rehab and triumphant return, officially starts Sunday against the Rams. So also begins our journey to learning whether the move was made at the right time in Miami.