X-factor: Can the Falcons contain Tua Tagovailoa?

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Caption
Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett comments on the preparations for the Dolphins and the evolution of Dean Pees' defense.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

FLOWERY BRANCH -- While the Miami quarterback situation is fluid with rumors of a Deshaun Watson trade, the Falcons had to prepare like they are facing Tua Tagovailoa, who’s the X-facfor for the game when the Falcons and Dolphins meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla..

“He’s a good player,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “I mean, obviously it’s well-documented what he did at Alabama. He’s had success in this league. You have good challenges every week.”

Tagovailoa fractured his ribs in Week 2. He returned against Jacksonville on Sunday in London and completed 33 of 47 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one costly interception. The Jaguars needed two late field goals to snap their 20-game losing streak.

“He can make you crazy with explosive plays,” Smith said. “Good athlete. Accurate. He’s good football player.”

Tagovailoa has completed 50 of 78 passes (64.1%) for 544 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has an 86.7 passer rating. Jacoby Brissett played when Tagovailoa was out.

“I mean they have a talented offense, and you know the quarterback is a talented guy,” Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He’s another guy who can run, move around and can scramble. He’s very mobile quarterback.”

Tagovailoa has also rushed seven times for 23 yards.

“You see the scrambling ability, which I don’t think enough people talk about and how he can really hurt you with his feet by picking up those first downs on third down,” safety Duron Harmon said.

Tagovailoa’s top targets are rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and Gesicki.

“You have to see what his strengths are and try to neutralize that and then make him play right-handed,” Harmon said.

Before the injury, Tagovailoa was sharp in the joint practices with the Falcons in August.

“I’ve seen him scramble and run around a little bit,” Falcons defensive end Steven Means said. “It’s definitely a good part of his game that we have to make sure that we contain. We’re going to have to keep him in the pocket.”

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