MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is beginning to lose his guard, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters after the second day of the team’s mandatory mini-camp on Thursday.
Tagovailoa completed two deep passes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill — for 45 and 55 yards — and made it clear how he felt about the skepticism surrounding his perceived arm strength.
“Yes, if you saw the third last game we had – I don’t know if I could still throw the ball down, but in my opinion that could have been a touchdown for Tyreek,” he said after practice. “If not, we scored two games for Tyreek after that. So you know however you want to post some of that on social media or whatever outlets you guys.”
One of the main criticisms leveled at Tagovailoa since joining the league in 2020 is his perceived ability to push the ball down. Since his rookie season, he ranks 30th among qualified passers in average air yards per attempt with 7.13 yards.
However, Tagovailoa led the NFL in completion percentage on passes down at least 25 yards and completed 50% of those — but he attempted just 18 such passes, the second fewest in the league.
In an interview with Muscle & Fitness magazine this week, he claimed his lack of downfield passing was due to playcalling rather than natural ability.
“I’ve seen some improvement in being able to push the ball down the field again,” he said. “I honestly think it’s just practice. I couldn’t really push the ball down the field last year because we didn’t have games specifically designed to push the ball down the field. Many games that were announced last year were meant for one person. Either that person is open or the piece could be dead.
“It’s a little bit different now. My sophomore year was different than my rookie year and this year will be different than last year in how we approach things. I definitely feel a lot more confident being able to push the ball down the field. It will be exciting.”
In the same interview, Tagovailoa said he spent most of his offseason developing his foundation and improving his arm strength and mobility.
The former No. 5 overall winner said he knows what people are saying about his arm strength, largely because the Dolphins’ communications department told him to prepare him for local media questions.
In the past he had refused to elaborate on how these reviews made him feel; that was not the case on Thursday.
“You know, for me it’s just a zone,” Tagovailoa said. “I mean, we come out to practice. Everyone else — Twitter warriors, you know, keyboard warriors, whatever you want to call them — they’re not out here practicing hard work with us.
“I don’t know if you recorded the last one for Tyreek. I don’t know about you, but that looked like money.”
Tagovailoa said it was the most open he’d been to the media since arriving in Miami and his level of comfort stems from McDaniel’s efforts over the past few months to get him to open up.
Whether it’s in the hallway, meeting room or weight room, Tagovailoa said McDaniel is happy to stop by to chat, even if it’s just a quick chat. He also said he’s “never been anywhere near a coach” like McDaniel, who is “extremely positive.”
“I think his teammates have really noticed a difference in him; he’s opening up,” said McDaniel. “In that respect, he kind of gets his money’s worth. And he was incredibly trainable. He has given up his vigilance. And we’ve been able to keep his confidence high, which it certainly should be now, while correcting him and getting to make this game better, which is the ultimate goal for everyone.”