MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel wanted to see a “graduation” from Tua Tagovailoa entering his fourth year in the NFL and second in McDaniel’s system.
In Year One, the Dolphins starting quarterback had to learn and adapt weekly. In Year Two, McDaniel expects more command and consistency from him. So far this offseason, he’s seeing it.
“I think Year Two, the prerequisite is that he as the quarterback has to have ownership of everything that he’s doing and what everyone else is doing as the facilitator of the offense,” McDaniel said, “and he’s checked that box every day.”
Tagovailoa arrived at the Dolphins minicamp visibly bigger than he was last season, something he attributed to his commitment to working on more than what happens on the field.
“I’m trying to work on everything. As much as I’m trying to work on throwing that ball, getting the ball to the guys, being able to push the ball a lot more down the field, I’m doing the same thing with my body,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday.
The Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option on Tagovailoa’s rookie contract in March after he set career highs in passing touchdowns, passing yards and passer rating in a breakout 2022 season. He led Miami to a 9-8 record, second-place finish in the AFC East and the Dolphins’ first playoff berth since 2016. They lost to Buffalo in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
His improvement on the field became less important however than his health after he was diagnosed with two known concussions that cost him several games and forced changes to the NFL's concussion protocol.
Tagovailoa has been training in jiu-jitsu this offseason to learn how to better protect himself when he takes hits, and he has said that it has allowed him to find more safe ways to fall.
He’s also been wearing a new quarterback-specific helmet designed to better protect players from head injuries, which was approved in April by the NFL and NFLPA.
“I’m still trying to feel it out, so you know what, what better time to feel it out than OTAs?” Tagovailoa said. “I hear it’s supposedly better than the helmet that I was wearing last year. If it could be that much more safe, then why not give it a shot.”
Teammates have noticed changes in Tagovailoa’s body and leadership already.
“This year you can tell that physically he looks different, but mentally he’s sharp,” linebacker Jerome Baker said. “I don’t think he even threw a pick this offseason. Now he’s getting on guys when they’re not doing right. That’s good to see.”
Tagovailoa’s added weight has empowered him to own the quarterback position and be more vocal with teammates, McDaniel said, pointing to that as something he's noticed along with Tagovailoa's consistency during offseason training.
“That probably doesn’t look the same if he didn’t go about his individual work on his body, which has residuals all over the place," McDaniel said.
"You’re talking his ability to make certain plays is enhanced. His ability to protect himself is enhanced, and his ability to communicate and do his job with his teammates is enhanced.”