Brian Flores isn’t panicking after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw five interceptions during a torrential downpour in a June practice. And the Miami Dolphins hope Tagovailoa won’t let one poor outing halt his progression this offseason ahead of his second NFL season.
During today’s practice, Tagovailoa did have some struggles during goal-line and red-zone work. He often held onto the football longer than fellow quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Reid Sinnett did in the same settings, failing to see or throw players open.
But Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis alum, finished strong, a day after struggling in the rain, with two touchdown throws during the final, 2-minute offense portion of practice. His first was a 50-yard catch and run to rookie first-round receiver Jaylen Waddle, who used his electric speed to get from the middle of the field to the pylon.
The Dolphins ruled Waddle down to get two more plays in during the same setting, and Tagovailoa delivered a shot to the end zone where receiver DeVante Parker hauled in a jump-ball touchdown.
Another positive for Tagovailoa? No interceptions after five the previous day. The Dolphins finished their Wednesday practice indoors due to inclement weather with the South Florida Sun Sentinel serving as one of two pool reporters allowed to document the session.
“I don’t think Tua is going into a shell,” Flores said succinctly before the team’s second and final minicamp practice today.
“I tell him to continue being aggressive. … Use this time to practice pushing the ball downfield. Then, we’ll make the adjustments, make the corrections, and we’ll go at it again the next day. That’s the normal progression of how this goes.”
Some NFL fans may remember a social media video of former Dolphins backup Ryan Fitzpatrick encouraging Tagovailoa to play more aggressively after Tagovailoa was pulled during a game in Denver last November.
Fitzpatrick, who served as a mentor to Tagovailoa during his rookie season, told him: “Sometimes, you’re not going to get to your third read. Sometimes, it’s one, two. You’ve got to throw a little bit of a contested ball.”
Although Tagovailoa finished his rookie season with a 6-3 record in nine starts, he had just two games with more than 300 yards passing. He failed to throw more than two touchdowns in any game. And he did not have a completion longer than 35 yards.
As a rookie, Tagovailoa had some difficulty throwing into tight windows to his receivers. He displayed that same apprehension in goal-line work today.
Tagovailoa had some troubles in the short area of the field where there was less space to work with. During 7-on-7 work, Tagovailoa threw a touchdown pass to receiver Mack Hollins while escaping the pocket and threw Parker out of bounds on another series.
In 11-on-11 work, Tagovailoa had a throw to receiver Albert Wilson broken up, saw tight end Durham Smythe drop a touchdown, and connected with tight end Adam Shaheen for a touchdown after Shaheen dropped a touchdown two plays earlier.
Those plays set the tone for Tagovailoa’s strong finish with his touchdowns to Waddle and Parker with ample space on the field in the simulated, late-game situation.
The Dolphins’ offseason program, which ends with meetings and no practice Thursday, has been centered on players learning their schemes, while fostering chemistry. The team will break for the rest of the offseason before training camp begins in late July.
Encouraging Tagovailoa to play aggressively and push the ball downfield has continued to be a focal point for the Dolphins.
And with new playmakers on offense like Waddle and free-agent signee Will Fuller V joining Parker, receiver Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki, Tagovailoa has many capable teammates to help him move the football this season.
“We wanted to be aggressive [Tuesday] within the pass game,” Tagovailoa said after Tuesday’s practice.
“We wanted to see if we could fit throws in. We wanted to see what throws we could make under these conditions. We were just trying to push the ball vertical down the field. There are some plays that didn’t go our way, but [those are] plays that we can take a look at in the film room and move forward with.”
And Flores, the third-year Dolphins coach hoping to see Tagovailoa evolve into his franchise quarterback, is certainly on the same page.
“We’re going to see if we fit some throws in. And then, there might be a minor adjustment we need to make the play. How do you know that if you don’t make the attempt?” Flores said today.
“But at the end of the day, look, you never want turnovers anywhere. So, we need to limit those and we always need to limit those,” Flores added.
“But at the same time, this is the first day of practice and we’re not looking for the finished product. Mistakes are going to happen and we’re going to correct them, continue to improve and get better.”