Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa fends off criticism over arm strength

Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa fends off criticism over arm strength

MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is starting to let his guard down, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters after day two of the team’s mandatory minicamp on Thursday.

Tagovailoa made a pair of deep passes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill – for 45 and 55 yards – and made it clear how he felt about the skepticism about his perceived arm strength.

“Yeah, if you saw the second to last play we had – I don’t know if I could get the ball down the field yet, but from my count I think it could have been a touchdown for Tyreek,” he said after practice. “If not, then we scored two games after that for Tyreek. So you know, but you want to write all of this on social media or whatever media you’re with.”

One of the main criticisms leveled at Tagovailoa since entering the league in 2020 is his perceived ability to push the ball down; since his rookie season, he ranks 30th among skilled passers in average aerial yards per attempt at 7.13 yards.

However, Tagovailoa led the NFL in completion percentage on passes of at least 25 yards in the field, completing 50% of them – but he attempted just 18 of those passes, the second-fewest in the league.

In an interview with Muscle & Fitness magazine this week, he claimed his lack of passing on the court was more the result of a call than a natural ability.

“I saw some improvements in my ability to push the ball down the pitch once again,” he said. “Honestly, I think it’s just practice. I wasn’t really able to push the ball down the pitch last year because we didn’t have games specifically to push the ball down the pitch. Lots of games that were canceled last year were meant for one person, either that person is open or the play may be dead.

“It’s a bit different now. My sophomore year was different from my rookie year and this year will be different from last year in terms of how we do it. I definitely feel a lot more confident that I can push the ball on the pitch. It’s going to be exciting.”

In that same interview, Tagovailoa said he spent the majority of his offseason developing his core and improving his arm strength and mobility.

The former No. 5 overall pick said he knows what people are saying about his arm strength, mostly because the Dolphins communications department told him to prepare him for what the local media might ask him.

In the past, he had refused to comment in depth on how these criticisms made him feel; this was not the case on Thursday.

“You know, for me it’s just an area that comes out,” Tagovailoa said. “I mean, we go out to train. Everybody – the Twitter warriors, you know, the keyboard warriors, whatever you want to call them – they’re not here training with us, working hard.

“I don’t know if you recorded that last one for Tyreek. I don’t know about you but it looked like money.”

Tagovailoa said it was the most open he’s been with the media since arriving in Miami and his comfort level stems from McDaniel’s efforts over the past few months to get him to open up.

Whether it’s in the hallway, the boardroom or the weight room, Tagovailoa said McDaniel likes to come in for a chat, even if it’s a brief conversation. He also said he had “never been around a coach” like McDaniel, who is “extremely positive”.

“I think his teammates have really noticed a difference in him; he’s opening up,” McDaniel said. “He’s kind of standing out in that regard. And he’s been incredibly coachable. He’s let his guard down. And we’ve been able to keep his confidence high, which should be right now, while fixing it and getting this game better, which is the ultimate goal for everyone.”

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