MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Pressure?
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa having his new star receiver Tyreek Hill praise him as “the most accurate quarterback in the NFL.”
Sure, that could add some.
Others ranking Tagovailoa outside the top 25 quarterbacks in the NFL because of his arm strength, size and an incomplete evaluation through two seasons.
That might be criticism Tagovailoa might enjoy debunking.
Tagovailoa enters his third NFL season, doing the best he can to ignore what the critics and naysayers have to say about his career, while shrugging off what Hill – his biggest cheerleader this offseason – continues to say publicly in his favor.
“I would say I never put pressure on myself, but it comes with the position,” said Tagovailoa, the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft who starred at Alabama.
“The pressure is always there playing this position and playing in the NFL.”
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As Miami’s first training camp began Wednesday, Tagovailoa was 3 of 6 on 12 plays under center in 11-on-11 drills.
Tagovailoa could have been sacked three times had the Dolphins defense been live, but he did not throw an interception despite two passes deflected by defenders. His best passes of the day were a play-action pass to second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle, and a 35-yard dime to Hill during the 7-on-7 portion of practice.
New Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, tasked with furthering Tagovailoa’s development, wants to gradually ramp up the practice intensity while keeping practices relatively short without overloading the players early on.
“I think once you get back into the rhythm, that’s when things start to click on both sides of the ball,” Tagovailoa said.
Tagovailoa had a 13-8 record as Dolphins starter under former Dolphins coach Brian Flores. Even though the Dolphins had winning seasons, they failed to make the playoffs and have only done so three times since 2001.
But new additions bring plenty of excitement to Miami.
McDaniel’s quirky but infectious energy has ignited the Dolphins, with hopes the offensive scheme he installed as Kyle Shanahan’s right-hand man in San Francisco and Atlanta can propel Tagovailoa’s play and reignite Miami’s run game.
Miami signed 10-year veteran left tackle Terron Armstead to bolster its young offensive line, which was one of the NFL’s worst in Tagovailoa’s first two seasons.
Waddle, who set the NFL record for receptions by a rookie, and fourth-year tight end Mike Gesicki return on offense, while star cornerback Xavien Howard leads Miami’s defense.
Hill has been Tagovailoa’s most outspoken supporter since the Dolphins acquired him from the Kansas City Chiefs and made him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Hill will make $30 million annually and $72.2 million guaranteed from a four-year, $120 million contract.
And the Dolphins are surely getting their money’s worth with his efforts to bolster Tagovailoa’s confidence before their first season together.
“It’s awesome to have that kind of support from someone like that,” Tagovailoa said of Hill.
Hill said this offseason Tagovailoa is more accurate than Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback he won a Super Bowl with in 2020.
And he is technically right: For their careers, Tagovailoa has a 66.2 completion percentage, while Mahomes is 66.1.
Hill even acknowledged Tagovailoa is entering a critical Year 3 because of the short leashes NFL teams give young quarterbacks, hoping to find their franchise starter.
“It’s gonna be a lot of people taking their words back on what they said about [Tua],” Hill said this offseason on his podcast.
McDaniel loves how Hill is bolstering his young quarterback’s confidence before their first season together.
“If Tyreek is saying it, it’s because he believes it,” McDaniel said. “Tyreek believes in his quarterback, and that’s a good thing, and they moving forward will continue to work together to make that relationship as good as it could possibly be.”
Tagovailoa can only smile and take it all in stride.
Even the critics and preseason quarterback rankings.
But it’s nothing he has not already heard during his career.
“To me, if I can’t hear you, you’re not that important to me,” Tagovailoa said when asked about the critical preseason fodder.
Under McDaniel, Dolphins brass and their fans hope this is the season Tagovailoa lives up to the star potential he showed as a college standout in Alabama.
“It’s a big year for all of us. … With Tua being our leader and our nucleus, we can all help him and he can help us,” Armstead said.
“There’s no added pressure on Tua. The protection has to be better for him and it will. He has more weapons than he ever has. We’re looking to improve, and it’s just Day 1. We have a long way to go to see the potential to be, and it takes everybody.”