Miami Dolphins training camp: Mike McDaniel passes important early test

When Mike McDaniel raises his voice, Tua Tagovailoa and his Miami Dolphins teammates listen. McDaniel's message got through at training camp Wednesday.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Even before the Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel as their new head coach, some questioned whether the then-38-year-old career assistant had the chops to lead a locker room of 53 alpha males.

Need someone to draw up the smartest offensive scheme in the league? McDaniel is your guy. But need someone to stand in front of a meeting room and dress the players down if they didn’t execute said scheme? There was understandable skepticism.

The events of this week’s training camp, however, should go a long way in putting those doubts to rest.

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel gets real

The normally genial McDaniel was extra displeased with how his team practiced Tuesday and — in an important moment — forcefully let them know it.

“Yesterday, he yelled,” Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker told reporters following Wednesday’s practice. “He got after us. That comes with the job. Sometimes you’ve got to yell. Sometimes you’ve got to do things to get the team going. Yesterday, yelling was the option. … It definitely [worked].”

Baker nailed it. The Dolphins were crisper on both offense and defense than the day before. And when McDaniel got the team together Wednesday for a quick post-practice huddle, he told them they got better as a team.

Put another way: His guys responded to the stick after getting basically nothing but carrots for the first few weeks of camp.

“I try not to major in [yelling],” said McDaniel, who prefers to build up, not tear down. “I don’t enjoy yelling. But you have to do what you have to do to let them know exactly the urgency of the moment.

“But I’ve always philosophically thought that if you pick and choose those moments, then that state that you don’t really like to be in, it’s purposeful.”

McDaniel — who acknowledged Wednesday that he has a temper — has been around coaches who communicate by screaming. And he’s learned that, very quickly, there are diminishing returns to such an approach.

“If you’re just yelled at consistently all the time, then the yelling sounds like normal talking,” McDaniel said. “And that’s not the idea of it. I think it’s important to build relationships and try to develop players as people. They also need to know the urgency. It’s my job to let them know the urgency.”

In that regard, he did his job Wednesday.

“I think it’s good to see that side of him,” Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “We never get to see that side of him. I think it’s good to see that side of every person that people think is too nice or too chill or too mellow because really you understand the competitor in them, you understand they mean business.

“For me and for the guys, when we hear Mike raise his voice, we’ve got nothing but respect because that’s not something that he does. When he does do it, it’s that much more meaningful.”

Tua Tagovailoa better, but not great, on Wednesday

Another day, another multiple-pick day from Tagovailoa, who’s having a rough week of practice after an excellent week in Tampa.

Both of his interceptions were thrown to Jevon Holland, and neither was excusable. He forced a pass to Durham Smythe in the end zone on one of them and threw into double coverage on the other. In all, Holland has had three picks in the last two days.

“He’s made tremendous plays,” said Tagovailoa, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 146 yards Wednesday. “Not just today, but throughout the entire camp. The plays that he’s made are only getting me better, only getting our route distribution better and our timing better on offense. Props to JH.”

Tagovailoa’s unofficial passer rating in 11-on-11 drills the last two days? 45.6.

It’ll be interesting to see whether McDaniel plays Tua in Saturday’s preseason game after keeping him out of the exhibition opener. McDaniel said Wednesday he still had not yet decided about who’s going to play Saturday. Injuries are a real concern (see: Zach Wilson). But Tua certainly could use the work.

“I always want to play,” Tagovailoa said. “I wanted to play last week too. At least a couple of snaps. But Mike decided that then wasn’t the time. Hopefully, he gives the first offense an opportunity to go out there, hopefully get some plays in, understand some situations, knowing how to manage the game, and getting back into the groove of things in that sense. We have no coaches on the field. We have no one to really line us up. We just figure out things on our own when we’re playing.”

What’s up with Jaylen Waddle?

Second-year wide receiver Jaylen Waddle sat out practice for the second consecutive day, but the injury isn’t significant. The Dolphins expect him back well before the start of the season. (His availability for Saturday, however, is very much in doubt.)

McDaniel wouldn’t specify what’s wrong with Waddle, saying only that he’s being kept out as a precaution. One logical theory is that Waddle is dealing with a very mild muscle strain, which could become something worse without rest.

“One of the things that’s really cool about the Miami Dolphins and the medical staff and Dave Puloka and the strength staff is they aren’t science minors,” McDaniel said when asked about the risk of soft-tissue injuries to fast-twitch athletes. “They’re science majors, so we take all that stuff in consideration and we try to be as accountable as possible in preventing as many soft tissues as you can. You’ll never be 100%, but you try to pay attention to each individual player and tailor things so they can avoid those things as best as possible.”

Quick hits from Miami Dolphins training camp

  • Along with Waddle, key contributors Raheem Mostert, Terron Armstead, and Eric Rowe sat out all or most of Wednesday’s practice. Armstead has been on a maintenance program all summer.
  • Wednesday’s practice was closed to fans but not to celebrities. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, social media personality Jake Paul, and former Dolphins GM Rick Spielman were all guests at practice. Spielman chatted up current GM Chris Grier while Paul caught passes from Tagovailoa after practice.
  • Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been a constant thorn in the side of his offensive teammates. He was at it again Wednesday, mixing it up with Alec Ingold after the whistle and later unnecessarily chucking Chase Edmonds to the ground. Credit second-year offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg for giving it right back to Wilkins with some demonstrative trash talk after sealing him off on a run play.

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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