Miami Dolphins training camp observations: An honest conversation about Tua Tagovailoa’s arm strength

Tua Tagovailoa has many strengths. But as the Miami Dolphins quarterback demonstrated again at training camp Thursday, he also has some limitations.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will never be Justin Herbert. He isn’t 6-foot-6, 236 pounds, with a cannon for an arm. And that’s OK. Tua does other important things better than Herbert — including accuracy and timing. But as Thursday’s training camp practice demonstrated, Tagovailoa will probably forever have some limitations when the elements are a factor.

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Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa slumps late in practice

The heat wasn’t the issue Thursday and probably never will be for the Hawaiian. But the wind was. The goalpost flags were flying, and during team drills, Tagovailoa threw directly into the wind.

That wind impacted a number of his throws, including his biggest completion of camp so far — a 45-yard hookup with Tyreek Hill. The ball fluttered and was significantly underthrown; credit Hill for adjusting to it and making a play.

Tua later nearly had a pick when he threw late across the middle, with Brandon Jones able to close on a ball that didn’t have the necessary zip.

It was one of two dropped interceptions the Dolphins’ defense had on passes thrown by Tagovailoa, who unofficially completed five of nine attempts for 108 yards. Nik Needham outmuscled Preston Williams for inside leverage on an in-breaking route and should have had the pick.

This isn’t meant to dump on Tagovailoa, who had several excellent throws Thursday, including a dart to Hill across the middle early in practice.

It’s just an acknowledgment of reality: The Dolphins have games in Chicago, Buffalo, and New England during the season’s last two months.

Playing in the AFC East means he’ll have to deal with bad weather for as long as he’s the Dolphins quarterback, and he has yet to consistently demonstrate he can.

Tyreek Hill on Tua Tagovailoa

Speaking of Hill, he made headlines again Thursday by stating that opposing defensive backs will be “scared sh–less” when he and teammate Jaylen Waddle line up on the same side of the formation.

Hill will be a joy to cover all season, in large part because he has no back-down. When asked about his recent claim that Tagovailoa is the most accurate passer in the NFL, Hill replied:

“I said what I said; Tua was more accurate. But 15 is always going to be 15, speaking of [Patrick] Mahomes,” Hill added. “He’s great, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks I played with or in this league. The attention for me and my podcast, I’ll take it all day.”

Questions at center remain for the Dolphins

The Dolphins are determined to give Connor Williams every opportunity to become their starting center. But they are also keeping an open mind if the experiment does not work out.

Free agent options — if they want to go that route — include JC Tretter. But with Ryan Jensen’s injury at Buccaneers camp Thursday, Tretter might not be out of work long.

“You’re just trying to do the best thing that’s available to you with your options,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “You exhaust everything. And then you’re sitting there saying, ‘What’s better? This scenario where you’ve got injuries and Connor at center, and you’re signing someone else off the street, or there’s someone from your practice squad, within.’ You don’t just black or white that to me. I know that’s the way Chris [Grier] feels, as well. The biggest thing is you exhaust all scenarios so you can attempt to do the best thing for the Miami Dolphins.”

Williams — who played guard during his time with the Cowboys — had a clean practice Thursday. But his backups — a group that was missing Michael Deiter for undisclosed reasons — had as many as three botched quarterback/center exchanges.

More Dolphins training camp observations

  • Along with Deiter, tackle Terron Armstead, running back Raheem Mostert, and defensive tackle Adam Butler were not spotted at practice Thursday.
  • With Armstead out, Greg Little got a long look. It didn’t go particularly well. He had a false start and allowed a sack on a play where he tried to hold Jaelan Phillips.
  • Austin Jackson looks lean in Year 3. Now a right tackle, Jackson is listed at 320, but he looks significantly smaller than Robert Hunt, who’s listed at 335.
  • Jaylen Waddle had a fantastic practice, catching at least six passes in team drills.

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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