Miami Dolphins training camp observations: Tua fireworks provide glimpse at McDaniel’s vision

Tua Tagovailoa's 65-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill was just one of many offensive highlights at Miami Dolphins training camp Day 4.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins now know what they’re capable of on offense. And when operating at maximum capacity, they can be downright scary.

Day 4 of training camp was easily the best day yet for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense — much to the delight of the thousands who packed the practice field stands.

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Tua Tagovailoa sparkles in Dolphins training camp

Misdirection. Play action. Fast, aggressive outside runs by Chase Edmonds. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle creating acres of separation with sudden, devastating quickness. And Tagovailoa, for the most part, making the defense pay with excellent throws.

The highlight of camp so far? A 65-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Hill for a touchdown. The pass traveled at least 50 yards in the air and was right on target to Hill, who badly beat Noah Igbinoghene — who had the unfair assignment of covering Hill one on one.

But Tua’s highlights Saturday went far beyond that one throw. He connected earlier in practice with Hill for 25 yards. Most encouraging: Tagovailoa consistently looked to throw to the second and third levels. That is a pleasant development after a 2021 season in which he ranked 30th among qualifying quarterbacks in average intended air yards per pass (7.0).

Tagovailoa had an up-and-down first three days of camp, but it seemed the pro-Tua crowd — which chanted his name multiple times — brought out the best in him.

The Dolphins must have been thrilled to see improved play from the quarterback position. But it was just as encouraging that they weren’t taking victory laps after the practice had ended.

“I am not a big expectation and all that [guy],” said Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki. “Lynn [Bowden] asked me yesterday, ‘How do you like it?’ I said it’s early. You have to keep going at it every day. You can sit here and say it’s exciting, but nobody is going to care how exciting training camp was when the season is over. It’s going to matter how the season goes.

“Obviously, this is the baseline and foundation we’re building off of, so it was definitely productive and positive and a lot of good things. But I’m realistic, and I want us to continue to get better, continue to improve, and make those plays on Sundays.”

Mike Gesicki contract drama?

Speaking of Gesicki, he’s had roughly as many passing targets in 11-on-11 drills as he’s had media sessions through the first four days of practice.

That, of course, will change — and probably in a big way. But it’s just another level of weirdness surrounding Gesicki’s year. He hasn’t complained about getting and playing under the franchise tag. In fact, he was among the first tagged players to sign his $10.9 million tender.

But he’s presumably not thrilled by how this has all played out — particularly since the two sides were nowhere close to having an extension in place ahead of the July 15 deadline.

“It’s a business,” Gesicki said. “The team will do what’s best for the team. You’ve got to go out and perform and do what you do. There’s not much else to say. I’m not a big complainer about it, make a big deal about it. It seems like the guys that do get paid a lot of money, so maybe I should have. I should keep coming to work, do what I’m doing.”

McDaniel told reporters before practice that Gesicki has “10 million reasons” to believe the Dolphins value him.

McDaniel’s message to Gesicki?

“We try day after day to get your game to the best of its ability so that at the end of the year, Mike, you make that franchise tag look like a discount. Because what that means is that you have been playing at a level that makes the Dolphins better and that also improves your socioeconomic status, I guess, for the long term.

“So everyone’s kind of — it is what it is. It’s a business, so if you just approach it as, okay, this is what it is this year. Let’s use this and here are your goals and acknowledge it, and it ends up being a blip in the radar.”

Our take: Gesicki will be a good soldier and produce for the Dolphins in 2022, but there’s growing reason to doubt he’ll still be in Miami in 2023.

Teddy Bridgewater on ‘tough guy persona’

Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater drew national attention — including public backing from LeBron James — for a recent social media post that called out “football players [who] portray this tough guy image or pretend he’s a gangsta.”

Bridgewater, who attended Miami Northwestern High School, is determined to use his platform to influence kids from the inner city to make the right life choices.

“It’s so easy to be influenced nowadays with what you’re seeing on social media, what you’re seeing on television,” Bridgewater said. “It’s so easy for kids to be influenced by the wrong thing, but it’s also so easy for them to be influenced by the right thing.

“Growing up down here, I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty. I’m happy that I’m in the position I’m in, that I can drive through the community, drive through the neighborhoods, and give my story and remind them that I walked those same sidewalks, attended some of those same schools, lived on some of those streets that I did, and give them hope.”

More Dolphins training camp observations

  • Miami Dolphins injury update: Center Michael Deiter (foot) remains out of practice, and McDaniel suggested the team isn’t exactly sure when he’ll return. Offensive tackle Terron Armstead (rest), defensive tackle Adam Butler (undisclosed), and Raheem Mostert (knee) also didn’t practice or did very little Saturday.
  • One-on-ones were a joy to watch Saturday. Hill got Xavien Howard with a double move, and Waddle ran straight past Nik Needham for a touchdown. But the DBs got a few licks in, too, with Igbinoghene breaking up a pass intended for Preston Williams.
  • The Dolphins had their first training camp skirmish of 2021 when ZaQuandre White took issue with a late hit out of bounds by Quincy Wilson. No punches were thrown, and the fight was quickly broken up.
  • While the offense certainly won the day, we’d be remiss if we didn’t praise the defensive line. Christian Wilkins had a would-be sack. Zach Sieler blew up a running play. And Jaelan Phillips had his normal table reserved in the Dolphins’ backfield.
  • A who’s who of Miami Dolphins alumni were here as special guests Saturday, including Hall of Famers Larry Little and Larry Csonka. Those VIPs from the undefeated 1972 team met with McDaniel and then addressed the team prior to practice.

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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