MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The truth up top: Tuesday was by far Tua Tagovailoa’s worst practice of training camp. The Miami Dolphins quarterback threw three interceptions and completed 36.7% of his attempts in team drills (a figure that included two spikes in a hurry-up setting).
But simply crushing Tagovailoa and not praising an injury-depleted defensive backfield would be disingenuous. Let’s give credit to a group that has been without one of its top players all camp.
Miami Dolphins Aug. 16 training camp observations
Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason Achilles surgery. With the regular season just 26 days off, we’re rapidly nearing the point where his availability for Week 1 comes into question.
Head coach Mike McDaniel, however, isn’t among those worried about Jones’ health.
McDaniel said the medical and coaching staffs are “very hopeful” Jones will be available for Miami’s season-opener against the Patriots.
“The entire time we’ve all known, including Byron, that all things need to hit on all cylinders without having setbacks for that to be the case. Nothing’s changed in that regard. He’s still in that part of the timeline where it’s unknown. As of now, he hasn’t had any setbacks, so still extremely hopeful. I believe in the player and the human being. We hold the same optimism as we did before.”
If not, the Dolphins would have some serious depth issues at cornerback — at least on paper — particularly after rising reserve Trill Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in Miami’s preseason opener.
But if Tuesday was a fair gauge, there’s reason to believe the Dolphins could survive a few games if Jones isn’t available for Week 1.
Dolphins cornerbacks win the day
Six different Dolphins had interceptions Tuesday — Nik Needham, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland, Noah Igbinoghene, Elijah Campbell, and Quincy Wilson. And Dolphins defenders combined for at least another half-dozen PBUs.
Keion Crossen was responsible for at least one of those pass deflections, continuing his strong training camp that has led Dolphins coaches to consider using him on more than just kick teams.
“What I’m great at is special teams,” Crossen said. “I think I have some really important attributes. The only way I can show that is prove it every day. Nothing is given in this league. You have to earn everything.”
Igbinoghene’s interception — which came off Teddy Bridgewater — was a nice bounceback after a rough week in Tampa. He returned the pick for six and then cathartically fired the pigskin into the kicking net behind the goalpost.
Igbinoghene has been a target of constant criticism ever since the Dolphins reached to take him in the first round of the 2020 draft. After two disappointing seasons, this is surely his last chance to stick in Miami. Depending on the health of his teammates, Igbinoghene might need a strong last two weeks to guarantee a spot on the 53.
“I’ve been impressed by his internal fortitude,” McDaniel said prior to practice. “It’s not lost on me at all, the pressures that come in the National Football League, especially when you’re an athlete of his skill set. He’s done an outstanding job. You have to have a short memory at the cornerback position. He’s really had some maturation growth this year, from the stories that I heard coming in, where he’s moving onto the next play and competing and not letting himself get down on himself.
“Where he needs to improve, I would kind of say what I was alluding to when I talked to him in the game. I don’t want him to ever lose his aggressiveness and feel like he’s playing not to get beat. I want him to always compete, have no memory in that regard. Be cutthroat with the game of football. Trust all of his training, so in times that I think he’s being a hair passive, I jump on him and say, ‘Hey, that’s not you. This is not where you’re at in your development, which I think he agreed, which is again why he’s taking some steps forward in his development.”
Our best guess if Jones is unavailable for the opener? We see Needham, Crossen, and perhaps new signing Mackensie Alexander with Xavien Howard on defense.
Tua Tagovailoa struggles mightily
None of the last few hundred words — plus the fact that Jaylen Waddle sat out practice for undisclosed reasons — should be taken as an absolution of Tagovailoa’s performance Tuesday.
Tua was really bad, particularly in two-minute drills. That’s where two of his picks occurred. But he also struggled in the red zone, throwing a terrible interception to Holland in the end zone.
While he technically threw three touchdowns, all came in scripted, goal-to-go simulations.
And even with those TDs, his passer rating on the day was a paltry 47.4.
Plus, it’s not like his 19 incompletions or interceptions were because of a bunch of drops. He was off-target on his throws throughout the day.
“Honestly, it’s iron sharpen iron,” said Dolphins wide receiver Trent Sherfield. “Every single day, we come out, and we try our best to get each other better.
“The defense got the best of us today. They came out and executed their plays well. We had some troubles executing our plays — up front, outside, quarterback, running back, everybody had trouble executing. Tomorrow we’ll come out, and we’ll try to get them again. There’s days that defense wins and days that offense wins. It goes back and forth.”
(One more interesting quote from Sherfield, who spent the 2021 season with McDaniel in San Francisco: “The playbook here is the same as it is in San Fran.”)
The latest on the Adam Shaheen saga
The Miami Dolphins removed Adam Shaheen from their active roster Tuesday for the second time in a week.
This time, it’s likely for good.
The Dolphins’ trade last week with the Texans was nixed by a failed Shaheen physical. Tuesday, Miami put him on the injured reserve.
So what happened? Did the Dolphins doctors simply miss Shaheen’s knee injury that is serious enough that it needs surgery?
“That’s a classic example of the process of the National Football League being spot-on,” McDaniel explained. “That’s the reason it exists. He was practicing with nothing holding him back. We 100% thought he was 100% healthy. Such is the nature of veteran players — you incur nicks along the way. And that’s why you have a physical before things can be finalized in the whole trade process.
“We were as surprised as Adam was, and that was something we definitely didn’t anticipate, but I think once we got that information, we had to digest it,” the Dolphins coach continued. “All of us, including Adam. Once we got back and he got some more opinions, he’s decided to get surgery, which puts him on IR and out for the season. We were 100% supportive. But it was a classic example of, ‘Why do we have this physical? And why are the trades not finalized until pending that physical?’ I think it was reinforcing the process of why the procedures are as such. Definitely wasn’t anticipated. Nice little curveball.”