Excuse Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa if he felt he could throw a “subtle jab” at critics when he, unsolicited, made his remark about improving his deep passing.
For two-plus years, Tagovailoa has been on the receiving end of an abundance of criticism, and as he leads the NFL in passer rating (112.7) midway through his third season, he might just want to throw some of it back at the doubters.
Thursday, his coaches welcomed the sassiness from their quarterback who has won 11 of the last 12 games he has started and finished.
“There’s been some people have been pretty hard on Tua,” quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said. “And we’ve been, from Day 1, we’ve been very confident in him.
“Can he throw the deep ball? Yes. Has he been able to throw the deep ball? Yes. Is he throwing it well? Yeah, he is throwing it well. Can we improve? Absolutely.”
Going back to the offseason, Tagovailoa let himself come out of his shell, a sign he’s more comfortable with the supportive manner in which coach Mike McDaniel has led him as opposed to the sterner coaching from Brian Flores.
“You saw signs of it,” said offensive coordinator Frank Smith, thinking back to early interactions with Tagovailoa when he arrived in Miami under McDaniel in the offseason. “That’s kind of who he is, though. He has a lot of fun, great energy and passion toward what he’s been doing. I think that’s always been there.”
On Wednesday, Tagovailoa was asked where he has felt he has grown most in his game, and that’s when he decided to take his shot.
“Well, I think I’ve grown a lot with the deep balls, huh? Don’t we think?” he said. “That was probably a subtle jab, but it was a jab.”
Smith emphasized Tagovailoa’s understanding of timing in the offense. Bevell alluded to how he has bought into the footwork aspect of playing quarterback, among other things.
“Love where Tua’s at with, really, all areas,” Bevell said. “He’s growing in so many areas behind the scenes that you guys don’t even get to see, just in terms of his preparation, the things that he’s doing off the field to make sure that he’s working on his game, he’s working on his team.”
Robert Jones’ opportunity
Dolphins guard Robert Jones appears to be in line to start for the first time this season after he replaced injured left guard Liam Eichenberg in the fourth quarter of the win in Detroit.
With Eichenberg now on injured reserve with the knee ailment, Jones could be making a start in his hometown of Chicago against the Bears, assuming the same alignment continues after his 15 snaps against the Lions.
Jones started his journey to the NFL by playing one year of high school football at Rockford East High, 80 miles northwest of the heart of Chicago, where he grew up on the south side of the city. Jones moved out to Rockford for his senior year of high school to live with his uncle so he can play at the school. He then went through junior college, played at Middle Tennessee State and made the Dolphins’ 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last season.
“Rob’s done a great job for us,” Smith said of the second-year lineman who also started at tackle in the 2021 finale. “Young in his career, learning the techniques we’re trying to do. He has great strength, has really good upper body strength, physicality, really like his anchor. … The physical skills are really there to be a really strong blocker.”
Dolphins left tackle Terron Armstead returned to practice on Thursday, which has now become his normal practice day each week since returning to the lineup from missing one game on Oct. 9 at the New York Jets. Armstead was officially limited on the injury report, but in addition to his toe ailment, he is now also listed as nursing an Achilles injury.
Players missing from Thursday practice were offensive lineman Austin Jackson (ankle/calf) and wide receiver River Cracraft (illness). Cracraft missed Sunday’s game at the Lions with a neck injury, but that is no longer being reported by the team as an issue.
Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (chest/ribs) and fullback Alec Ingold (no injury designation) were in red, non-contact jerseys. Safety Clayton Fejedelem (groin) was seen working out on the side with a sleeve on his right leg. Safety Eric Rowe was added to the injury report Thursday for a hip injury.
New additions in outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. had full participation in Thursday’s drills after being limited in their first practice with the Dolphins.