What to make of Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle as Miami Dolphins break minicamp

Joe Schad Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post

DAVIE — It’s time to close the books not only on OTAs and minicamp, but the Davie dateline on this story.

They say there is no offseason in the NFL — not anymore — but we have officially entered the dead period on the calendar for the Dolphins players and staff to recharge before training camp opens in late July.

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The next time everybody reconvenes, it won’t be at Nova Southeastern University, the Dolphins’ training facility since 1993. Last Thursday, June 17, players got a sneak preview of their $135 million complex being finalized in the northwest corner of the Hard Rock Stadium grounds. Perspective: The Nova facility cost $10 million.

Aug 21, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A general view as the Miami Dolphins prepare stretch during training camp at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Before going on hiatus, let’s take stock of storylines from the offseason training program as well as the focal points for camp.

Q: On the first day of minicamp, Tua Tagovailoa threw five interceptions, as you may have heard. Joe, does that matter? More to the point: Is Tua the guy or are we going to be writing a dozen features on quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Joe: Hal, as I tweeted in the wake of Tuagate, “Tua’s five interceptions today, in largely-torrential downpours, while being asked to work on tight-window throws and aggressiveness, falls somewhere between entirely irrelevant and particularly pertinent.” We all live and work in such a hot-take, black-and-white culture. But the truth usually does lie somewhere in the middle. Tua does appear healthier and fitter and stronger and more confident. Aside from that one day, he’s looked pretty good. But it would be unfair for any reporter, coach, player or fan to suggest that a five-interception day is not relevant or noteworthy. Of course it is, within the context of conditions and the aggressive approach he was asked to take by coaches. 

Should the Dolphins (gulp) consider Deshaun Watson?

Q: Hal, do you think the Dolphins would or should try to trade for Deshaun Watson, if his pending cases were to settle and he was made available before the season?

Hal: Thanks for making me choke on my Cheerios, Joseph. NO. Don’t care if the cases are settled. Forgive the term, but he’s untouchable. Besides, the Dolphins have to give Tagovailoa a chance to see if he’s who they thought he was.

Q: My turn to put you on the spot. X. Trade him or pay him?

Joe: This is a tough one. If the Dolphins can guarantee more of Xavien Howard’s contract and add in say, $4-$6 million in additional money, perhaps there is a compromise to be had. I wouldn’t trade Howard without receiving two first-round picks and more. I would try to appease Howard and show him a bit of love without going overboard. He’s not sitting out the season so Miami does hold most leverage. 

Jun 4, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) stretches during voluntary Organized Team Activities at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Hal, I’m going to tell you that Albert Wilson and Hunter Long looked pretty good to my eyes in the spring. Wilson looks healthy and quick. Long moves smoothly and could be a factor as a rookie. Without hitting and tackling, who caught your eye?

Hal: That’s the key fans need to keep in mind — no hitting or tackling, which wipes out the opportunity to judge an awful lot of position groups. Interesting you mentioned Long. More than once I’ve looked across the field and wondered who was it who just made that tough catch? It was No. 84, Long. That’s one thing you can judge this time of year. The guy has hands. There are seven tight ends on the roster. I figure three will stick, and two will be named Mike Gesicki and Hunter Long.

Q: Joe, while you’re spending Steve Ross’ money (he won’t mind), go ahead and write a check for Emmanuel Ogbah, why don’t you?

Joe: Emmanuel Ogbah deserves an extension, but it’s possible he prefers to wait, believing he would receive more in the open market after this season. Miami would want Ogbah on its terms, as we saw with the very fair Jerome Baker extension. The Dolphins have actually done a decent job on limiting bad contracts the last few years, though I suppose Kyle Van Noy was the largest error.

Eager to see Jaylen Waddle, receivers stretch field

Q: Hal, switching gears, Brian Flores says rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle looks healthy enough, and he’s not concerned about any occasional apparent slight limp. Rank these players in 2021 catches: Waddle, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller.

Hal: Parker, Fuller, Waddle. Parker, out of familiarity with Tagovailoa. Fuller, because he’s a veteran. Waddle, because he’s a rookie, although I’m eager to see how dangerous he and Tagovailoa can be on those intermediate crossing routes Waddle loves to run. BUT: If we’re talking yards per catch, I’ll go Waddle-Fuller-Parker.

Miami Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle, 17, catches a pass during OTA's at the training facility in Davie, Florida on May 26, 2021.

Q: The receivers will be fun to watch, Joe, but with 13 on the roster, most won't make the team. Looking at the roster as a whole, which veteran(s) do you figure to be on the bubble come August?

Joe: If the Dolphins can trade Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns or Albert Wilson, that’s always possible. Or maybe even Preston Williams. One would think Grant would definitely be appealing in a potential trade. Bobby McCain has already been cut. I think Jesse Davis is too valuable to be cut. Some others worth monitoring in general in training camp could include Eric Rowe, Clayton Fejedelem, Durham Smythe, Matt Skura, Michael Deiter, D.J. Fluker, Vince Biegel and Wilson. But most if not all of those guys should be on the team. 

Q: Hal, George Godsey and Eric Studesville are Miami’s co-offensive coordinators. We can guess Godsey will probably call the plays. What do you need to see in training camp and how different do you think the offense will be?

Hal: It’ll be different, in part because of Godsey-Studesville (Godville? Studesey?) but moreso because of the speed they added outside. I need to see cohesion, fundamentals nailed down, which means no snap issues with Skura, good ball security and an eagerness by Tagovailoa to stretch the field. Unfortunately, with little tackling in camp, it’s next to impossible to get a handle on the run game.

Q: Finally, Joe, rank what you’ll miss most now that it’s break time and Nova is history: Davie, Laspada’s Original Hoagies right across from training camp, me.

Joe: I won’t miss trying to find a parking spot in a crowded garage and hoping a dental student is about to leave. I will miss the shorter drive from my home. I am sure the new facility will be world class, and I am excited to see the new media work areas. Hal, I am ready for a summer break but I am also exited to cover this team in 2021. The Dolphins should make the playoffs. Discovering if Tua is an elite, franchise-elevating quarterback is a nationally-relevant storyline. I can’t wait to find out if he is.