The Miami Dolphins are finishing OTAs this week in preparation for the 2022 season. OTAs are usually non-eventful, but the Dolphins did their best to stir up national talking points and excite fans.
Since I wasn’t physically at practice, most of these takeaways won’t be about on-the-field play but will be an attempt to read the tea leaves from what the players and coaches have said during their interviews so far.
A New Energy
Obviously, one of the biggest storylines out of OTAs was how Mike McDaniel was going to run things in his first season with the team and as a head coach.
Based on reports and every single interview the players have given, it seems like McDaniel’s unique personality has made playing in Miami a little more enjoyable. Simply put, Miami’s players seem happier.
There are more social media videos of them joking around this year. Every player interview has a quote about how they are enjoying playing under McDaniel so far. Some of the players — Tua Tagovailoa, for instance — have come out of their shells a little bit.
It’s clear McDaniel relates to his players well and understands how to make learning and playing football enjoyable.
Take the new orange practice player of the day jersey competition. The winner gets to pick the music at practice the next day, and it’s clearly something that has excited the players. Another example is him wearing a sweatshirt in the Miami heat, so he could understand how his players were feeling.
None of this means anything in the grand scheme of things. If Miami doesn’t win games this year and McDaniel’s inexperience as a head coach betrays him, things won’t be fun for long.
However, since it’s so early in the process, it’s fair to have some faith in a coach who is clearly connecting with his players already.
Tyreek Hill is exactly what Miami needed
This is another obvious but still important note to make from OTAs. The Dolphins traded a lot of capital and then signed Hill to a gigantic contract this offseason, hoping he would provide the team with the playmaking spark they’ve been missing on offense for the past couple of seasons.
Well, if reports are true, then it seems like Hill is the right player for the job. Although there have been conflicting reports on the overall effectiveness of the offense, Hill has made a number of big plays.
Despite this, some of the best stuff Hill has done to this point is actually in what he’s said to the media. Nobody has supported Tagovailoa — except for TuaAnon — more than Hill this offseason.
He’s gone to bat for Tagovailoa in pretty much every interview he’s given since coming to Miami. Early in his Dolphins tenure, he noted how excited to play with Tagovailoa he was because of his accuracy.
During OTAs, he’s defended Tagovailoa’s arm strength and most recently called him 10x better than Matt Moore when asked if he could succeed with a quarterback who isn’t known for pushing the ball down the field.
Hill’s defense of Tagovailoa isn’t guaranteed to translate to wins, and there is a fair argument to be had about the validity of his claims, but it’s a good sign to see a star player stand up for his quarterback.
It’s a do-or-die season for Tagovailoa, so he’ll need all the confidence he can get, and Hill is trying to provide him with plenty of it.
The Offensive Line is a Work in Progress
The offensive line was Miami’s biggest weakness last season, and the team made strides to improve it this offseason. Bringing in Terron Armstead to play left tackle and signing former Cowboy guard Connor Williams instantly made Miami’s offensive line 2/5ths better.
Based on reports from OTA’s, there are still a lot of things up in the air. Williams told reporters last week he was working at center and expects that to be his position moving forward.
It’s fair to assume Robert Hunt will remain the team’s starting right guard, leaving the left guard position and right tackle position up for grabs, with Williams likely taking the center spot.
The staff has spoken positively about Austin Jackson and his ability to play right tackle this offseason, while Liam Eichenberg has spent time practicing at guard after playing left tackle most of last season.
Miami could roll out an offensive line combination of:
Armstead, Eichenberg, Williams, Hunt, Jackson
That is better than last season’s line, but there are still question marks. For starters, Williams hasn’t played center in the NFL, and Jackson and Eichenberg struggled mightily last season.
It’s too early to panic, but barring a surprise signing, Miami will need 3/5ths of its offensive line to get better this season.
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The Tua Narratives are Out of Control
One of the earliest splashes the Dolphins made in the national landscape during OTAs was a video of Tagovailoa deep ball to Hill that was underthrown. The video currently has 6.7 million views on Twitter and has become a national story as even the New York Post covered it.
It spiraled into an endless debate about the quarterback’s arm strength, which prompted Hill to come to Tagavailoa’s defense, as mentioned above.
More recently, Tagovailoa himself fired back at his critics, calling them “keyboard warriors,” which, of course, spurred another controversy. Some argued it was out of line to say that — NFL players have said much worse — while others applauded Tagovailoa for standing up for himself.
Here’s the thing, though. It doesn’t matter, either way. It won’t affect whether Miami wins football games this season, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time to defend either side of the argument.
The one about Tagovailoa’s arm strength has a little more merit since that can actually affect the product on the field. However, this debate is the embodiment of beating a dead horse. It’s been argued to death by national pundits, local reporters, and fans alike.
I’ve written about Tagovailoa’s outlook and arm strength extensively in the past, so I won’t repeat myself here other than to say Tagovailoa has never had a “strong arm.” It’s never been a strength of his game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good enough to keep defenses on their toes.
Everyone just needs to relax and let this season play out. All the questions will be answered this season, and they’ve already been argued to death online. It’s time to let the season play out.