Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Making Sense of the Minicamp Reports and the Responses that Followed

I want to start by saying whether you classify as a Tua Stan, a Tua Hater, or somewhere in between: please take time to read this and read all the way through, because this is for everyone.

What was starting to look the dog days of a long NFL off-season with nothing to talk about but hypothetical trades to keep occupied, in came the two days of media available June minicamp. This is typically a very standard procedure where the team starts to run live, limited contact, against each other in the form of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 along with the rest of normal practice while the beat reporters get to watch and report back on what they see to the rest of the public.

They highlight the plays made in the live sessions and who stood out to them as winners of the practices. This is also a good time to casually evaluate the new faces of the team. If you have logged into Twitter in the past two days, you know that it did not go as peaceful as that this year. Instead of looking at the team as a whole and noting the progress of our new additions, this years media available minicamp was focused on one man and one man only: Tua Tagovailoa.

Day One: “I Told You So.”

The first of these two days was met by a torrential, a little off and on, downpour. The team stayed on the field and repped everything through the rain. The bigger story of the day, however, was that Tua Tagovailoa threw five interceptions during the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of the practice. It started catching traction with interceptions back to back by Jamal Perry and Trill Williams and then a dropped interception by Noah Igbinoghene. Everyone started to slowly pay closer attention.

Then, a tweet comes through that Nik Needham has jumped a route on DeVante Parker and taken Tua’s pass attempt the other way for six. Not long after, a fourth interception from the likes of Nate Holley is reported followed by a ball bouncing off the mitts of Mike Gesicki into the hands of Clayton Fejedelem for a fifth interception.

Dolphins’ Twitter did the only correct thing to do after taking in such news like this: it erupted. This one minicamp on a Tuesday afternoon in June awoke a sleeping beast. It was as if everybody had been counting the days until the season for weeks now desperately waiting for some new information to discuss and once they finally got that wish they had no idea how to control it. You had people that do not believe in Tua fueling their arguments, telling every single Twitter user who doubted their scouting prowess “I told you so.”

You had the all-in Tua believers sprinting to his defense. They talked about the rain and who could throw in that. They also scolded people for putting any weight into practice reps and Tua is still great despite this one day. Then, there was everyone in between observing, defusing, and some fueling the frenzy. It was a true free-for-all that lasted the entire rest of the evening.

Day Two: Tua’s Revenge?

Every Dolphins’ fan that went to bed entrenched in arguments with multiple people online woke up that morning with one thing on their mind: day two. The Tua haters ready for another bad day at practice to finish their opposition off with all the proof they needed and the Tua stans ready for Tagovailoa to come out and show everyone why he was the 5th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It felt like all out civil war, just waiting for those media reports to start gracing the Twitter timeline. And so it began, a strong start for Tagovailoa and you could already feel the hype from the supporters.

He seemed to be continuing his solid play and just like that, here came more rain. This time, however, with an added twist. There was thunder in the area which forced the team to move inside into the bubble. Only two media members were allowed access once the practice was moved, so the volume and depth of reports decreased some. With that being said, we still got a good overview of how the day played out for the Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa. Tua had a very good outing, struggled some in the redzone, but overall very good day. There were reports from anyone watching about fantastic throws that he was making.

He finished collectively with six touchdowns, and most importantly, zero interceptions. This was all Twitter needed to take a complete turn and both sides take the other side’s argument. Those in favor of Tua immediately called out the silence of the haters and asked where they could have gone, why were they so quiet? The haters responded by saying it is just practice and it does not matter, that’s what the cry out was yesterday when he did not put up these stats right?

The arguments continued on with both sides feeling the other was asininely irrational, and that brings us to where we are now. The dust has settled, the media availability is over, and we have come back to the reality of the slow off-season. This time though, no matter where you lie on the Tua spectrum, a little upset with some members of this fanbase and not sure what to do with that energy. Where do we go from here?

Where To Go From Here

Now that we can all take a step back, reflect, and process what has occurred over the past two days I want to provide a synopsis of what these two practices should mean to us as fans. First, we need to take this in for what it truly is- practice. Five interceptions and six touchdowns mean a whole lot less in June than they do September-February. It is the simple truth that practice stats are not translatable to game stats because the snippet reports and end total sheet we get from the practices often majorly lack context.

Let’s look at day one. The goal of these sessions is to throw the ball no matter what. There is no scrambling for a first down or throwing the ball away in these drills, it defeats the purpose. Tua Tagovailoa and Brian Flores both emphasized after the day was over that the point of the practice for Tua was for him to be aggressive with the football and push it down the field.

One of the areas that Tagovailoa struggled the most in 2020 was being confident enough to push the ball down the field aggressively and successfully. It was a very noted struggle and an area that everyone is hoping to see improvement in throughout the upcoming 2021 NFL season. A young quarterback does not achieve that progression by simply hoping it happens. They have to go out in practice and attempt to make those throws. Tagovailoa is so naive to the NFL that there are many throws he still has no idea if he can make or not.

Tua has to take this off-season and test his limits every day so he can be confident in knowing what he can and cannot do at this level. Is throwing five interceptions in one practice a good performance? The answer is no. That is in no world a good performance. Even with the context that, had all these reps been in a game setting, he would not have had close to that many interceptions, this is still not a good performance. HOWEVER, does that mean that this is a bad practice? The answer is also no. Practices are not about stats and performance, they are about improving yourself as a player.

A player can have a bad practice and that practice still be very productive. The goal of practice in June is not performance but productiveness and that was a productive practice for Tagovailoa. Tua took risks and made mistakes and that is what the process of growth and development requires of a player. We should not care about this practice performance because it was one practice and he is doing what he needs to do to improve an area of his game that needs improvement.

Can we be a little disappointed because our young, starting quarterback threw five picks in one day with the whole media watching and that is simply kind of a bummer headline: absolutely, but it should not affect our opinion or anyone else’s opinion on Tua’s talent or projection in this league at all.

Okay, day two. Because Tua came out and looked, for the most part, great and threw six touchdowns does not mean he went home and figured everything out. Tagovailoa did not leave practice, realize every mistake he made, and fix every issue in one night. He went out and had a better performance. He took a little from the day before and implemented into his game just a tad. He tried some different stuff and guess what, the things he tried today happened to work for him.

This does not mean now that the weather was a non-factor and he got comfortable he is “good again” like I saw some people saying on Twitter. He is developing, and this development is going to be a process. He is going to have more practices like the first day of this camp and he is going to have more practices like the second day of this camp, we just likely will not hear about it because those practices will be closed. We should care about this practice just as much as we should care about the first one, not at all.

The good news is that, also like the first practice, this was a productive practice. Tua went out and tested his limits and pushed the ball again just like he did the day prior. Happy for him the throws landed a little better the second day, it’s still just one day. We are hopefully nowhere near looking at the finished, polished version of Tua Tagovailoa and that is okay. Instead of hoping that Tua makes highlight plays in camp so that the Dolphins social media page can tweet the video out, we should be hoping that he continues to approach this off-season like he did in the last two days.

Trying to improve his game in the places that need improvement. Can we be a little excited because our young, starting quarterback threw six touchdowns in one day with the whole media watching and that is simply kind of a fun headline: absolutely, but it should not affect our opinion or anyone else’s opinion on Tua’s talent or projection in this league at all.

You Have Reached Your Destination

If you have made it this far, I truly appreciate you taking the time to read what I have to write. Our fanbase has become so divided and instead of digging ourselves deeper into extreme roots on one side or the other, I think we should look to try and understand what the other is saying and meet somewhere in the middle. Because honestly, closer to the middle is probably where we all need to be. I hope that you can leave this article and go back to Twitter with a cooler head and optimism about what is ahead for the Miami Dolphins.

@KingOfPhinland, signing off.

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