Tua Tagovailoa saw his first preseason action on Saturday in the Dolphins’ 28-3 win over the Texans, and though he got off to a shaky start the quarterback was able to bounce back for what eventually amounted to be a strong first showing back from an injury-hampered 2022 season.
The Dolphins’ first play of the day saw Tagovailoa throw down the field on the run, but get picked off by the Texans’ Denzel Perryman, a less than ideal way to open things up.
But the Miami defense held strong, stopping Houston on fourth down to give the ball back to the offense, which proceeded to march 93 yards down the field for the first touchdown of the night. Tagovailoa went 5 for 6 for 61 yards on the 14-play drive, connecting with five different receivers in the process.
“You know, I told him before the game, I did not expect him to play that long but if adversity comes our way, to seize it, and he took it extremely literal. To me, it’s like, ‘Alright, perfect. What are you going to do?'” head coach Mike McDaniel said after the game, via team transcript. “That is exactly what preseason is for, that’s why you want somebody to play. I’m glad he got it out of the way.
“But more importantly, the team didn’t blink. The team had a pretty short field to defend, and what a momentum swing that is when your defense can come up and not bat an eye, hold a team to not have points and then progress from there. I was happy with the way the team responded to that.”
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Along with the excitement of seeing Tagovailoa make the in-game adjustments, it was also good to see the quarterback come away from the game without injury, despite taking a few big hits.
Two stints in the concussion protocol limited Tagovailoa’s availability in the 2022 season — he missed four regular season games and Miami’s postseason appearance — and raised concerns about the possibility of future head injuries.
Tagovailoa has added new elements to his offseason workout program in light of last season’s concussions, specifically practicing jiu jitsu techniques which teach one to safely fall while protecting the body, a key skill when getting tackled a dozen times a game. And Tagovailoa put that preparation to use in a game for the first time Saturday, with what he described as positive results.
“It’s how you react to it,” he said. “It’s a physical sport. It’s tough. But yeah, went out there and was expecting to get hit, was expecting to go to the ground, all of that.”
If Tagovailoa can stay healthy the Dolphins’ offensive potential skyrockets. While he was on the field last season the unit was one of the most potent in the league. That chemistry and big-play ability was on display Saturday, as even after Tagovailoa’s night ended the offense continued to put up points with backup Skylar Thompson at the helm, totaling 398 net yards by the end of the game.
“It was awesome. You get all the feelings that you normally feel of getting back out there again. Butterflies, anxious to get out there, all these thoughts going through your head,” Tagovailoa said. “But I thought it felt really good being able to go out there, call plays with the guys, the camaraderie in the huddle. Things didn’t go our way, adversity hit, and it was cool to see the guys respond.”
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