Tua Tagovailoa starts, has 1st pass picked off in Dolphins’ win
Tua Tagovailoa‘s first pass attempt in 237 days ended with the same result as his previous in-game attempt on Dec. 25, 2022 — an interception.
The Miami Dolphins quarterback made his preseason debut Saturday against the Houston Texans, playing in a live game for the first time since his second concussion in three months ended his past season early. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, oddly enough, was excited to see Tagovailoa face adversity right away.
One of McDaniel’s core tenets for his team is the belief that “adversity is opportunity,” and Tagovailoa presented himself with an opportunity to bounce back after throwing that interception to Texans linebacker Denzel Perryman.
“Perfect, 1692537368 what are you going to do [in response]?” McDaniel said of his reaction to Tagovailoa’s interception. “It was so valuable because it was the first play. … That is exactly what preseason is for, that’s why you want somebody to play. I’m glad he got it out the way, but more importantly, the team didn’t blink.”
The Dolphins forced a turnover on downs following the interception and Tagovailoa led a 14-play, 93-yard scoring drive immediately after en route to a 28-3 win.
Tagovailoa completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive for 61 yards, converting on three third-down attempts, as well. His day finished after those two drives, but even being out there for half a quarter gave him a few familiar feelings.
“It was awesome. You get all the feelings that you’d normally feel. Butterflies, anxious to get out there, all these thoughts going through your head,” he said. “I thought it felt really good being able to go out there and 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.”
Skylar Thompson took over for Tagovailoa after the second offensive drive and played the remainder of the game, completing 15 of 22 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dolphins’ seventh-round pick in 2022 started the team’s regular-season finale and playoff game last season with Tagovailoa injured. He said his teammate’s demeanor has been palpable throughout the summer.
“Tua’s a guy that’s filled with joy,” Thompson said. “That’s the best way to describe him.”
One of Tagovailoa’s most memorable moments of the game was caught by television cameras after he took a hit from Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins after an incomplete pass. Tagovailoa participated in jiu-jitsu break-fall training throughout the offseason to learn how to better protect himself on the way to the ground. As he was being tackled by Rankins, Tagovailoa contorted his body so as to not hit the back of his head on the ground.
It was a positive occurrence after he hit the back of his head on the ground three times last season.
“It’s football,” he said. “There’s hits that you’re going to see where you know you can fall, and there’s hits that you’re not going to see, and it’s how you react to it. It’s a physical sport and it’s tough. I went out there expecting to get hit, was expecting to go to the ground — all of that.”
Tagovailoa exited the game unscathed, but the Dolphins did pick up a handful of injuries to significant players this week. Rookie running back De’Von Achane suffered what McDaniel said “looks like a shoulder” injury in the third quarter of Saturday’s game.
Achane was able to leave the field under his own power before he was taken to the locker room on a cart. He will get further imaging done to determine the severity of his injury.
Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead was also carted to the locker room at practice Thursday with a knee injury, but the team does not believe it is serious.
“He avoided anything too substantial. In terms of a timeline, I’m not really worried about it,” McDaniel said of Armstead after the game. “I’m just worried about him getting ready as fast as possible, which I know he’ll do.”
The Dolphins return to Florida this week and will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in their preseason finale. Tagovailoa played in last year’s preseason finale, but it is yet to be determined if he will do so this season.