After the Miami Dolphinslast week, Tua Tagovailoa complimented the work of but stressed that they will need him to play better down the stretch of the season.
Tagovailoa's 3,177 yards passing are the fourth most in the NFL. His 22 passing touchdowns trail only Josh Allen (24) and Dak Prescott (23). And he ranks near the top of the league in several other passing categories.
But his turnovers have mounted in recent weeks. Tagovailoa has 10 interceptions on the season, which is tied for the fourth-highest mark in the NFL, and he has turned the ball over four times in the past two games.
Tagovailoa threw interceptions on back-to-back drives at the end of the first half against the Jets. One of those was returned for a touchdown. The second gave the Jets the ball with 2 seconds remaining in the second quarter before safety Jevon Holland intercepted Tim Boyle's desperation heave and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
"I would say any quarterback in the league would probably get down on themselves that way I get down on myself when it comes to turnovers," Tagovailoa said. "Especially when your defense is playing well and you turn the ball over. None of us try to do that."
His turnovers didn't ultimately cost the Dolphins against the Jets (4-7) and the Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) the previous week, but they could prove detrimental as competition improves and the stakes of the games increase later in the season.
"For him, he can protect the ball better. He knows that," said coach. "There's literally no one on the planet that is more angry every time there is a turnover. And with that, he has to use it constructively and it can't be absolutely. It can't just be like, 'I can't throw picks.' What does that mean? They're going to happen."
Tagovailoa said some of the interceptions are a product of not being on the same page as his receivers. Others have simply been bad throws — he threw the ball behind receiver Tyreek Hill on an interception that was snagged by Jets cornerback D.J. Reed last week.
Tagovailoa is also finding the balance of taking risks in a high-octane offense while also protecting the ball. The Dolphins have a minus-5 turnover margin despite having the league's No. 1 offense.
"I think a lot of it has to do with situational ball, understanding what we're trying to get done, what we're trying to accomplish," Tagovailoa said.
"But then it also stresses the importance of the ball itself. Regardless of what we're trying to do. If we're trying to push the ball down the field, if it's not the exact look, live to see another down — throwing the ball away, checking it down, whatever it may be. As long as we're ending the drive with a kick, that's what we'd like to do and not turn the ball over."
Tagovailoa has also been candid about how he internalizes his mistakes. That affected him much more in games earlier in his career than it does now. This season, he has often responded to turnovers with touchdowns, which is a reflection of the confidence he's gained within himself and the outward support from McDaniel.
An example of their quarterback-coach relationship was shown on a recent episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks," which features the Dolphins as this year's in-season team.
Tagovailoa was shown on the sideline after turning the ball over against the Jets, and he immediately went over to McDaniel to apologize.
"You're good, dude," McDaniel responded before moving to the next play.
"There's sometimes when you're playing the position, that's a learning process," McDaniel said Wednesday. "What I don't do is just scream 'Don't throw picks,' because that's like the coaching point 'Catch the ball' for me. I'm pretty sure everyone is trying.
"That's why it is so important to be so deliberate every day and so intentional because you can re-create those moments of competitiveness. You can re-create game moments, and you have the game moments, and you learn from them. To me, it's not about being infallible. It's about winning at the game of improvement.'"
NOTES: Veteran edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul was at Dolphins practice Wednesday wearing the No. 90 one day after Miami signed him. He said it feels as if he's in training camp right now as he adjusts to a new defense, but expects to add his Super Bowl experience to a team looking to get there. Pierre-Paul won Super Bowls with the New York Giants (2011) and Tampa Bay (2020).
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