Tua Tagovailoa puts uncertainty aside and works to take her game to the next level

Tua Tagovailoa has had a dramatic year. While he was selected No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, at the same time he was recovering from a major hip injury that had many wondering about his future as an NFL quarterback. . Even after Tagovailoa was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 8 and won three straight games, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores opted to bench him in Week 11, and then again in Week 16. even though he always maintained that the rookie was his starting quarterback. When the dust settled late in the regular season, Tagovailoa was 6-3 as a starter and had thrown for 1,814 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

There are many reasons to be excited about the future when it comes to the new Dolphins quarterback, as Tagovailoa became the third rookie signal caller in the Super Bowl era to not throw an interception in his first five starts in his career, and he became the first rookie quarterback for the Dolphins to win each of his first three starts. He also became the first Dolphins player to lead a winning series in the fourth quarter or overtime in his first two NFL starts since Chad Henne. Unfortunately, new issues emerged with the offseason that Tagovailoa couldn’t control, as the Dolphins are currently rumored to be in the mix of star Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is looking for a change of scenery. If Watson is traded to Miami this offseason, the deal would likely include Tagovailoa as well.

This week, CBS Sports sat down with Tagovailoa to discuss his rookie campaign and what he has been trying to accomplish this offseason. With the uncertainty surrounding his current situation, Tagovailoa says he turns to what he can control, and this is how he can improve as a player and leader. The next few months will focus on getting 100% healthy and preparing for a spectacular year.

Learned lessons

Recently, Tagovailoa photos posted of himself working this offseason that generated quite a bit of attention. It looked like he was building muscle, and Tagovailoa told us that “getting his body back” was important to him this offseason.

“I’m really just trying to get my body back, it’s the first time I’ve had a real offseason so I’m just trying to get stronger, try to be faster, try to go back to how I used to see … in Alabama, Tagovailoa he laughed. “I’m just trying to get better with those things until the offseason.”

It took him quite some time to fully recover from the hip injury he sustained while in Alabama, but Tagovailoa also faced foot and thumb injuries during his rookie campaign that forced him to miss a Week 12 matchup against the New York Jets.

Tagovailoa said that one of the most important lessons he learned in his first season in the NFL was about game adjustments. Breaking through the schemes and packages that rival defenses are throwing at you in each unit, and really taking control of an NFL offense filled with veteran players, unlike your fellow college athletes, was a challenge.

“I would say adjustments, you have to adjust as you go,” Tagovailoa said when asked about what he learned in his transition to the NFL. “If the defense gives you a different concept that you haven’t seen, you need to know how to adapt to your guys and tell them how you want things done. You are a coach. Having said that, I think that’s what I need to improve on as well. But I’m glad I have that first year under my belt. ”

Success with Saban

Having that first NFL season under your belt is important, because if there’s one thing Tagovailoa knows, it’s how to handle the pressure and make those kinds of adjustments to find success. His introduction to the world of sports in general came through one of the riskiest adjustments to the game ever made by legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Tagovailoa, who was a true freshman at the time, replaced Jalen Hurts at halftime of the 2018 College Football National Championship game, and helped Crimson Tide rebound from a 13-0 deficit to win 26 -23 in overtime against Georgia. That marked the beginning of a very successful college career, as Tagovailoa finished his junior season as Alabama’s leading touchdown responsibility with 96. His 87 touchdown passes led him to surpass AJ McCarron as the most thrown in program history. , and finished third in Alabama history. with 7,442 passing yards.

Tagovailoa’s entry into the NFL wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but his stance on himself, his team, and victory has never changed, and that became clear when we asked him what the best “highs” he experienced in his first professional season were. It wasn’t his first touchdown pass or his first career start or his first comeback win. Any Sunday his team won.

“The best moments I had were when We won, “Tagovailoa said.” Every time we won, those were the highs. But on the other hand, the minimums are when you lose and when you don’t achieve what you set out to do before the season started. “

So what does Tagovailoa need to improve to keep Miami in the win column in 2021? Among many things, he says it is about his preparation.

“For me, it’s about the little things, the little details of my game,” Tagovailoa said. “Furthermore, how to prepare most of the time. What to look for, how to watch a movie, what to do when you’re watching a movie.”

Tagovailoa is also working to be a leader off the field this offseason. Recently, he partnered with USAA, the NFL’s Official Salute to Service Partner, to connect with military veteran Kerry Smith, who was selected as one of the five grand prize winners of the USAA Salute to Service Sweepstakes. Smith participated in a virtual meeting with Tagovailoa and won several more awards.

“You know I have a lot of family members who served in the military, so I deeply appreciate those guys,” Tagovailoa said.

DeVonta dreaming

The Dolphins should make big strides this offseason through the 2021 NFL Draft as they have two first-round picks, including the No. 3 overall pick thanks to a previous trade with the Texans. It is believed that the Dolphins could target a wide receiver with that first pick, with many projecting that Miami will select Tagovailoa’s former teammate DeVonta Smith, who caught Tagovailoa’s game-winning pass in overtime of the National Championship game. 2018.

Smith became the first receiver since 1991 to win the Heisman Trophy, following a season in which he caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. In the National College Football Playoff Championship against Ohio State, he caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half! Smith said last month that he and Tagovailoa had discussed the possibility of “running back” along with the Dolphins, and it would definitely help Tagovailoa’s development as a quarterback as well. When we asked Tagovailoa how he thinks Smith will fare in the NFL, he couldn’t help but laugh.

“I think his transition to the next level will be a little … little or no,” Tagovailoa said. “In a way that won’t change much. I think the competition will be different for him, obviously, but he’ll be more than fine. I know a lot of people say he’s too small or too skinny, but his movie speaks for itself. It comes out. And he runs his business, he does what he has to do. They don’t call him the ‘Slim Reaper’ for no reason. “

Not many rookie quarterbacks have had to deal with the kind of adversity and outside noise that Tagovailoa has had to deal with over the past year, but that won’t faze him. The possibilities, the business rumors, the constant questioning can only divert your attention from your goal, which for Tagovailoa is to win games and ultimately win a Super Bowl.

“Our goal has always been the same: You want to win as many games as you can and as many as you need to be able to make the playoffs, win your division and get to the (Super Bowl) and try to win it,” Tagovailoa said. “I think that will always be the goal.”

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