MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Going into OTAs on Tuesday, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel praised quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s offseason work — which has included shedding some pounds and working with a new quarterbacks coach — and said he expects Tagovailoa to take another leap in Year 3 of this system.

“It’s been very exciting because at this point, we’re like, ‘Alright, let’s really push ourselves to challenge this guy,'” McDaniel said, “because all he ends up doing is rising to the challenge with what we’ve been asking him to do.”

Tagovailoa, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, has participated in three OTA practices, while missing some of the team’s voluntary sessions earlier in the offseason.

McDaniel didn’t say last week whether some of Tagovailoa’s absences were contract-related, but the two sides are engaged in negotiations.

Tagovailoa was in attendance for Tuesday’s OTA practice and participated in 7-on-7 drills, finishing the session with a deep touchdown pass to rookie receiver Tahj Washington.

“He’s building up that confidence in himself and you can just tell,” running back Raheem Mostert said. “Even out here making these throws. He’s doing what he needs to do, and that’s what you want to see out of a guy like him.”

McDaniel said he has noticed more velocity on some of Tagovailoa’s throws, a product of the 26-year-old’s offseason work with quarterback coach John Beck, who was a quarterback for the Washington Commanders when McDaniel was with the team in 2011.

“Just that connectivity to your game and trying to unearth every single inch and iota of professional development,” McDaniel said, “That, in itself, you’re heading in the right direction.”

Tagovailoa led the NFL with 4,624 yards passing in 2023, while also setting career highs in completion rate (69%) and touchdown passes (29). He also played an entire season for the first time in his career as he bulked up his frame last offseason to better withstand the hits he takes on the field. He started 17 games after only averaging 11 starts his first three seasons.

While Tagovailoa’s new frame was noticeable, McDaniel said last offseason’s goal was not simply to add more weight.

“That’s a very understandable misconception,” McDaniel said. “We were not on an offseason weight program last year. It was strength. … His strength increased but he felt like he could have the same amount of strength and kind of reshape his body and be a little lighter on his feet.”

McDaniel added that the hope is for an improvement in Tagovailoa’s mobility in the pocket, while not jeopardizing his strength and ability to protect himself.

“It’s kind of the natural evolution of you get stronger,” McDaniel said, “and then you really pay attention to your diet and the times that you’re eating, and what your caloric intake is and those types of things so he can maintain those strength gains while also being a little more limber within the pocket.”

BIG THREE

The Dolphins have not yet gotten a chance to see dynamic receivers Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Odell Beckham Jr. on the field together yet, but McDaniel said he’s not worried about that at this point in the offseason.

“I’m not in any hurry to see that,” McDaniel said. “Each individual has to earn their keep and earn their targets. Having all three (on the field) at the same time isn’t necessarily a big deal to me. It’s each and every one of them understanding our offense, understanding how to align and who and what to block. All of those things are the most important to me.”

Hill led the league with 1,799 yards receiving in 2023, while Waddle had his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season with 1,014. The Dolphins signed Beckham earlier this month as a needed third receiving option for Tagovailoa. All three receivers were absent from practice Tuesday.

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