Schad: Superior health, strength causes for Tua Tagovailoa optimism

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks for a receiver down the field in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, December 13, 2020.

A few days ago, the man training Tua Tagovailoa this winter posted images of the Dolphins quarterback engaging in what appeared to be balancing and mechanics exercises.

Tua lifted his left leg. He then simulated a throwing motion. All the while he was holding round balls of various sizes, and, presumably, weights.

"The body can be pretty amazing once you figure out how to unleash its potential," Nick Hicks captioned on Instagram.

Hicks is director of performance at PER4ORM in Davie. Based on the social media accounts of Hicks and Tagovailoa, the quarterback has been spending a lot of time there. 

"Work," Tua captioned another Instagram post, in which Hicks is holding him back as he runs, with the use of a band wrapped around Tua's waist.

Tua appears determined. Tua appears fit. Tua appears stronger.

And while we are neither doctors nor trainers, this circumstantial evidence appears good for the Dolphins.

As a rookie, Tua Tagovailoa's potential was not unleashed. 

It is reasonable to conclude that Tua's improved health and strength might allow it to happen in 2021.

Was Tua ever right physically? We'll know so much more in his second season.

Will Tua be able to throw the ball down the field more effectively in 2021 because his hip feels better and the last time we checked, the hip bone's connected to the...

Look, all the body parts have to work together. And for a quarterback to get all the torque and strength he wants (accuracy has never been and will never be a problem for Tua) the body parts need to coordinate with fluid synchronization.

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At one point last season, former Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said he felt Tua was back to his old self. But then Tua conceded he's not sure he'll ever really fully return to his full self.

We all know our own bodies best. Only Tua knows for sure how limited he truly was as a rookie. Some offensive conservatism was surely a game-plan design to protect a rookie behind an inexperienced offensive line.

But will Tua, assuming his hip feels better and his entire body has been strengthened (from legs to hips to shoulders to arms to... you get it) be able to unleash some of the downfield balls he admitted he passed on last season?

We think he'll try.

There seem to be diminished expectations for Tua — nationally.

Talk shows debate if it's time for the Dolphins to move on (after 9 starts!?!) and that makes sense really only if Deshaun Watson suddenly becomes truly available.

No, Tua is no longer the shiny new car. The focus now and for the coming months will shift to Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson and Justin Fields and even Trey Lance, who may be a Top 10 pick even though he started only a handful of games for North Dakota State.

It would be a mistake to underestimate what Tua might be. And it would be a mistake to forget what Tua once did — on the biggest stages — at Alabama.

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Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network, the excellent draft analyst who was once an NFL scout, recalled this week that he recently ran across some Tagovailoa film. In order to prepare for this years' draft, Jeremiah's had to go back to 2019 games due to opt-outs.

"I still think Tua can play," Jeremiah said. "Tua was pretty good. We've all just decided that Tua Tagovailoa can't play. This kid was talented, so let's give him a chance."

Because Tagovailoa was the fifth overall pick in the last NFL Draft, he's been granted many advertising opportunities, and he's taken advantage of them.

Tua has promoted paid partnerships with Muscle Milk, Bose, Gillette, Grubhub, VistaPrint, Adidas, Verizon and National Guard.

That type of attention could lead to higher expectations and more pressure, but Tua doesn't seem to be the type to be affected by any of that.

Tua is a self-motivator. And it wouldn't surprise anybody if some of the doubts, criticisms and Deshaun-talk has driven Tua harder than ever, both in his studies as well as how he's preparing his body for a second pro season.

Because Tagovailoa was the fifth overall pick in the last NFL Draft, he's been interviewed on many national platforms since the season ended.

Among the media entities Tagovailoa has visited with are ESPN, NFL Network, CBS Sports, Sporting News, Yahoo, USA Today, Dan Patrick, Pro Football Talk and Sirus XM.

Tagovailoa is hard on himself and so it was a bit of a beat-myself-up tour. He talked about how he wasn't good enough and how he will benefit from having faced multiple defensive coordinators, schemes and blitz packages.

Tua should benefit from the weapons Miami plans to add in the next two months. And Tua should benefit from the experience three rookie offensive linemen gained.

In early 2020, Tua was focused largely on rehabilitation following a devastating hip injury. In early 2021, Tua has been able to shift his focus to strength, fitness and synchronization to create better rhythm and results.

Tagovailoa celebrated his 23rd birthday last week.

Hicks, the Davie-based trainer wrote on Instagram: "I've always believed that hard work, consistency and self-belief are the best ingredients for success. You clocked in three hours of work on your birthday. Proud of you homie."

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