As the Dolphins prepared for one-on-one drills with the Philadelphia Eagles during a recent joint practice, Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and receiver Tyreek Hill discussed which route to run first.
Hill didn't have a preference, but quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell jumped in and said: "I want to hear the crowd cheer." Tagovailoa told Hill, who's one of the fastest players in the league, to run a go route -- a straight line downfield as fast as possible.
Hill lined up against Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, flashed his quick release off the line of scrimmage and streaked down the sideline. He corralled an arching pass 40 yards downfield while Tagovailoa held his follow-through, maybe a beat or two longer than usual.
Dolphins fans in attendance at the Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens roared.
Tagovailoa is aware of what fans want -- and expect -- to see from him this season. It's what they've expected since he was the No. 5 overall pick in 2020. But for a variety of reasons, the expectations have gone largely unmet. And preseason passes won't change the narrative.
The deadline to pick up Tagovailoa's fifth-year option is scheduled for May 2023. If it doesn't work out, it won't be because the Dolphins failed to surround him with talent. In this offseason alone, they acquired one of the league's top playmakers in Hill, the top free agent in tackle Terron Armstead, and a creative, offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel.
Now it's up to Tagovailoa, who has been working on personal upgrades throughout the offseason. Part of his transformation has been working on his physical, as well as his mental, preparedness. And the result has been a level of confidence Hill said would surprise people.
"You know, in the NFL, they only give you like two or three years to be a successful quarterback, especially if you're a first-round pick," Hill said on his podcast. "And if you don't succeed after those years, then it's 'kick rocks, man.'