Dolphins’ Tua talks ‘layups’ Tyreek Hill gives him and reveals his routine to stay healthy

MIAMI GARDENS — Twice in the Miami Dolphins’ win over the Washington Commanders last Sunday, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected deep with star wide receiver Tyreek Hill as he beat 1-on-1 man coverage from a cornerback with a single high safety out of position to defend the pass.

One went for a 78-yard touchdown on the Dolphins’ first possession in the 45-15 win over the Commanders, and the other a 60-yarder later in the first half as 157 of Tagovailoa’s 280 yards through the air at FedEx Field went to Hill.

“I hope I don’t miss the layup, really,” Tagovailoa said Thursday, as his Dolphins prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, of what he’s thinking in the moment he gets that look and Hill is speeding past the cornerback in man coverage.

“I’m always thinking Tyreek’s going to win his 1-on-1 matchup. I’m always thinking Jaylen (Waddle) is going to win his 1-on-1 matchup. It’s really based off of, if it’s a one-high look and they’re playing man, it’s really where the safety goes. If it’s not a matchup deal, then we’ll just read it throughout the progression of the play. But, outside of that, it’s just don’t miss the layup.”

Ideally, for defenses, they never want to leave any defender in single coverage with Hill, but there’s a quandary the Dolphins create, with Waddle a threat opposite him among others. In the case of the first touchdown at Washington, speedy running back De’Von Achane was also zooming past a linebacker on the other side of the field, and he could’ve had a touchdown had Tagovailoa gone to him.

“I’m never surprised,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Thursday of getting the look. “We see man every game, but I’m more surprised when they’re not hedging their bet to protect themselves sometimes. But that’s just football. It’s 11 people on the field. Man coverage gives you a lot of versatility as a defense. Guys will try to play it as best they can.”

While Tagovailoa was happy to throw two long touchdowns to Hill, he was especially pleased to go without a turnover after a recent run of them — both interceptions and fumbles. Sunday marked the first game in which Tagovailoa neither threw an interception or fumbled the football since the Sept. 24 win over the Denver Broncos.

He is steadfast on keeping that going.

“Anyone can do it once,” Tagovailoa said. “I’ve got to continue that throughout this back stretch of the year. Zero turnovers, that’s good one time, but anyone can do it once.”

Tagovailoa, healthy through the first 12 games of the 2023 season after constant injury trouble in his first three NFL seasons, has notched his longest such streak of professional games played. He dove into his routine in Thursday’s media session.

He takes a dip in the cold tub every day for muscle recovery. He has a regimen with Dolphins head of strength and conditioning, Dave Puloka, that differs after games and through the week. Tagovailoa lifts twice a week outside of a recovery day, and he also does conditioning and sprints to make sure instances in games aren’t the first time he’s sprinting.

The jiu-jitsu lessons of the offseason that have prepared him to better brace for impact when being taken down have been eschewed.

“From what I’ve learned, I’ve just been practicing what has been given throughout the process where I’ve been learning to fall,” he said, signaling he picked up what he needs to from the lessons.

Will he pick jiu-jitsu back up next offseason?

“If I want to become dangerous, then sure,” he quipped. “But nah, just learn how to fall, brother.”

But Tagovailoa has also been kept clean due to his quick release and the play of the offensive line in front of him, amid eight different starting combinations this season. A big part of that is the work right tackle Austin Jackson has done on the left-hander’s blind side, for which Jackson was rewarded Thursday with a three-year, $36 million contract extension through 2026.

Tagovailoa asked for a round of applause in the room when Jackson’s journey was brought up to him.

“Everybody wants to say what they want to say about Austin Jackson,” Tagovailoa said. “But it’s almost like a heroic story or something for how he’s turned his career around last year up to this year, and all the things that’s been said about him. I’m very proud of him.”

Before Tagovailoa appears on the field for “Monday Night Football” against the Titans, he appeared on television in the last Monday night game, with the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli. The highlight: His skills on the guitar, playing Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

“That was an audio recording,” Tagovailoa joked Thursday. “I don’t know how to play the guitar, so don’t ask me how to play the guitar.”