It's difficult to imagine a better way to close out the final week of camp. The Eagles' arrival had the crowd buzzing on the penultimate day of practices open to fans as both teams competed and entertained.
The Dolphins had their victories, the Eagles had theirs, but the most-apparent takeaway from this practice was that both teams got better.
To find the press conferences of Tua Tagovailoa, Terron Armstead, Jaelan Phillips and more, check out the team YouTube channel. For more analysis on today's practice, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield – available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
To read the previous training camp notebooks, click here.
Here are the takeaways from the Day 17 of training camp 2022:
1. Tua's talents
(Coach Darrell Bevell) told me any route. I said, 'what route do you want to run?' He said any route. So 'Coach Bev' jumped in and said, 'Hey, I want to hear the crowd cheer.' So I said, just run a go. So we ran a go route and Tyreek caught the ball, so that was cool."
That's how Tagovailoa described the decision behind going deep to Tyreek on the first play Wednesday.
If today's practice were a script for the silver screen, the writers went heavy on the foreshadowing from the first play. Granted, one-on-one drills favor the receivers, but the consistent separation created by Tyreek Hill drew "ooh and ahhs" from the crowd each time.
The 30-yard touchdown connection was just the start. Tagovailoa had it all working on Wednesday. He threw with touch and timing, shown on a beautiful 20-yard completion to Cedrick Wilson Jr. Before Wilson got out of his break, the ball was in-flight between a pair of defenders, splitting them with precision.
Later, the Eagles dialed up an overload pressure creating a free run in the lap of the Miami quarterback. Tagovailoa stayed poised and found Salvon Ahmed in the nick of time to the area vacated by the blitz, springing the speedy back up the sideline 25 yards before first contact.
Hill made another play, this one also against the blitz, in which Tagovailoa bought time by fading away from the pressure and getting the ball immediately airborne. The intersection of the ball's descent and Hill's route married up with perfect synergy for another huge chunk of yardage.
On top of the processing to beat blitz looks and the anticipation to thread tight windows, Tagovailoa's ball placement was on-point. We'll cover that and the many weapons at his disposal in a later takeaway.
Above all, if camp and the preseason are any indication, Tagovailoa is taking to the instruction of Head Coach Mike McDaniel. In an interview with Siriu XM's NFL channel, McDaniel praised Tagovailoa's approach and professionalism.
"I think just being able to understand the concepts of the plays we're given on a day-to-day basis," Tagovailoa said when asked about McDaniel's comments. "There's some plays that are installed day of and for us to go out there, be able to walk through it, kind of see it come to life, and then execute it against our defense or an opposing team's defense, I think that that's what he's kind of talking about."
2. Complementary offense
The beauty of this sport is that nobody accomplishes anything alone. For the Dolphins to get the production fans were treated to today on the practice field, it's a full team effort. Observers witnessed the Dolphins' many options at the skill spots Wednesday with an attack that distributed the football relatively evenly.
Wilson caught that aforementioned pass to the perimeter while rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma continues to make plays with his physicality, twitch and studious approach. Nobody shows off like Tyreek Hill in one-on-one's, but Ezukanma was routinely generating substantial separation.
"It makes it a lot easier," Tagovailoa said of having a balanced WR room. "Jaylen gets Tyreek open. Tyreek gets Jaylen open. Tyreek and Jaylen get everyone else open. And those – all three, all four, whoever's out there; they get their running backs open. And so it opens up a lot of things for our run game and our run game opens up a lot of things for our play pass, so everything really complements kind of the scheme that we play football on offense."
We've covered the wide outs and backs, but there was another group that made plays and that was the tight ends. Different skillsets utilize different strengths to get open and make plays. Miami's tight ends used their frames to create throwing lanes, which Tagovailoa consistently hit by throwing away from the leverage of the defense, including throws to Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Hunter Long. Tagovailoa had two passes he might like to have back – one an overthrown deep ball to Ezukanma and one ball behind Gesicki. Only one fell incomplete as Gesicki reached back and snared it with one hand.
Week 2 of the preseason was a big one for Hunter Long. McDaniel detailed the work put in by the second-year tight end, which is impressing the Miami coaching staff.
He had his best week of practice last week, and I thought he played very, very good in the game. One of the reasons that you call in the redzone, you go for it on fourth-and-7, is not because that’s your philosophy in the preseason, or just your philosophy in football. I was excited for a fourth-and-7 play to be called because I wanted to see what players would do what in a big moment. Alright, it’s fourth-and-7. Do they all of a sudden make stuff up and go rogue? Or do you see their best version of whatever route they’re running on the field and Hunter was in on that play, and he ran one of my favorite routes on the concept we ran that he’s ever run. That told me a lot. Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel on TE Hunter Long
3. Orange on the edge again
Jaelan Phillips' orange practice jersey stood out in the sea of aqua (Dolphins) and white (Eagles) jerseys. He stacked another day of big-time production with a pair of sacks in the final period.
He wasn't alone in his success. Melvin Ingram had two pass breakups – one of which was nearly a pick going the other way – and prevented the Eagles running game from getting wide throughout the day. He and Emmanuel Ogbah – who had his pass rush wins, too – were regulars denting the edge and funneling work back inside where Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley and Sam Eguavoen could clean up.
4. A stout test
No game or practice will ever be perfect. The Eagles did a good job up front. A lot of that pressure was mitigated by second efforts of the Miami line, good quarterback play and wide receivers uncovering quickly. The backs did find some gaps including a trio of runs by Raheem Mostert, Salvon Ahmed and ZaQuandre White for significant real estate.
The Dolphins offensive line also had their fair share of wins. Terron Armstead looked like the stabilizing presence that he was for nearly a decade in New Orleans. Austin Jackson kept Tagovailoa's backside largely uninterrupted while Liam Eichenberg, Connor Williams and Robert Hunt showed sound communication in the one-on-one pass rush drills featuring stunts, twists and games from the Eagles front.
"It's great practice, a great trial to get some live works when it doesn't necessarily count," left tackle Terron Armstead said. "The more you can do those things and fine tune, get chemistry with the guy next to you, it's definitely beneficial."
5. Miscellaneous notes
Cornerback Kader Kohou intercepted Carson Strong during seven-on-seven. If you've ever been to an NFL practice, you know how rare it is for the defense get takeaways in those sessions. He also leaped for a pass breakup on a deep ball shot from Gardner Minshew to Deon Cain.
Christian Wilkins dispatched his man with the regularity we've grown accustomed too. He's in the backfield consistently every practice.
Noah Igbinoghene came from depth to make a sure-handed tackle on a completion short of the sticks on third-and-2.
Eric Rowe's ability to matchup with tight ends one-one-one was evident and Brandon Jones was involved in a variety of ways by fitting the run and applying pressure on the quarterback.
For more analysis on Dolphins training camp, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield – available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.