The Miami Dolphins arrived at their first break of training camp Sunday after conducting four practices at the Baptist Health Training Complex on the grounds of Hard Rock Stadium, including one open to fans on Saturday.
While it's obviously still too early to jump to conclusions about anything and everything when it comes to the Dolphins — and the other 31 teams in the NFL — there clearly were some things that stood out both positively and negatively during that first week of practice.
TUA AND THE QUARTERBACKS
Of course, we have to start with Tua Tagovailoa because he's the quarterback and because he's easily the most visible player on the team.
As with everything Tua, there is little nuance when it comes to his performance or his progress or his outlook, which is why we're always trying — much to the chagrin of many of his fans — to bring context to what we're seeing and hearing.
That out of the way, let's start by saying that Tua clearly has looked like a better quarterback so far in camp than he did as a rookie, which was to be expected given that this is his second year.
We also would tell you that even though the bombs you've seen on social media are attention-grabbers, by far his best throws of camp have come in the intermediate range, where he's fit in some passes despite tight coverage.
On the flip side, there's this notion out there that it's been bombs away at camp and Tua is just lighting up with deep passes. Yes, there have been some long completions — usually to Albert Wilson — but understand that a lot of plays happen in practice that wouldn't happen in a game because a quarterback wouldn't be holding the ball in the pocket as long.
The bottom line, though, is that there is every reason to be encouraged by what Tagovailoa showed this past week. It was, all in all, a very solid start to training camp for the second-year quarterback.
Looking at the backups, Jacoby Brissett also had his moments and he certainly has the look of a solid number 2 at the position, though he missed on some long throws more than he connected.
ALBERT WILSON AND THE WIDE RECEIVERS
After opting out in 2020, Albert Wilson was considered a bit of a question mark at wide receiver, but he has looked every bit the player he was when he first joined the Dolphins.
The video put out by the Dolphins on the first day of practice showing Tua's bomb to Wilson didn't do justice to what Wilson did on the play in getting wide open behind the secondary.
And he hasn't stopped since.
That said, we're not even sure if Wilson was the most impressive wide receiver in that first week of practice because Robert Foster was just brilliant.
The under-the-radar free agent acquisition just continued to catch everything thrown his way and getting open. He entered training camp seen as maybe a long shot to earn a roster spot at a crowded position, but it's going to be impossible not to keep him if he keeps performing that way.
And then there's Jaylen Waddle, who had a brilliant practice in front of the fans Saturday, showing off his ability to get open.
It's not been perfect for the rookie first-round pick, though, because he's dropped a couple of catchable passes and then there's the mystery of his ankle. Waddle came up favoring an ankle after one of those drops late in the week, this after a Pro Football Network report from NFL Insider Adam Beasley suggesting via sources that he's still not fully recovered from the injury he sustained last season.
Again, if Waddle isn't operating at 100 percent and running the way he is now, it's scary to think what it's going to look like when he gets back to form.
Finally on the wide receivers, we can't leave out the injury issue.
The Dolphins have conducted all but part of their four practices without three players in that group who did figure to play big roles on offense in 2021 — DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Will Fuller V.
Parker and Williams began camp on PUP, while Fuller was injured in the first practice.
Normally, we wouldn't make a big issue about this, but those are three players who have dealt with more than their share of injuries in the NFL and starting training camp this way is far from ideal — to put it mildly.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
We'll close with the offensive line because, quite frankly, we just didn't see much that stood out at all from either the running backs or tight ends — in either a good or a bad way.
When it comes to the offensive line, a couple of things have become clear.
First, it sure looks like Michael Deiter is the front-runner to start at center as the 2019 third-round pick looks to return to the starting lineup.
Liam Eichenberg took first-team snaps at left guard in practice Saturday, and don't be surprised if that's where he ends up playing as a rookie, making the same kind of college-to-NFL switch that Laremy Tunsil made after arriving as a first-round pick in 2016.
It bears repeating that since they gave up a 2022 third-round pick in order to move up eight spots in the second round this year to take Eichenberg, the Dolphins will give him every opportunity to win a starting job right away.
The right tackle spot for now looks like it will belong to veteran Jesse Davis, though he's been watching the end of practice from the sideline on a regular basis.
In terms of performance, it's impossible to evaluate the first week of camp because it didn't involve any practices in pads. There were too many false starts, though.