Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel on who will back up Tua Tagovailoa, offensive line moves and more

·5 min read
Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Mike White, whom the team signed to a two-year deal in the opening days of free agency, will compete with Skylar Thompson for the backup quarterback position behind Tua Tagovailoa.

Miami signed White, who started seven games for the New York Jets during the past two seasons, to a contract worth $8 million, following through on their desire to bring competition to Thompson.

“Really pumped about Mike White,” McDaniel said Monday morning at the NFL’s annual owners meeting in Phoenix. “There are a lot of things in his game that kind of remind me of a player I worked with in the past when I left Houston who was playing at a really high level, Matt Schaub. It is a situation that will be a competition. And I really believe in both players. I think that benefits the team, I think that benefits the players in general if you are going into something with the idea to compete. I think ultimately between the two of those guys, the goal is to have competition produce for the Miami Dolphins a No. 2 quarterback that can win games as a No. 1.”

Tagovailoa had a breakout season in 2022, throwing a career-high 25 touchdowns and leading the NFL in passer rating. But a pair of diagnosed concussions sidelined him for five games. The Dolphins’ offense struggled when Tagvoailoa was out of the lineup and the team was 1-4 in games he did not start, which included a season-ending loss to the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round. Tagovailoa has since been cleared from the league’s concussion protocol and is partaking in jiu-jitsu this offseason to try to avoid future head injuries.

“He’s is in a great spot,” McDaniel said. “I’m really encouraged by the work he’s doing ... his jiu-jitsu stuff has been outstanding. Doing all the things we can control to best position us. He’s in a great place because of that.”

The Dolphins continued to show their commitment to Tagovailoa, picking up his fifth-year option last week. This move keeps him under contract through the 2024 season.

“Once we did our due diligence and our process, it made a ton of sense to us,” McDaniel said. “So, we wanted to communicate and get that done and move forward with our lives.”

Dolphins want to improve OL internally

Arguably the Dolphins’ biggest need on offense entering free agency was the offensive line. Injuries tested the unit’s depth and stunted the development of left guard Liam Eichenberg and right tackle Austin Jackson. Through the first few weeks of free agency, Miami has only added one outside free agent — former Jets lineman Dan Feeney — while re-signing offensive tackles Kendall Lamm and Geron Christian.

McDaniel said the team continues to search for upgrades but likes the potential of its incumbent players.

“In order to upgrade the position for us with the talent that we have, do you want to spend $12 [million to] $20 million to do that?” McDaniel said. “Is that the best way to spend your money? In our particular circumstance, you’re always trying to figure out what the perfect solution is for our team and in our circumstance, I want to get the guys that we have on the team better.

“We have some ideas and thoughts of players that are still out there. We’re taking our time with the market and seeing how that plays out. And there are some stuff we have in thoughts of the draft. ... Depth can and will be tested. But you’re trying to do it within the framework of what’s the best of all your needs of your team and what you can manage as a coaching staff and what you need to outsource with additions of players that can’t be coached.”

McDaniel bullish on returning RBs

The Dolphins, despite ranking tied for 18th in rushing yards per attempt (4.3), re-signed all of their running backs slated for free agency: Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. The team could still opt to add a back in the NFL Draft but bypassed the bigger-name options available this offseason.

“We didn’t run the ball well not because they didn’t run the ball well,” McDaniel said. “We didn’t run the ball well in games that we were overly injured, or some games I just didn’t call enough runs.”

Though Miami ranked in the middle of the league in rushing average, Mostert and Wilson averaged 4.9 and 4.7 yards per carry, respectively.

McDaniel called Mostert and Wilson, who joined him from the San Francisco 49ers, “two of our strongest character contributors” and said they’re “playing the best ball of their careers.”

Berrios can be a ‘scorer’ in Miami offense

At wide receiver, the Dolphins are set with their top-two options, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Wadle, but saw No. 3 wideout Trent Sherfield leave in free agency, joining the Buffalo Bills. Days before Sherfield signed with Buffalo, Miami signed former New York Jets receiver Braxton Berrios, re-signed River Cracraft and claimed Freddie Swain, who spent most of the season on the practice squad, off waivers.

McDaniel praised Berrios’ ability to be a big-play threat alongside Hill and Waddle.

“I like a lot of things about Braxton. I like that he’s a playmaker,” McDaniel said. “I think the more assets we have in terms of being able to make plays with the ball in their hands. I feel like we have an elite distributor in Tua. If you have scorers — to use a basketball reference — I see Braxton as a scorer, a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands. Those elements are extremely exciting, as well as getting a boost to our special teams to make some plays in the kicking game.”