Shaky supporting cast shaky for Miami’s Tannehill

With a front-row vantage point at the Miami Dolphins’ latest

game, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was like the fans in

the stands, curious to check out rookie Ryan Tannehill.

Ryan impressed Ryan.

”He’s athletic,” the Falcons quarterback said. ”He’s got a

strong arm. He looked comfortable for a young guy.

”It’s not an easy transition. I know that very well.”

Atlanta’s Ryan won the starting job in training camp his rookie

year – as Tannehill did this summer – and led his team to the

postseason. That was in 2008, and he’s now a Pro Bowl passer for a

perennial playoff team.

The Dolphins (No. 27 in the AP Pro32) would be thrilled with a

similar transition by Tannehill, but his first game as their

starter underscored what Matt Ryan said: It’s not easy.

Tannehill went 11 for 27 for 112 yards and one interception

Friday night in a 23-6 loss to the Falcons. Unlike Ryan, who had a

talented supporting cast as a rookie, Tannehill finds himself

directing an offense with a nondescript receiving corps and an

unimposing line.

The Dolphins dropped seven passes against Atlanta, including

four thrown by Tannehill, one of which would have been a touchdown.

Pass protection wasn’t in sure hands, either – Tannehill was sacked

once and hit several other times, making it easy to wonder how the

Dolphins will keep the rookie healthy for an entire season.

”Offensively it really wasn’t much good to look at,”

first-year coach Joe Philbin said Saturday. ”There wasn’t very

much rhythm or consistency.”

Defense is expected to be the Dolphins’ strength, and the

first-teamers held Atlanta’s high-powered attack without a

touchdown. But the first-team offense has produced only 10 points

while playing about five quarters through three exhibition games,

all defeats.

”Definitely not what we want to be,” receiver Davone Bess

said. ”We’ve got to make some strides real quick, real fast

because the season is approaching real quick.”

The final exhibition game is Wednesday at Dallas, followed by a

return to Texas for the season opener Sept. 9 at Houston.

That gives Philbin two weeks to choose his top three receivers,

roles that have thus far gone unclaimed. As general manager Jeff

Ireland said on HBO’s ”Hard Knocks,” Miami’s receiving corps is

dominated by ”fours, fives and sixes.”

No receiver has reached the 100-yard mark for the entire

preseason. Legedu Naanee, Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore – all

considered in the mix for playing time – combined to make one catch

for 8 yards against the Falcons.

”The coaches told us that coming in, they want someone who is

going to start it off for us,” Naanee said. ”Nobody grabbed

that.”

And so the search for reliable targets continues.

”It has been an area where we feel like we’ve provided a lot of

opportunity for guys, and we’re not at the stage we want to be,”

Philbin said.

In March the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall, who created

headaches in the locker room but also made 167 receptions the past

two seasons. They then signed six-time Pro Bowl receiver Chad

Johnson, but his bid for a career comeback in Miami ended with his

arrest in a domestic case. Brian Hartline, who made 109 catches in

his first three years with the Dolphins, hasn’t been an option

because he has missed the entire preseason with a left calf

injury.

Tannehill’s not complaining about the state of affairs. Maybe

it’s the optimism of youth, but he was quick to shrug off all those

dropped passes.

”It’s my job to put the ball there,” Tannehill said. ”There

were some throws that I didn’t make. That has nothing to do with

the receivers, that’s just myself putting the ball in a bad spot.

I’ve got to be more consistent with my accuracy; there are a few

throws that I would like to have back.”

Tannehill was recently promoted to the No. 1 job, which made him

the first Dolphins rookie QB to become a starter in training camp.

And although things went badly against Atlanta, he didn’t seem in

over his head.

”He’s pretty poised,” Philbin said. ”You would worry if a

player came to the sidelines and didn’t have a reason for why he

did certain things. He might not have been right all the time, but

at least if somebody can explain to you what the thought process

was you feel a little bit better, as opposed to players who lose a

play and weren’t real sure or indecisive.”

For the Dolphins’ rookie QB, coping with failure will be a big

part of the job.

NOTES: The Dolphins released nine players, including RB Jerome

Messam, a 1,000-yard rusher in the Canadian Football League last

year, and TE Les Brown, a long shot who hadn’t played competitive

football since 2005. RB Jonas Gray was placed on the PUP/NFI

reserved list.