Tannehill making late-season strides for Dolphins
Now that Ryan Tannehill has made 30 NFL starts, Miami Dolphins
offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is wondering why Texas A&M
ever played him at receiver.
Tannehill switched to quarterback as a junior and started 19
games there for A&M. The Dolphins made him a first-round pick
in 2012, and this month he’s playing the best football of his brief
pro career, which is a big reason they’re mounting a late-season
surge toward a playoff berth.
”He’s a work in progress,” Sherman said. ”He tries to get
better every single week. He’s very consistent. But here’s a guy
that hadn’t played a whole lot of major-college football at the
quarterback position. I don’t know what his head coach was
The second-guessing was accompanied by a grin, because
Tannehill’s coach at A&M was Sherman. Both can laugh now about
Tannehill’s abbreviated receiving career, because more than ever he
looks like a keeper at quarterback.
During the Dolphins’ three-game winning streak this month,
Tannehill’s passer rating is 103.2, significantly higher than his
career figure of 81.5. He has completed 65 percent of his passes in
December for 843 yards with eight touchdown passes and only two
interceptions. He has thrown for the go-ahead score in the final
minutes each of the past two weeks to beat Ben Roethlisberger and
As a result, the Dolphins (8-6) could clinch the final AFC
wild-card berth as soon as Sunday at Buffalo.
”Most of our success has come from Ryan continuing to develop
every single day,” receiver Mike Wallace said.
Despite an NFL-high 51 sacks, Tannehill hasn’t missed a snap
this season. Such continuity is a watershed for the Dolphins, who
started an NFL-high 17 quarterbacks from 2000 to the beginning of
Tannehill’s 23 touchdown passes this year are the most in a
season by a Miami quarterback other than Dan Marino. At his current
pace, Tannehill will also become the first Dolphins quarterback to
throw for 4,000 yards since Marino in 1994.
Even so, Tannehill’s statistics have yet to rival the league’s
elite QBs. He ranks seventh this year in interceptions, ninth in
touchdowns, 10th in yards and 18th in passer rating. He sometimes
holds the ball too long, as reflected by his sack total, and has
consistently underthrown the speedy Wallace deep, which happened
again Sunday in a victory over New England.
”I think I might be open this year deep more than I’ve ever
been,” Wallace said with a chuckle. ”It’s crazy.”
Even so, Wallace sings Tannehill’s praises, as do other
teammates and the coaching staff.
”I like the way he’s been playing,” said coach Joe Philbin,
not one to gush. ”He’s making good decisions. Usually that’s the
No. 1 criterion at that position.”
Since the start of his rookie season, Tannehill has shown an
eagerness to learn from mistakes and shrug off success.
”He’s like our head coach in many ways,” Sherman said. ”He
has a very even demeanor. He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get
too low, he just takes it all in and moves forward and takes it in
stride. He’s excited about winning this last ballgame. But he’ll
file that away, `OK, what do we have to do this week? What’s the
game plan?’ That’s just the way he is.”
Tannehill’s quick to accept blame when things go wrong and
credit teammates when things go right. Lately there has been a lot
of credit to share, with Wallace, receiver Brian Hartline, tight
end Charles Clay and running back Daniel Thomas all having big
games in recent weeks.
”Guys around me are just helping me out so much, making big
plays out of normal plays,” Tannehill said.
Despite a recent uptick, the Dolphins rank still in the lower
half of the league in most offensive categories, and 21st in
points. But the patchwork line has blocked better lately, and the
two-minute offense has been excellent all year, making Miami tough
to put away.
Only two of the Dolphins’ defeats have been by more than four
points, while they’ve won six times by six points or less. Their
pattern has been to keep the game close, then give the ball to
Tannehill at the end, a formula that might make them dangerous in
”We have big things ahead of us,” he said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and
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