Tannehill in conversation to start Opening Day

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Lauren Tannehill bounced up the stairs during the fourth quarter of Friday’s preseason opener between the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She seemed to be floating on air, and who could blame her?

She had just watched her husband, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, turn in a performance so good there’s now thought he could be Miami’s opening week starter. (David Garrard, formerly the Dolphins’ starting

quarterback, will be sidelined two to four weeks because of knee

surgery.)

Tannehill, who carries himself as a veteran, downplayed his inaugural showing. “It’s small steps, just going out and trying to be the best (quarterback) I can be,” he said.

That’s being humble. Matt Moore, who started in Garrard’s place, stopped just short of gushing over Tannehill after the Dolphins’ 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay in the preseason opener.

“It’s evident and it’s very clear that he can play, and I know that,” Moore said. “The kid went out there and moved the ball and put us in the end zone when we were in the red zone.

“So, yeah, I know he’s good and he’s talented, and he’s got the build and the mindset and everything you want from a quarterback.”

Tannehill’s calling card was going 7-for-8 for 84 yards on a third-quarter touchdown drive. It ended with him hitting tight end Charles Clay for an 11-yard scoring pass.

Tannehill finished the night 14-for-21 passing for 167 yards and one touchdown.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the gap between Moore and Tannehill got a bit closer after Friday’s game.

“I don’t think it’s huge,” Philbin said. “It’s relatively close, probably.”

Hey, maybe the future will arrive on Sept. 9, when the Dolphins open the regular season at Houston.

Tannehill’s debut performance on Friday capped a head-spinning turn of events that went down in about a five-hour span.

On Friday afternoon it appeared Tannehill would be the only quarterback drafted in this year’s first round who wouldn’t be an opening week starter.

But by Friday night you thought Tannehill might join Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick, and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, the 22nd pick, as rookie Week 1 starters.

Tannehill, the No. 8 pick, was that impressive during an intermittently rainy night at Sun Life Stadium.

But just as head-spinning as Tannehill’s performance was the news that Garrard requires surgery. This is a stunner.

Garrard, the 34-year-old who missed last season after having back surgery, is now pretty much eliminated from being named the Week 1 starter.

The Garrard news was an especially huge revelation on a night in which wide receiver Chad Johnson ended with zero receptions for zero yards (he dropped the only pass that came his way), running back Reggie Bush had four carries for 17 yards and Moore was 7-for-12 passing for 79 yards no touchdowns and an interception.

Miami is badly in need of playmakers, and Garrard’s absence might rob them of another candidate for that role.

Garrard told FOXSports.com’s Jay Glazer he has “loose things floating around” that need to be removed from his knee. No one is quite sure how he was injured. Or when. But right now it means the Dolphins might have wasted the past two weeks messing around with Garrard.

That’s certainly not the case with Tannehill. He never seemed to throw to the wrong receiver. He never seemed panicked or flustered, and there was no indecision on where the ball was going or whether he was throwing or pulling it down and running.

Of course, there were miscues. Tannehill sailed one wide and long to rookie tight end Michael Egnew on a swing pass late in the third quarter. And he missed wide receiver Julius Pruitt in similar fashion.

Still, Tannehill made a strong statement Friday. He’s in a two-man quarterback battle with Moore, and right now there’s a good chance Tannehill wins.