Over the weekend, Miami Herald writer Barry Jackson met up with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill after he was done running a football camp for children at Dolphins headquarters.
Tannehill touched on several subjects regarding this upcoming season. Mostly, the talented weapons he has on offense, the importance of having so many of the same players back, as well as the upgrades he has at the tight end position(Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano). But one topic intrigued me more than the rest-- the game is slowing down for Ryan Tannehill.
While talking with Jackson, Tannehill opened up about his knee injury in the Week 14 home game against the Arizona Cardinals, and why he was so emotional on the sideline that day.
“That is what made it so tough for me is the fact we went on a little run there, winning games, and I finally started to feel really comfortable in the offense and what we were trying to accomplish and how we were doing it,” the quarterback said. “The game was really slowing down for me. I was seeing things more clear for me than I ever have. And understanding what Adam was trying to get out of certain plays.”
This confirms fellow Miami Herald writer Armando Salguero’s reports from March, who wrote that sources close to the quarterback said the game was slowing down for him.
This could be what the Miami Dolphins and their fans have been waiting for since the team drafted Tannehill in 2012. Both recognizing his physical talent and wanting him to take the next mental step to join the upper-tier of quarterbacks in the league.
Earlier this offseason, quarterback guru Jeff Christensen (notable pupils include Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins) was working with Tannehill and not only agreed with this assessment, but said he expects the quarterback to be a Top 8 passer by the end of the 2017 season.
“I have a really good feeling,” Christensen said back in May. “I think he will start out of gate quickly. He will be top 12 out of the gate. If he's not top 8 throughout the course of the rest of the season or higher, I’ll be shocked.”
Starting out of the gate quickly has been one of the knocks on Ryan Tannehill. Since 2014, the Miami Dolphins quarterback and the offense have been criticised on the slow starts in the first 3-4 games of each season. Most recently, the Dolphins 1-4 start in 2016.
Head Coach Adam Gase is Tannehill’s 3rd offensive coordinator in the quarterback’s still relatively young career. The coach has helped a future Hall of Fame quarterback’s[Peyton Manning] game reach a record-breaking level, and got some efficient play out of former and now retired Chicago Bear’s Jay Cutler--limiting his mistakes and turnovers. After short tenures with coordinators Mike Sherman and Bill Lazor who ultimately did not work out, it looks like 3rd time’s the charm with Gase. Tannehill might’ve had his worst statistical year since his rookie season(partly due to injury), but Gase’s playcalling led the Dolphins to move the ball effectively and consistently as the season wore on, and Tannehill finished 12th in passer rating with 93.5.
Gase and Tannehill have a great working relationship and their minds began to mesh toward the middle of the season after a disastrous offensive start.
“You start to get to know a play-caller as the season goes on, what he’s trying to get out of certain plays. It just takes time. You can’t go out there week one of year one and expect to know what he wants out of each play call. I was starting to get to that point where I knew exactly what he wanted to do when he sent in a play call and I think that is what made it so tough. But it’s also exciting for me to start kind of where I left off and build on where we started last year.”
Coming off the knee injury and now wearing a brace, all signs point to Tannehill picking up where he left off in 2016. (If you are curious, that would be leading the Cardinals 21-9 with 3 TD’s, 1 Int, and 124.0 passer rating.)
Follow Mike Hernandez on Twitter: @FtBallMikeHern