Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA: Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) reacts after a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Ever since the Miami Dolphins drafted QB Ryan Tanehill with the 8th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft almost three years ago, the young gunslinger has been the center of attention of PhinsNation. He has remained relatively under the radar, thanks to his stellar classmates and fellow QB’s such as Andrew Luck and Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson. Tannehill has been rated at about average in a new era whose focus is on young quarterbacks who are being asked to start and succeed immediately. There is little time for average in this league, and growth is expected week to week rather than season to season. This upcoming season will be a make or break year for RT17, and I believe he will rise to the challenge and become a dominant QB in this league. After this next season, the Miami Dolphins and fans alike will be confident that they have found their franchise quarterback. The 6 foot 4, 220 pound Ryan Tannehill is ready to break out.
Why will this year be any different than the previous two seasons?
First, Tannehill grew tremendously in his sophomore season, and that was with a number of obstacles in his way (poor O-Line, Sherman, etc.). In his sophomore season, Tanny doubled his TD’s with 24, raised his completion % from 58.3 to 60.4, threw almost 700 more yards (from 3,294 to 3,913), and raised his QBR from 76.1 to 81.7. What else did Tannehill improve on that his stats do not show? He led 4 fourth quarter comebacks and beat the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton. These are names of QB’s that are considered “top tier” (except for maybe Dalton) and Tannehill led his team to victories over all of them. In a season where QB’s are expected to perform their worst and struggle (a.k.a the “Sophomore Slump), Tannehill improved. He showed tremendous leadership throughout multiple controversies, and kept his focus on winning each game.
Statistics aside, all signs point to a breakout season for the young quarterback. In a recent article on nfl.com, Tannehill said himself that he needs to “make a big jump.” The QB himself understands the importance of getting better this upcoming season, and has put it on himself to do so.
One thing that will undoubtedly aid RT17 in his “jump” is the departure of OC Mike Sherman and more importantly the arrival of new OC Bill Lazor. The reality is that for his first two seasons, Sherman suppressed Ryan Tannehill. Despite being sacked an NFL worst (or best if you are opposing defenses) 58 times last season behind an abysmal O-Line, Sherman refused to change the offensive playbook. His atrocious commitment to the “go” “go-go” snap count left defenses salivating at the mouth, knowing exactly when to dismantle the Miami O-Line and leave RT17 on his back. Were some of the 58 sacks Tannehill’s fault? Absolutely, but that is something Tannehill will adress with new Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor this off season. Decision making as a QB can be groomed and only gets better with time. However, calling the same play over and over despite zero success (Mike Sherman) is inexcusable and ultimately cost Sherman his job. Not to mention Sherman’s failure to ever establish a consistent running game. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt Tannehill will be getting back stud slot-man Brandon Gibson and a big bodied receiver/tight end either through FA or via the draft.
I expect to see Bill Lazor use his QB’s athleticism and speed to his advantage. Although one could argue Tannehill lacks the arm skills of Philadelphia’s ace Nick Foles, Tannehill is two times as athletic and an even better passer on the run. I would be shocked if Lazor does not have Tannehill roll out more and find a way for the QB to use his legs, especially if the O-Line is not up to par.
Speaking of the O-Line, an improved Offensive Line unit should also aid Tannehill in his breakout third season. Regardless of Tannehill’s poor decision making at times in the pocket (waiting to throw the ball away or not taking off and running), how could we expect Tannehill to complete throws or move the ball down-field when his own blocking core was crumbling upon the snap. How many times did we see Jonathan Martin (pre-meltdown) or Tyson Clabo get mutilated last season? Part of RT17’s mistakes last season came off the QB trying to make something happen or simply trying to run a normal play, only to find his O-Line blowing up in his own face and the play ending in a sack. An improved O-Line, something Miami has addressed (welcome Branden Albert) and will continue to address in the draft will help our young QB.
I am not saying that Ryan Tannehill will be the next Dan Marino, and frankly comparing the two is ridiculous given the situation and times but that is undoubtedly the comparison that will be made for every Dolphins QB from now until eternity. That being said, Tannehill has a lot to work on. He needs to make better decisions in the pocket, and he also needs to build chemistry with speedster WR Mike Wallace. Wallace was wide open on many occasions last season and Tannehill simply failed to get him the ball. That being said, all the cards are in place (or should be by Week 1) for Ryan Tannehill to complete his goal of making a big jump. He has every athletic skill and ability necessary to be a franchise and even Super Bowl (yes I just went there) QB in this league. What he has lacked up to this point in his career is consistency.
Consistency in a player comes from consistency in the team surrounding that player. Dennis Hickey is bringing consistency to this roster. Bill Lazor is bringing consistency to this offense. Hopefully, HC Joe Philbin will bring consistency to the locker room and his team. After that, look for Ryan Tannehill to fill that missing hole in his game and once again lead the Miami Dolphins to football supremacy.
It is going to be a big year for RT17, and I for one can’t wait.