Ryan Tannehill has been a solid NFL quarterback. He’s never missed a game, he’s thrown for 4,000+ yards in each of the last two seasons, and he’s cut down on his interceptions (from 17 in 2013 to 24 over the last two years combined).
While he has put up good numbers, however, he hasn’t put up elite numbers. He’s also never finished a season better than 8-8. In fact, he finished a career-worst 6-10 in 2015.
Is this the year that Tannehill truly gets over the hump and enters the upper echelon of quarterbacks?
“We’ve been really encouraged,” Dolphins vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Ryan will get a lot of work (tonight against Atlanta). His relationship with Adam has been really well. Coach Gase has done a good job going back to the spring with him, and Ryan has just been a really confident guy who’s really taken the next step in terms of leadership. We were encouraged how we played last week against Dallas, and we hope to continue to build on that tonight.”
Tannehill’s passing yardage has increased in each of his four NFL seasons. On the flip side, his completion percentage regressed last year from 66.4 to 61.9, as did his touchdown passes, from 27 to 24.
How will Gase get those numbers back to their 2014 level and beyond?
“I’d say it’s more fundamental,” Tannenbaum said. “When you talk about the league, it’s not about quarterback rehab; it’s quarterback development. These guys are coming from very simplified systems in college and they have to learn very sophisticated offenses. In Ryan’s case, he’s put a lot of good tape out there his first few years. He needs to be more consistent – and that goes for the whole offense, for that matter. Certainly when the games are on the line in the fourth quarter, we got to take advantage of that. We’re encouraged by his career trajectory.”
With Tannehill, Tannenbaum is reminded of an old saying: The tape – in other words, a player’s raw talent – sets the floor; the character sets the ceiling.
“Ryan’s character is impeccable,” Tannenbaum said. “He wants to be great, and to see him with Coach Gase and Coach (Clyde) Christensen, our offensive coordinator, he’s a gym rat. He can’t get enough of this. That’s why we’re so optimistic about it.”
Defensively, the Dolphins will need a better season from Ndamukong Suh, who last year had 61 tackles and 6.0 sacks. What caused him to have what seemed like a down year?
“When you play defensive tackle, sometimes you’re going to have production and other times you’re going to create it for other players,” Tannenbaum said. “But one of the things we’ve talked about all offseason . . . is we needed more depth. We didn’t want to put so much on any one player, including Ndamukong. So we went out and signed Mario Williams and Jason Jones. Cam Wake is coming back from an injury. We added Kiko Alonso to our front seven. So we think as a whole our front seven will have more talent and more depth, which is what you need in the league.”
It’s also what you need in the AFC East, which New England has won 12 of the last 13 years, including seven straight. Will this year be any different?
“For us, New England has done a great job for a long time, but we have a new coach and we’re really energized down here,” Tannenbaum said. “We have a great group of guys, we had a really good offseason, they worked their tails off and we’ll see New England in Week 2. We start off at Seattle, which is obviously going to be a tall task to start the year, so our focus right now is let’s get through campus as healthy as we can, get ready for Seattle and get out to England in Week 2. We’ll be ready, but we know they’ll be ready as well.”