Sixty-seven games into his NFL career, Ryan Tannehill is stuck in no-man’s land. He’s certainly not bad enough to the point where the Dolphins should give up on him, but he’s certainly not good enough to the point where the Dolphins should consider him a franchise quarterback.

“I’m still waiting on this kid,” CBS Sports Network analyst Steve Beuerlein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’ve done a lot of Dolphins games over the last several years and had a chance to see him up close. I’ve spent a lot of time with him and he’s been through a lot. We can’t underplay the fact that he has been through a lot with head coaches, with offensive coordinators, with different players. I think he’s been kind of shorthanded with some of the talent around him at times. They haven’t done a great job protecting him. But you guys both know the bottom line is the proof is in the pudding. You’ve got to step up at some point and make some plays and consistently show you can play at this level. Tonight he’s got a big challenge in front of him, going against a really ticked off Cincinnati Bengals team (that’s angry) about what happened to them last weekend. And now national television, they don’t want to go 1-3. So he’s going into the bee hive tonight. I would be very surprised if it went well for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins tonight.”

Tannehill is the rare NFL quarterback who didn’t play quarterback at every level. In fact, he played a little wide receiver at Texas A&M.

That speaks to Tannehill’s versatility, but it also begs the question: Is he good enough to be an elite NFL quarterback?

“I think that there are questions about that,” Beuerlein said. “You talk about how good he looks at times and how easy he makes it look because he is a very, very gifted athlete. When he’s got time in the pocket and rhythm and he knows where he’s going with the football, he throws a nice ball. He can spin it with the best of them. But you go back to what he was initially, and it was a wide receiver. Until he proves that he is a quarterback at this level, I don’t think that defenses are going to respect him from that perspective. I don’t think people are going to give him the respect that maybe he does deserve. I think until he starts having success, people are always going to bring up that fact that he really was a wide receiver when he went to college.”

The Bengals, meanwhile, hope to rebound after back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Broncos. They’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the league over the last six or seven years, but they’re also a chip-shot field goal away from being 0-3.

What’s going on in Cincy this season?

“It’s the NFL,” Beuerlein said. “As you guys know, there’s a lot of ugly wins out there. Every team that wins the Super Bowl, there’s four or five games during the course o that year where they’ve squeaked them out. You look at the Baltimore Ravens. They’re 3-0, but they haven’t blown out anybody. I think they’re a pretty darn good football team, but they had their hands full. They only beat the Jaguars by two last week – and Blake Bortles threw three interceptions. So there’s a fine line between being regarded as a good football team and being regarded as a team looking for its identity and being lucky. It’s all a matter of how you spin it. Right now, a 3-0 team can spin it as, ‘Hey, we’re a pretty good football team.’ A 1-2 team or an 0-3 team is going to say they’re not getting any breaks and they’ve lost a couple of heartbreakers. The bottom line is, you got to find a way to get it done. If your team is struggling a little bit but still finding a way to get it done, that’s encouraging.

“I don’t think anybody in the league that watches football, that studies football, thinks the Bengals are not a very good football team,” Beuerlein continued. “They have the same players. They’ve been deep. They’ve contended for that division every year for the last several years. They haven’t won a lot of the big games down the stretch, but I think everybody respects them as a very good football team. No one will take them lightly. They’re going to have to bring their A-game every week because people do respect them as one of the top teams in the league, and they’re not playing that great right now. So we’ll see what happens. (Vontaze) Burfict (comes back) tonight and maybe energizes that stadium a little bit. I don’t know. But Marvin Lewis, he knows how to get a team ready to play. They’re going to find themselves here pretty soon.”

Kickoff on Thursday is at 8:25 p.m. ET.


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