Andy Cohen: Tannehill So Much More At Ease

Posted Jun 12, 2013

Based on early indications, the Dolphins starting quarterback looks like he’s going to make a huge leap in his second season.

What do I expect from Ryan Tannehill this season? I expect a vastly improved player, a more defined leader, a player more comfortable in his own skin and more confident in the abilities of his teammates.

I expect better production, less mistakes and more game-defining moments.

Am I expecting too much? Not when you consider that Tannehill harbors similar expectations.

“This year is night and day,” Tannehill said on the first day of mini camp. “Last year I really didn’t know if I’d be the starter or where I was on the depth chart. Now I’m the starter and I feel a lot more comfortable with everything going on. With the new guys we’ve brought in, you can just feel the excitement building.”

And much of that excitement is centered around Tannehill. We have heard so much through the years about the quantum leaps so many quarterbacks make from their first to second season, how the numbers clearly bear this out and, hopefully for the Dolphins, so do the wins and losses.

But each player is different, each has his own path, his own growth chart, his own level of expectations. Based on what I have seen of Tannehill this offseason, based on what he is saying and how he is saying it, based on the leadership skills he has demonstrated, it is already undeniably clear that this will be a much improved player in so many ways.

I asked both head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Tuesday to give me a specific example of Tannehill’s improvement from this time last year. I found it interesting that Philbin spoke about Tannehill’s mastering of the offense while Sherman cited his ability to read defenses. Seems like the kid is covering a lot of ground, don’t you think?

Philbin: “Ryan is so much better at the line of scrimmage, moving a running back to a better position or moving some of the other pieces around in order to get us into a good play. He just seems to have a better command.”

Sherman: “We threw the book at him last year on offense, but what I’m seeing now is a player who can see what is happening on defense. He can see a safety creeping up or a linebacker shifting spots. He is developing a real feel for what the defense is doing.”

Or, as wide receiver Brian Hartline so succinctly put it: “Ryan is just better.”

One of the things you have to realize about Tannehill is that he is a student of the game. He lives football. It is his job and passion. He has gone back and evaluated his entire rookie season. He has dissected the good and the bad and has worked much of the offseason to correct the rookie mistakes. It is this commitment that helped convince the Dolphins to select him in the first place.

You see him now and he exudes confidence. Only a year ago, he had just 19 college starts on his resume and, while he knew the offense from playing under Sherman in college, he didn’t have a feel for the nuances of being an NFL quarterback. The demands. The spotlight. The pressure. It was all very new.

But now Tannehill has lived the life for one calendar year. He started every game last season and understands what the job entails, both on and off the field. He loves living in South Florida and you really get the feeling that he loves being the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins spent this offseason trying to make Tannehill’s life easier by adding speed and productivity. Going deep? He’s got Mike Wallace now. Stretch the middle of the field? He’s got Dustin Keller. A big play from the slot receiver? He’s got Brandon Gibson. Even in shorts at mini camp, you can see it all coming together.

“We have so many of the pieces,” he said. “It’s fun to throw to these guys.”

What should be our realistic expectations the realistic growth curve for Ryan Tannehill this season? This is part of the intrigue that surrounds a second-year quarterback. You know he’ll be better, but until we see it all unfold we can only imagine how much better.

For now, though, what we do know is this: Ryan Tannehill looks like a different player. The fog has lifted. The bright sun is shining in his eyes, yet he can see so clearly. He feels at home behind center, feels comfortable with his assignments, feels like he understands what is expected of him.

He laughs now about underthrowing Mike Wallace the first few times he unleashed one in his direction. “He’s so fast, I had to learn to hit him in stride,” he said.

Then came the smile. “But I think we’ve got it figured out.

Indeed, I think Ryan Tannehill has it figured out as well. We saw glimpses of so much in his rookie season. We saw the athletic ability and the arm strength. We saw the intense competitor. We saw the infectious enthusiasm. But we didn’t see the best of Ryan Tannehill.

This season, I get the feeling, we will.
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