In the middle of it all,
The 2012 first-round pick is heading into his third season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback and he’s excited about the changes and the potential they present.
“It’s fun,” Tannehill said after an offseason practice. “Just the way things turned out last year wasn’t what we were looking for. Personally, from a team standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, (it’s nice) to come out, kind of have a fresh start, new identity, new offense with really talented players across the board. You look at our roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball, you see a stacked receiver room, brought in Knowshon (Moreno) in the backfield, the guys up front that we brought in are really talented players and I’m just excited I get to play with them.”
The new scheme features a lot of movement, with the general idea to try to get players in space as much as possible.
“I like a lot of things about it,” Tannehill said. “I think we have a good run package. It spreads the field, creates running lanes inside. We get the ball all over the field to all of our playmakers and create matchups. That’s fun for me. We have the guys that can win those one-on-one matchups. When you can spread them out, isolate them and get those one-on-one matchups, it’s fun for me to distribute the ball.”
The scheme has a lot of the same elements used by the Philadelphia Eagles last season when new Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was their quarterbacks coach. Under that system, quarterback Nick Foles went from starting the season as a backup to producing an NFL-best 119.3 passer rating after he was forced into action following an injury to starter Michael Vick.
The Dolphins can only hope for those kind of results from Tannehill, who was selected 80 spots ahead of Foles in that 2012 draft.
“I feel he has good command of the offense at this point,” Philbin said. “We’re kind of past the install phase. We spent really the first three weeks of the OTAs installing virtually the entire offense. There might be a thing or two (left) in camp, but it’s not going to be very much. Now, some of these plays are kind of sinking in a little bit. They’re maybe the third time he’s repped them, the fourth time, the fifth time. Now, he maybe sees it against a two-deep or blitz or man coverage. It takes a little bit of time, but given all of the circumstances, I think he’s doing well.”
Tannehill and his coaches are hoping he can continue to progress after making strides from his rookie season to his second year.
One thing that appeared different during practices that were open to the media this spring was Tannehill being more assertive, namely not hesitating to talk to his teammates after plays that were not run properly.
Philbin said one difference he had noted in Tannehill from the end of last season was more leadership being displayed.
For his part, Tannehill says that comes with having been around longer.
“I think now I’m more apt to step up and say something, make a statement,” Tannehill said. “That’s part of playing the QB position. Now, I feel comfortable. I have the respect of my teammates around me and I can do that.”
Once he fully grasps the offense, something he calls a work in progress, Tannehill will be looking to develop more consistency. He had some great moments last season — the game-winning drive against Atlanta, the fourth-down completion on the run against Baltimore, the long run against Pittsburgh come to mind — but the Dolphins could use more of those.
Tannehill is well aware of it.
“It’s a big year for myself, it’s a big year for our team,” he said. “We’ve got a new offense, so we’re all kind of in this thing, learning together, figuring it out.”
More than anything, though, Tannehill is excited about the possibilities.
“I think just last year in general, we underperformed as a team,” he said. “We had a lot of games that we should have won and I think that kind of started a fire in us. We had a lot of guys returning, added a bunch of good pieces and we see the potential of this team. We see that we have the playmakers that can take us a long way. Now, it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together and winning games.
“The day I really look forward to is the first game. That’s the day we really get to show off what we have.”