Tannehill Impresses In First Practice

Posted Jul 29, 2012

Timing is everything when it comes to the passing game in football, and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s signing couldn’t have been timed any better.

Two days after the Miami Dolphins opened training camp, their first-round pick of the 2012 NFL Draft took the practice field for the first time since last month’s mandatory mini-camp. It just happened to be the team’s first day in full pads, meaning Tannehill would make his first throws of camp in real-time conditions in front of excited fans.

Veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard, along with second-year quarterback Pat Devlin, had been picking up the extra snaps Tannehill would have been taking over the first two days. Surprisingly, the eighth overall pick looked a little sharper with his throws than the other three. Tannehill, who had been working out on his own on the other coast of Florida while his agent worked out the details of his contract, completed his first 11 passes during 11-on-11 drills.

“It felt great. It’s been a long past couple of days for me and I just wanted to get out there, join my teammates and be with the coaches,” said Tannehill, who was greeted by a loud round of applause by the fans on hand. “So to finally be out there and be competing again on the field, I felt great.

“I definitely don’t feel like I fell behind as far as fundamentals, throwing the ball, conditioning or physically. You definitely want to be here. You want to see the reps, be with your teammates and get the timing down. You can’t replicate that somewhere else. You’ve got to be here for that. But as far as physically, I don’t feel like I missed anything.”

Even though Tannehill was one of the last first-round picks of this draft class to sign, the fact that he played for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M and already is familiar with the system Sherman is running should help him adjust quickly. He does have some ground to make-up after missing two full practices and two walk-throughs with the team, which is why he pushed his agent to get the deal done sooner rather than later.

Moore and Garrard are embroiled in a tight competition for the starting job, so as much their personalities are such that they are committed to helping their teammates progress, they won’t have much time to assist Tannehill in making up for lost time. Head Coach Joe Philbin is on a strict planning schedule trying to get the Dolphins ready to compete in the AFC East, so he will be looking for Tannehill to catch up quickly.

“Yeah, I think I saw him at 11:15 last night so he was excited, he was upbeat and he said it felt like an eternity that he had been away because we had seen him every day in the facility up until that point in time,” Philbin said. “The guy’s a worker, the guy likes football and that’s one of the real positive qualities we like about him. So certainly I think he was eager to get out there.”

Tannehill understands the expectations that come with being a first-round pick, magnified in this case by the fact that the last quarterback taken in the first round by Miami was Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino back in 1983. He also knows the question marks that still exist over his limited playing time in college, where he made just 19 starts at quarterback after converting from wide receiver as a junior.

During his time under center for the Aggies, Tannehill completed 484-of-774 passes for 5,450 yards, 42 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, quickly establishing himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the nation. His athleticism as a wide receiver (112 catches for 1,596 yards and 10 touchdowns) and obvious mobility helped increase his stock prior to April’s draft and he fully expects to factor into the competition for the starting quarterback job.

“I feel like I’m in it,” Tannehill said. “I may be naive, but the coaches haven’t given me any indication that I’m not, so I’m going to go out there every day and do my best to get better every day and hopefully win the job. I think they’re going to work me in a little bit more. I’m not 100 percent sure, but leaving the spring that was the indication. I think they want to catch me back up to speed since I’ve been gone the past few days, then take it from there.”

If there was one person on the field paying the closest attention to Tannehill’s first practice it was Sherman, who knew the skill set he was dealing with having coached him before. Considering the time missed in the meeting rooms and in practice since players reported to camp last Thursday, Sherman tempered his expectations.

By the time this morning’s practice ended and Tannehill joined his offensive teammates in the weight room for a lifting session, Sherman had seen enough to remind him why he was such a big supporter of taking Tannehill in the first round.

“I thought he’d be a little bit rusty today but I thought he was pretty much on task on just about everything he did,” Sherman said. “He didn’t seem to miss a beat. Obviously, he’s been working hard with his receivers all summer on their own and throwing, so I think he was ahead of where I thought he’d be, particularly after a long night. He had a tough couple of days and we knew he wanted to be here, so that was frustrating. It’s something new he’s never experienced before, being in the public eye like that, but it seems like he’s handled it well. His teammates handled it well and we’re glad to have him back.”

Tannehill remains his own toughest critic, and while he knew he was doing everything possible on his own over in Bradenton working with former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, he also knew it couldn’t compare to actual practice. That is why he stayed on top of his agent day and night, so that he could rejoin his teammates.

“I definitely wanted to be here. I wanted to be with the team,” Tannehill said. “I didn’t want to hold out. It’s just not really my style. I want to be here. I want to compete and, so, it was a long two days just sitting around waiting. Yeah, I was competing, but there was still some down time where you’re just sitting there and tapping your foot like, ‘Let’s just get this thing done.’ At the end of the day, I feel like we worked a good deal out for both sides.”

As for how he felt he did in his first practice, Tannehill kept it honest.

“I didn’t think it was too bad,” he said. “I definitely have some things to work on, being better with my feet, stepping up in the pocket, a little faster on my drops. But I thought it was a good starting point and I’m excited to get back out there tomorrow and get a little better.”
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