Tannehill's Sun Life Stadium Debut A Memorable One

Posted Aug 4, 2012

Being tagged as the future of the franchise comes with some pressure to perform, even if it is just the first live scrimmage of training camp.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not disappoint, netting the first touchdown of the morning on his second series with the first unit. It was a broken play as he scrambled to the right and looked like he was going to run with it before floating a 26-yard strike to veteran tight end Anthony Fasano.

The scoring pass came on the sixth play of the drive against the second-team defense and Tannehill went 5-for-5 through the air on the drive. He was 10-of-13 for 114 yards and a touchdown overall, much to the delight of Head Coach Joe Philbin. His first two pass attempts were deep throws, one to Legedu Naanee down the left sidelined that was just a bit too far and the second to Chad Johnson on the right when Johnson was interfered with by Jonathan Wade.

“I thought he threw a good ball on the first one. We’ll take a look at the tape when we get back to the office to see how close it was, but he threw the ball down the field well,” said Philbin, who made an effort to get all three quarterbacks in the ‘derby” equal snaps with the first group. “Again, I think he showed good poise, it doesn’t look too big for him here in the stadium and coaches on the side and plays coming down from the coordinators upstairs and through that whole communication process. I didn’t like one of the balls he threw in the corner down here but of course I was yelling on the touchdown pass, ‘Run, run, run,’ and then he threw a touchdown.”

An example of how serious Tannehill is about improving and legitimately competing for the starting job came right after the practice ended and the players headed to the sidelines to sign autographs and talk to the media. The first-round draft pick out of Texas A&M stayed out on the field with veteran running back Reggie Bush and threw passes to him for five minutes.

The cheers for Tannehill were very audible from the crowd of 8,721 that showed up on a hot Saturday morning, which was to be expected, and in keeping with his pattern since joining the Dolphins, he remained his own toughest critic.

“I definitely have some things to improve,” Tannehill said. “I dropped a snap on a third down play (against the first team defense) when we had a great chance to get a first down. I can’t do that obviously, but it was fun. It was a good first real scrimmage action and to get out there, get the tempo of the game, the flow of the game and have a good drive was important, so I really had fun.”

Fasano was on the receiving end of two of the three touchdown passes thrown in the scrimmage, the one from Tannehill and then a 7-yard strike from Matt Moore during the goal-line drill. He finished with three catches for 39 yards while Johnson (five catches for 42 yards) and Naanee (five for 38 yards and a touchdown) led all of the receivers.

Being that Fasano has been around the league for a while and played for a number of different quarterbacks in Dallas with the Cowboys and here in Miami with the Dolphins, his assessment of Tannehill carries some weight. The former Notre Dame tight end had some strong observations after this session, specifically of that touchdown pass.

“It was really impressive,” Fasano said. “It was a roll pass and I kind of adjusted my route because of the coverage. He and I were on the same page. It was a great touch pass on the run. I’ve said it all along and I think everyone has said it; he doesn’t really play like a rookie quarterback. It’s a great sign to see and he’s only going to get better.”

Even the defensive players have been impressed with Tannehill’s grasp of the offense and his progress so far in training camp. Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby, who almost had an interception on one of the series, has been taking notice of the rookie and how he handles the pressure coming from the front seven.

“When they asked me about him the other day, I said, ‘That’s the future.’ It is what it is,” Dansby said. “He’s here, he made some plays today, kept the ball alive a little bit, got down the sideline. He’s making strides to getting better.”

The fact that right out of the gate Tannehill was asked to execute a play-action fake and then throw deep on his first series speaks volumes about the confidence Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have in him. Tannehill ran a version of this offense at Texas A&M when Sherman was his head coach.

Philbin was asked if that play, called by Sherman, was meant to send a message to Tannehill and he wasn’t at all vague with his answer.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Philbin said. “Again, we’ve said all along you’ve got to believe in your players, so if this guy’s going to be playing for us and he’s going to be the future for us potentially at some point in time, or whoever our quarterback is, you’ve got to have faith. If a play’s in the plan and in the offense it should be good enough to run.”

And Tannehill was not all disappointed when the play call came in.

“I heard the play call and a big smile just lit up across my face,” he said. “Then I saw the coverage they were in pre-snap and I loved it. I was real excited to hear that.”

He also was excited about being in Sun Life Stadium for the first time and about this becoming as comfortable of a place to play as his home field with the Aggies became.

“When we pulled up I felt like this is my new home,” Tannehill said. “When you’re in College Station, you’re at the facility every day, you go right at the stadium. We don’t come here a lot being our facility is in Davie. When you drive up here you know that this is the office that we’re going to perform in. It’s exciting to be here and perform on the field for the first time.”

Next Friday he’ll get his second chance in Miami’s first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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