Headed into the 2012 NFL draft, football media bombarded the masses with hype over the two top quarterback prospects—Andrew Luck of the Colts and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. For at least one day, the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill stepped out of their shadows.
Tannehill has a boatload of talent, but has flown under the radar thanks to the emergence of the aforementioned quarterbacks. With continued performances like what we saw on Sunday against the Colts, we won't be able to mention the top young signal-callers without also mentioning him.
Tannehill may not be on the same level as Luck and Griffin just yet, but if he keeps this pace, he'll be well on his way.
With RG3 struggling and Luck taking the loss, Tannehill has now outperformed both of his fellow top 10 picks at this point in the season. He is better than Griffin in completion percentage and yards per pass attempt. Tannehill went 23-of-34 passing (67.7 percent) for 319 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
The Dolphins would like to get into the end zone more often, but his efficiency numbers are exactly what they are looking for in the West Coast offense.
As always with any star performance, he didn't simply sparkle on the stat sheet. He shined on the field of play.
If you judge your quarterbacks on how they perform in high-pressure situations, Tannehill earns your respect. Indianapolis has not been kind to its guests over the past 12 months. In fact, the Dolphins handed the Colts their first home loss since Sept. 23, 2012. Tannehill picked up a win in a hostile environment against one of the game's best young quarterbacks and had to lead his team from behind two times in the final 31 minutes and 26 seconds of the game.
Tannehill's ball placement was superb. It looked like Colts safety Antoine Bethea had a chance to intercept a pass down the seam for tight end Charles Clay, but the pass hit Clay right between the numbers and simultaneously caught the safety off-guard with its location.
Bethea was expecting the pass to go inside, but Tannehill sent it to the outside shoulder, allowing Clay to break away from his defender and pick up big yards after the catch.
Tannehill also flashed his big arm, with five pass plays picking up 20 yards or more, and three of those traveling at least 20 yards through the air. The Dolphins offense lacked speed last year, so getting the deep ball going was a positive step in validating the offseason moves as well Tannehill's development.
The most remarkable trait about Tannehill in 2012 was his ability to deliver accurate passes under pressure. According to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), he hit his receiver in the hands (either caught or dropped) on 72.9 percent of his throws under pressure. That was the second-best accuracy percentage in 2012 behind only RGIII.
He did just that frequently on Sunday. He was sacked five times but never wavered in his confidence and toughness hanging in the pocket. He stepped up when pressure deemed it necessary, delivering throws with rushers at his feet, in his face and breathing down his neck.
His best throw of the day, a 37-yard bomb to wide receiver Mike Wallace, came with defenders closing in on the both of them.
All he did was shuffle his feet, step up in the pocket, find his receiver deep and deliver an accurate throw.
A better ball might have put Wallace in the end zone, but it got them to the one-yard line, which was good enough to set the Dolphins up for the go-ahead touchdown run by H-back Charles Clay. That gave them the lead for good.
The pressure got to Tannehill throughout the game, but he didn't let the pressure of the defense or the situation get to him on this throw.
That being said, there's a subplot developing around this offensive line, and it's been brewing since the preseason. The guys up front will have to give Tannehill better protection in order for him and the Dolphins offense to truly realize their fullest potential.
That's the only way Tannehill is going to get his best playmakers involved—namely Wallace.
He was absent from the game plan against the Cleveland Browns, with just one catch for 13 yards, but opened up this week with all of his three completions on the opening touchdown drive, including an 18-yard screen pass to wide receiver Brian Hartline for a touchdown. He also had some great blocks by the line.
No matter how many talented players a team has on offense, it's not enough without a good quarterback. Thus, although the Dolphins invested heavily in their offense this offseason, it was a given that their success would rest on Tannehill's arm.
Early results indicate that shouldn't be much of an issue.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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