Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill Improving, Not Quite There Yet

Matt SchreiberAnalyst IIIOctober 1, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after running back Lamar Miller #26 scores on a five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

"With the eighth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select...Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Texas A&M University."

Those were words Miami Dolphins fans had been anxiously waiting to hear since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 NFL season. Since that day, there has been no consistency at the quarterback position in the franchise.

Marino played 17 seasons with the Dolphins from 1983-1999. Since then, Miami watched 16 different quarterbacks suit up under center in an 11-year span from 2000-2011. Only two of those quarterbacks (Jay Fiedler and Chad Pennington) managed to stay healthy for the full length of the regular season. 

Drafting Tannehill was definitely a sign that the franchise had landed their quarterback of the future. The former Aggie beat out Matt Moore for the starting job in the preseason and went on to start all 16 games during his rookie year. He finished off his rookie campaign with a 7-9 record, which is probably much better than anyone could have expected. He recorded one game-winning drive in impressive fashion against the Seattle Seahawks ferocious defense.

Following the season's end, Dolphins offensive coordinator and Tannehill's former college coach, Mike Sherman, told the Dolphins website that Tannehill "will be the most improved quarterback in the National Football League from year one to year two this year.” 

So far in 2013, Tannehill has somewhat backed up Sherman's statement. Him and his Dolphins started the season 3-0 with impressive road wins over the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, and a miraculous comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons at home.

In those three games, Tannehill threw for 827 yards, four touchdowns and just two interceptionsbut he fumbled the ball five times (lost two) and was sacked 14 times. All the blame for those sacks can't be placed on the offensive line, because Tannehill has the tendency to hold the ball for too long in the pocket. While his pocket presence looks to be improving, he still needs to do a better job reading and feeling where the blitz is coming from.

In an attempt to get to 4-0, Miami traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints who have been looking way better than they were a year ago with Sean Payton back on the sidelines. Tannehill and the Dolphins certainly had a chance to win this game. With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Dolphins were down 14-10 with a chance to take a lead into the half. The drive was moving nicely, until Tannehill through a horrible pass to Brian Hartline that wound up in the hands of Saints defensive back Jabari Greer. It's plays like these that the quarterback can't make.

That play put all of the momentum in favor of New Orleans. Tannehill finished the game with four turnovers—three interceptions and one fumble—as the Dolphins got stomped by the Saints 38-17. 

Tannehill should not be discouraged by his performance on Monday night. It was his first ever Monday night game. It's nothing but a learning experience for him to get better.

It's not like any of the star quarterbacks in the NFL have never had a poor performance in their career. In fact, back in 2008 when Aaron Rodgers was in his first year as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, he too had a chance to visit New Orleans on a Monday night. Rodgers, like Tannehill, threw three interceptions in the game as the Saints took down the Packers 51-29. Since that night, which was nearly five years ago, Rodgers has only had one game where he threw three interceptions. The former California Golden Bear used that night as a learning experience and look what's happened since then?

Tannehill has the arm to make all of the throws and the brain to read defenses. It won't be long until he starts putting it all together. He has definitely progressed from year one to year two and Dolphins fans have to be happy about that. But there are plenty of things that need to get done before he can come close to being mentioned with the Tom Brady's, Aaron Rodgers', Drew Brees' and Peyton Manning's of the league.

He can start by watching tape. That's what he does all week leading up to the game. If he watches his tape from the New Orleans game, there won't be too many smiles on his face other than the occasional sarcastic laugh from watching a play he missed or shouldn't have made. Although, I guarantee he limits those same mistakes moving forward.

But I'm not talking about watching his own tape. After this season ends, Tannehill should watch every snap taken by Brees, Manning, Brady and Rodgers. He should sit down and study every tendency these great quarterbacks show on tape and figure out how to implement their success into his game.

Tannehill is only 25 years old and definitely has a bright future ahead of him. People forget he was recruited by Texas A&M as a wide receiver. His athletic ability is beyond impressive and there are plenty of things that he can do to beat a defense on the football field. The game against New Orleans was just his 20th start in the NFL, matching the amount of quarterback starts he had at Texas A&M. 

The sky is the limit for this young quarterback and the future certainly looks bright in Miami.