Ryan Tannehill was drafted eighth overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2012 NFL Draft. Tannehill was the first quarterback taken in the first round by the Dolphins since Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Tannehill has a career record of 12-14 and broke Marino's rookie passing yards record by throwing for 3,294 yards as a rookie. Tannehill has a combined 5-1 record against Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton. Tannehill has received very little recognition on a national scale despite those impressive figures. That can all change Sunday when the streaking Carolina Panthers visit Miami.
A win over Cam Newton and the Panthers would be the biggest win of Tannehill's young career.
Newton was the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft and rewrote the record book for rookie quarterbacks. At 6'5" and 246 pounds, the Pro Bowler is built more like a linebacker than a quarterback. Newton's talent on the field combined with his million-dollar smile and charismatic personality have made him a media favorite. His Panthers are one of the hottest team in the NFL right now at 7-3 and riding a six-game winning streak, including a victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Who wins Sunday?
Tannehill has never lead the Dolphins to a win over a team with a record as solid as Carolina's. The Panthers have become a trendy Super Bowl pick and look to challenge Drew Brees and the Saints for the NFC South.
Tannehill is facing the NFL's third-ranked defense. The Panthers are allowing just 294 total yards per game. In addition to not giving up many yards, Carolina's defense has 23 takeaways and 31 sacks this season. This defense can be a nightmare for a young quarterback with a depleted offensive line, like Tannehill. Yardage will likely be at a premium, so for Miami to win this game Tannehill will have to play his best game of the season.
The Dolphins are averaging just 88.7 rushing yards per game while the Panthers defense is allowing just 84.5 rushing yards per game. In other words, Miami will have to try to move the ball through the air. Carolina's front seven is one of the best in football and will force Tannehill to move around in the pocket and make quick reads. Tannehill must play mistake-free and deliver accurate passes if Miami is to have any chance at a win Sunday.
Despite all the on- and off-field problems Miami has faced, Tannehill has managed to quarterback them to a 5-5 record and the sixth seed in the AFC. A victory over the Panthers on Sunday would open a lot of eyes around the league and force the nation to take Miami seriously as a playoff contender. A win over Newton would make Tannehill 6-1 against the who's who of young NFL quarterbacks and establish some much-needed credibility to the Tannehill era.
Sunday against the Panthers, the Dolphins will try for their sixth win of the season and their 13th of the Tannehill era. For Tannehill, a win over the 7-3 Panthers—with an elite defense and an elite quarterback—would be the biggest win of his young career.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com