Since becoming the first quarterback the Dolphins have drafted in the first round since you-know-who, Ryan Tannehill has spent most of his time in aqua and orange watching veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore share the bulk of the first-team snaps.
Although it took until the team’s final off-season practice before training camp late next month, Tannehill finally got his shot behind the steering wheel Thursday. And in the eyes of coach Joe Philbin, the 6-4, 221-pound rookie didn’t look so bad.
“I thought he threw a couple real nice balls — one specifically where he threw a vertical ball down the middle of the field where I thought it had real good location and velocity on it,” Philbin said, referring to the perfect strike Tannehill delivered on a 20-yard crossing route to receiver Julius Pruitt, one of two touchdown passes the rookie threw during 11-on-11 drills.
“I thought he made a couple good adjustments in the protection and recognition of the pressure, which direction it was coming from, getting the line and the backs squared away in terms of identification. I thought there were a lot of good things.”
There also was some bad. Tannehill threw two interceptions, and at times had trouble with his timing, leading to drops from a few receivers (there were nearly 80 from his receivers during his time at Texas A&M). But it was the interceptions Philbin didn’t like.
The first pick came inside the team’s practice bubble when cornerback Sean Smith yanked down a jump-ball in the end zone. The other happened during a two minute drill late in practice when safety Reshad Jones stepped in front of a pass intended for running Reggie Bush.
“Me and Reggie really weren’t on the same page,” Tannehill said. “But at the end of the day you can’t turn it over as a quarterback. We’re doing a two-minute drill and I take pride in those things. You want to practice like it’s a game situation and you never want to turn it over in those situations. …
“It’s a faster game. Guys move around faster. Plays develop faster. It’s just something you have to get comfortable with. That’s something that comes with a little bit of time, seeing the reps. I feel like I’m getting adjusted to it. It’s been a little bit of a process throughout the offseason, but I get more adjusted to it everyday.”
The Dolphins won’t practice again until training camp opens in late July. Philbin said he and his staff would meet early Friday morning to rank players at their respective positions, just like they did after the team’s first OTAs prior to the draft in April.
Although Moore and Garrard will presumably remain ahead of Tannehill in the pecking order, Philbin warned, “it’s not fair to say” Tannehill won’t be ready to play this season.
“We like his maturity. We like his poise. We like his intelligence,” Philbin said of Tannehill. “I think sitting in the meeting room and the pressures he’s going to encounter, I think he’s going to pick that stuff up easy. Now, when the clock’s rolling and guys are moving around, that’s a good question. That’s part of the thing we’re going to have to evaluate.”
Asked how close Garrard and Moore are at this point point, Philbin said, “It’s been close.”
“I’m not a huge stat guy,” he added. “I’m more of a guy who coaches on instincts, what your gut tells you. You can look at paper all you want, computer printouts. I think you have to watch the film, see how the team responds to the individual guys.
“... We’ll sort through all the this guy throws a vertical better, this guy throws the out route better. He sees blitzes better. That’s all part of it too. But from a chemistry standpoint and respect of their teammates, they’ve earned that.”
• Philbin said players went home from minicamp with a packet of instructions on when they’re supposed to return to the team and what their weight should be.
“They’ve signed it,” Philbin said. “We’ve communicated to them directly in a one-on-one fashion. So we don’t expect any surprises. Our intention that these guys are serious, this is their profession, they want to be a part of the Dolphins, so we expect 90 guys to show up in great condition.”
• Philbin said Jones, a third-year safety, has shown good decision-making and speed in the secondary, and that his communication skills are progressing.
“I feel pretty good, feel like I’ve picked up the defense. I think I’m becoming more vocal back there, taking the role of becoming the leader back there like coach wanted me to do,” Jones said. “I’m running around and making plays like everybody can see. Learning under [Yeremiah Bell] was great for me. I know how it’s done from a real veteran guy. I kind of took a lot from him and I said it to myself, ‘I want to be that guy,’ when I came in this year.”