There has been more than one occasion this preseason when Miami Dolphins coaches promised the team would offer good quarterback play in 2012, a promise that was seemingly meant to appease Miami fans that have suffered from poor quarterback play for most of the past decade.
Well, after the past couple of weeks, one can see why this is a seemingly empty promise.
Miami’s quarterback play so far has bordered on acceptable but that has been largely irrelevant because the play of the offensive line, and the receivers, and the entire starting defense has suggested the team is in for another long season. Think about it: In a game where the news was the debut of rookie Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback, the most profound thing coach Joe Philbin said all night is, “Offensively and defensively we’re not playing well enough to win. That’s very evident.”
A MIXED OUTING
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Tannehill was not great in his outing against the Carolina Panthers. He completed 11 of 23 passes for 100 yards without an interception and without a touchdown pass.
But Tannehill was also without much help from anybody else.
Miami starting receivers caught one pass for 11 yards. Legedu Naanee, so good in practice, was invisible this game. Surprise starter Roberto Wallace struggled to get separation much the same way he has in practice although he did have the one reception. And starting tight end Anthony Fasano, the most dependable of Miami’s pass-catching starters, set the tone by dropping an easy reception to open the game.
Tannehill had four passes deflected at the line of scrimmage and ultimately they fell incomplete. The Dolphins know the rookie has to do a better job of moving in the pocket and finding windows through which to throw.
But the offensive line has to help him.
The offensive line yielded three sacks and more hurries than a revamped veteran unit has the right to allow – sometimes because no one got open and a coverage sack resulted, sometimes because the linemen got beat physically, sometimes because Tannehill held the ball too long.
Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin in particular struggled so much it was reminiscent of last year’s right tackle play.
And the running game to take the pressure off of Tannehill well, what running game would that be?
Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman continued the curious habit of not calling many run plays and the players continue the curious habit of not giving him a reason to call more runs.
The Dolphins rushed for 10 yards on seven carries in the first half before the bottom of the roster players got in the game.
None of this should suggest Tannehill’s night was impressive. But it should help explain his problems. Football is a team sport and this team isn’t very good right now. So how is a young quarterback supposed to thrive in this environment?
NOT GREAT, NOT UGLY
That doesn’t mean things can’t change. That doesn’t mean Tannehill missed his opportunity to win the starting job because, well, nothing could be further from truth.
Tannehill earned this night’s start after a fine week of practice. He was especially good Wednesday except for an interception in the two-minute drill.
And after a poor start Friday night, in which he only completed three of his first 10 throws, Tannehill settled in and then connected on eight of his next 13 attempts. He also got the offense in the end zone, which ultimately is the quarterback’s job.
He was late on a couple of throws. He threw the ball behind once or twice, notably on one that Marlon Moore still caught. But there was nothing that suggested Tannehill was not ready to compete.
Does any of that mean Tannehill won or lost the starting job?
QB BATTLE LIKELY UNSETTLED
The safe bet is the Miami quarterback competition will continue because no one has really won it yet. Tannehill simply didn’t lose it Friday night.
Matt Moore, meanwhile, didn’t light it up, either. He also completed only three of his first 10 passes after taking over in the third quarter.
The difference between Moore’s poor start and Tannehill’s is that Moore was facing second- and third-string players while Tannehill was playing mostly against Carolina’s starting defense a majority of the time.
After the game Philbin was asked if he could go through with his plan to name a starter next week.
“I don’t know that to be honest with you,” he said. “I really don’t.”