Ryan Tannehill is the Dolphins’ starting quarterback — the hope for tomorrow as well as the leader of the offense today. The young man knows the plays better than anyone on the field, and he comes with impressive leadership qualities. He seems to have “it.”
But he’s not really complete yet.
Tannehill is a Christmas package the Dolphins opened in September and he’s raw and green and still learning.
That’s why this game, this day, is so important.
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Ryan Tannehill, meet Rex Ryan and Darrelle Revis, your worst nightmare until you meet with Bill Belichick later this season.
This game for the Dolphins rookie quarterback will be the most difficult dose of brain drain he has had on an NFL field. Yes, the Houston Texans seemed to steal his snap count. Yes, the Oakland Raiders blitzed him 14 times.
But the Jets defense?
“They’ve got a multiple scheme,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We’re going to see a lot of different coverages — some combination coverages, some man coverages, some press, some off. They’ll change it up.”
“We’ll see zone pressure, man pressure. I think, number one, it’s going to potentially be the most multiple defense from a coverage standpoint that he’s seen, so that’ll be a challenge for him. Again, they’re not going to do it every single snap, I’m sure they’ll mix up how much press and off.
“They might bump a certain guy and be off on a certain player, so that’s going to have an impact on [Tannehill’s] progressions and his reads and those type of things. I would say those would be those two things and then they can rush the quarterback. They have a good blitz package. We have to be ready for that and got to be ready to adjust protections if need be.
“It’ll be a challenge for him, no question.”
Say what you will about Ryan and his potty-mouthed, gasbag approach. Say what you will about his personal and team discipline. All flaws aside, the man can coach pressure defense.
And Tannehill never saw this kind of stuff in the Big 12.
He also didn’t experience what it will be like Sunday by studying tape or having the Dolphins’ scout team simulate what’s coming.
The game against the Jets will be a live-fire experience that Tannehill must go through, just as he went through those difficult drives and even quarters that seemed like droughts in his first two games. Tannehill needs to live what’s about to happen so he can grow and mature and get better.
“I like the fact that he’s had some rough patches in both games,” Philbin said. “Let’s be honest and he’s kind of fought his way through there. Again, he’s a work-in-progress. He’s not a finished product.
“But I like the fact that he comes off to the sideline and can kind of tell you what happened. That’s a good sign and that he’s fought through a couple tough spots in games and I’m sure there’s going to be more.”
More starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. But it is encouraging Tannehill doesn’t seem unnerved by the assignment. His assignment so far hasn’t seemed too big for him. And although he knows he hasn’t seen some things he’ll see Sunday, he seems fine with that.
“They throw some stuff at you and I’m excited to be tested this week,” Tannehill said. “I think that it will really test us as an offense, test me personally to be able to pick up all the things that they show.
“We’ve still got to play fast. It’s a thing where, if we try to sit back and pick up every single thing that they’re going to bring, we’re going to let them control the tempo of the game and, to some extent, we have to be able to still do the things we want to do — control the tempo of the game.”
The Jets will not be the first team that tried to test Tannehill’s ability to survive pressure defense. The Raiders tried it last week to the extent their limited talent in the secondary would allow — and it worked.
But only for a short time.
Oakland blitzed Miami’s young quarterback eight times in the first half. Tannehill managed only three completions on seven passes and scrambled on another play. It was not a thing of beauty.
In the second half, however, the Raiders began to pay for their manufactured pressure. They blitzed six times and Tannehill completed passes on five of those. Tannehill got better as he saw more blitzes, even within the same game.
Ryan believes he knows why.
“This young man knows the offense, he’s been in that system, so you can tell he’s comfortable,” the Jets coach said. “He doesn’t look like a rookie back there. A lot of rookies have that deer-in-the-headlights look; he doesn’t have that. He seems very confident in what he’s doing right now.”
So would that cause Ryan to reconsider putting pressure on Tannehill? Will he hold back whatever exotic blitz package he has at his disposal because the young quarterback handled such treatment well last week?
Don’t bet on it.