Ryan Tannehill survived.
And considering the condition of his offensive line, that’s no small blessing.
Here’s why: When Tannehill connected with Rishard Matthews on a 2-yard touchdown pass late in the first half of the Dolphins’ 13-9 exhibition victory against the Falcons, Ja’Wuan James and Billy Turner were the only starters playing their actual position.
Mike Pouncey was out of the game. He sustained a knee injury of unknown severity and, after returning for a few plays, left for good.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said about Pouncey after the game that “we think he’ll be OK.” And Pouncey said that he won’t miss the opener.
Branden Albert and Jason Fox, the team’s top two left tackles, didn’t even dress.
And the team’s starting left guard was playing out of position.
So even if the team’s plan was to play Tannehill through halftime and into the third quarter, Philbin was wise to pull him late in the second quarter.
Here’s how wise: Matt Moore, Tannehill’s replacement, got drilled on his first snap of the game. Adrian Clayborn undressed James and delivered a crushing sack that forced a fumble.
So yeah, not the best night for the offensive line, which is dealing with an avalanche of injuries — both from this year and last.
Albert is the line’s most important piece. But he might not be in the lineup when the games count for real.
The Miami Herald has learned that Albert’s availability for Week 1 — when the Dolphins play at the Redskins on Sept. 13 — is in doubt.
But contrary to an ESPN report, Albert has not been ruled out for the first two weeks of the season. The Dolphins remain hopeful that he will be ready for the opener but are far from certain.
Albert hasn’t played since tearing his right ACL and MCL last November. He began practicing fully last week, but is still not ready for game action.
If Albert is not ready when the season begins in two weeks, Fox would presumably start at left tackle — assuming he’s cleared medically.
Dallas Thomas is the team’s No.3 option on Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. He started Saturday; Jamil Douglas took Thomas’ spot at left guard.
So yes, the line was scrambled. And yet, Tannehill started. And as he has done all summer, he excelled.
Tannehill completed 15 of 19 passes for 145 yards and that touchdown Saturday. For the preseason, he has connected on 80.5 percent of his attempts and has a passer rating of 121.8.
If he plays like that in the regular season, the Dolphins will win plenty of games — particularly with the way their defense has looked.
Even with a revamped secondary — Brice McCain started in place of an injured Jamar Taylor, and Walt Aikens seems to be the guy at safety with Louis Delmas out for the year — Miami clamped down on Atlanta. The Falcons managed just 2.9 yards per play in the first half.
The Dolphins sacked Matt Ryan three times. Cameron Wake got him the third time, and by that point, Falcons coach Dan Quinn had seen enough. Ryan’s night was done.
“Yeah, they got after the quarterback real well,” Philbin said at halftime. “He had a hard time setting his feet and throwing the ball, and looking downfield to his targets. So I thought overall defensively we’ve done well.”
Tannehill, meanwhile, kept a clean jersey. He wasn’t sacked once.
But the question of the night: How long will that continue once the regular season finally arrives?