Ryan Tannehill left Dolphins headquarters at close to midnight Saturday, the ink still drying on his contract, was awake by 5:30 Sunday morning, back to work as the sun rose over Davie and then tantalized adoring fans with a string of 11 completions in 12 attempts during one stretch of practice, mostly on short- to medium-range throws.
All in all, it was a productive first day of training camp for the Dolphins’ first-round draft choice, aside from two interceptions, both off deflections, in 7-on-7 drills.
“It was a good starting point,” said Tannehill, relieved to be in camp after missing the first two days in a contract dispute. “It’s been a long couple of days for me. To be finally out there and competing, it felt great.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman gave his rookie quarterback a thumbs up: “He was ahead of where I thought he would be.”
Now the question is whether Tannehill can become a serious factor in the battle for the starting job.
His erratic performance in May/June practices, combined with the fact that he received very few first-team snaps in the offseason program, left the impression he likely would begin his rookie season on the bench.
Even Reggie Bush said in June that he agreed with that assessment.
But the Dolphins want to base their quarterback decision on training camp performance, and especially preseason games.
So while Tannehill remains a clear underdog behind veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore, he will give himself a chance if he plays exceptionally well the next two weeks.
“I feel like I’m in it,” he said.
“I may be naive, but Coach [Sherman] hasn’t given me any indication I’m not. I’m going to go out there every day and … hopefully win the job.”
Tannehill never took the majority of first-team snaps on any day this offseason except the final one (June 21).
Asked if Tannehill will now get first-team snaps similar to what Garrard and Moore are receiving, Sherman said, “He got more reps than anybody [Sunday]. He was primarily with the second group.
“Eventually, we’re going to work him in with the first group once he gets caught up to snuff, which I think will be sooner rather than later. You still want to get the veteran guys their reps they’ve earned and they deserve.”
Tannehill said he believes coaches are “going to work me in a little more” with the starters, but “I’m not 100 percent sure. Leaving the spring, that was the indication.”
Tannehill made several nifty throws Sunday, including deft touch on a 25-yarder to Marlon Moore near the sideline, a 15-yard strike to Rishard Matthews and a dart to Roberto Wallace, which was delivered with impeccable timing, before Wallace turned around for the pass.
Several of Tannehill’s completions were short throws.
Tannehill threw two interceptions, but both came on catchable balls that were tipped by offensive players (Jerome Messam and Wallace). One was picked off by Jason Trusnik and the other by Gary Guyton.
Overall, “Ryan did a real nice job,” Sherman said. “I thought he would be a little rusty [Sunday], but he was pretty much on task on just about everything he did. He didn’t seem to miss a beat. He’s made a lot of progress.”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle had 20 blitz packages available Sunday, “and I was a little concerned Tannehill was walking into a buzzsaw, so to speak. He threw the ball pretty well.”
Tannehill’s decision-making seemed too slow at times in May and June, but Philbin said he made faster decisions “a couple times” Sunday. “I still think in general that’s something we need to improve upon for all our guys,” Philbin said.
Tannehill said he is “trying to get the ball out faster” and worked on that by studying film and summoning Dolphins receivers for informal workouts several times in the past five weeks before camp opened Friday.
He took only one week off, for his honeymoon in St. Lucia.
“I definitely have some things to work on, getting better with my feet, stepping up in the pocket a little faster in my drops,” he said. “I thought it was a good starting point.”
Though the Dolphins made compromises, Tannehill reportedly accepted some offset language in his contract that will reduce the amount of guaranteed money that Miami must pay him if he is cut during the length of his contract, which runs four years with a team option for a fifth.
Asked how much he now knows about offset language, Tannehill cracked: “Way too much. Hopefully, it will be a null point in four years, but you never know.”
Though Tannehill can practice, the Dolphins said he cannot practice in full pads until Wednesday because the NFL requires a three-day waiting period for players who sign during training camp.