Miami Dolphins

Pundits begin criticism of Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

It took all of five passes for the questions to begin about Ryan Tannehill.

Five preseason passes, mind you.

Tannehill’s lackluster start to the 2013 exhibition slate — he completed two of his throws, was wild on two others and chucked the fifth into the turf to avoid a sack — is a ridiculously small sample size to make any sort of meaningful evaluation.

But that didn’t stop pundits such as ESPN’s Merril Hoge, who was already hitting the panic button on the

1 a.m. SportsCenter early Monday.

“He looked awful; the offense looked awful,” Hoge said. “What I saw early on, I would be bothered if I were a coach of the Miami Dolphins.”

So was the Dolphins’ coach, Joe Philbin, bothered when he addressed the media in the moments immediately following Sunday’s 24-20 loss in the Hall of Fame Game? Hard to tell, but he sure wasn’t happy with the way the night went.

“I thought we’d play better, and that’s obviously not the way you want to start any football game,” Philbin said. “I don’t care if it’s preseason, Game 1, the Super Bowl, any game in between. It was certainly a surprise that that happened.”

Technically, Tannehill was on the hook for the first-string offense’s biggest gaffe: the botched quarterback-running back exchange on the team’s first play from scrimmage.

While neither Tannehill nor tailback Lamar Miller blamed each other (or took the fall) for the turnover, the replay suggested Miller had the ball properly placed in his hands.

Still, it was indicative of a broader problem: all-around sloppiness from a unit expected to be much better in 2012.

The Dolphins want to see improvement in four areas: passing accuracy (Tannehill completed 58.3 percent of his attempts last year), third-down conversions (their 37.7 percent success rating ranked 16th in the league), turnover margin (minus-10) and explosive plays (tied for 22nd).

On Sunday, Tannehill connected on 40 percent of his passes. The first-string offense converted half of its third-down attempts. On the night, the Dolphins were minus-2 in turnovers. And the longest play from scrimmage by the starters was 11 yards. (Of course, all this came without Tannehill’s top two targets, Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, sidelined by injury.)

“It definitely felt sloppy,” Tannehill said. “When you start off with a turnover, first snap, obviously, that’s not the way you want to go into a game. It took us a little while to get going.

“That’s not the way you want to play football.”

And because of the strict play count Philbin established for his first team, they never had a true chance to recover. Philbin said before the game he wanted 10 to 15 snaps for the group.

After offensive play

No. 10, Tannehill and the rest of the starters bolted for the sidelines, never to return.

Josh Samuda, who started at right guard and appeared to play well, put it bluntly Sunday: “You can’t really judge what we did tonight.”

Added Philbin: “Not a great gauge. I think sometimes games take on their own story line, so it’s hard to get a real good gauge. Obviously, I don’t think we had a fast start to the football game.”

Tannehill had hoped to build success on success. Instead, he said, he has to build success on failure, a process that begins in earnest Tuesday when the Dolphins return to practice. They have a quick turnaround; Miami next plays Friday in Jacksonville.

Which means the pundits won’t have to wait long to make another snap judgment.

• Kick returner Marcus Thigpen’s absence from Sunday night’s game was because of injury, the Miami Herald has learned. While the nature of the injury was not revealed, it is not considered serious at this time.

The Dolphins had hoped Pat Devlin would play the entire second half Sunday, but were forced to re-insert Matt Moore after Devlin suffered an undisclosed hand injury. The Dolphins made contact with former backup quarter back Tyler Thigpen on Monday.

The Dolphins appeared to err on the side of caution with any minor bump or bruise. Dannell Ellerbe’s scratch wasn’t even reported beforehand the game, indicating a very late lineup change.

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