Dolphins OT Laremy Tunsil on trying to get better
The talk of the spring for the Dolphins' defense was Robert Quinn's Gumby-like flexibility.
The word "bend" has come up in discussions of Quinn more times than we can count, and it did again Thursday in a conversation with the Dolphins offensive lineman who has had to deal with it the most.
"He touches the ground with his knee to get up," Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "He’s a freak athlete. It’s crazy.”
Quinn has beaten Tunsil for sacks on multiple occasions during the past four weeks, although Tunsil seemed to hold his own Thursday as the team wrapped up the offseason program with the last of its 12 practices. It is a sign that Tunsil's return to left tackle remains a work in progress.
The team's first-round pick in 2016 played well at left guard as a rookie, but struggled when moved to tackle in Year 2.
Coach Adam Gase acknowledged earlier in the spring that the team "thought it would be an easy transition for him" — but it was not.
Tunsil allowed five sacks last year, per Pro Football Focus. That wasn't great, but also not terrible. What was terrible: the 12 penalties he committed, fifth most by any player in the NFL. Not surprisingly, then, Tunsil ranked 47th out of 81 qualifying tackles last season, on PFF's grading system.
"It was a bad taste [in my mouth] — a horrible taste,” Tunsil said.
It showed. Tunsil seemed not to relish his weekly chat with reporters last season, not that anyone could blame him. He was not performing at the level that anyone expected, starting with himself.
"I just wanted to improve my game," Tunsil said. "That’s the main thing I was dwelling on. I knew I could have been better. Now I’m here. A new season, a new person. Let’s get it."
One other new: a new teammate and sounding board in left guard Josh Sitton.
The Dolphins' biggest free agent signing was Sitton, and while the Dolphins did not pick him up solely to help Tunsil on the left side of the offensive line, it was a real factor.
"He’s a Pro Bowler," Tunsil said. "He’s been in the league for a long time — 11 years plus. So working with him, hopefully I can get better. ... He’s just a veteran guy so anything he tells me, I listen to. No matter what.”
Added Gase: "You kind of see how he operates, how he works in meeting rooms and then comes on the field and works on individuals. That's the thing i have been most impressed with, to watch our individual and watch even our veteran players, how serious they take it, how they try to get better in those drills because they know it's going to apply so much when they get on the field during games. [Tunsil] seeing that, and I also think him being able to talk to him every day as far as what do we want to do here, how do we want to set on this and these pass rushes, those two guys working in tandem is going to be a good thing for us."
Tunsil did not shy away from his failures in offseason film study, going back to watch the games in which he surrendered a sack or had a number of missed assignments.
And thanks to Quinn and his bendability, Tunsil has had plenty to pore over this spring too.
"I’m just trying to be the best player I can be," Tunsil said, who summed up his expectations for 2018 succinctly: "Better than last season, for sure."