Welcome back, Ryan Tannehill.
It took 637 days or 91 weeks for Tannehill to return to a Miami Dolphins regula- season game after he went down with his first knee injury on December 11, 2016. And here’s a shocker:
He’s the same guy.
Or at least that’s what Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans suggests.
When he was injured, Tannehill finished his season with a 93.5 rating, which made him the NFL’s No. 12-rated passer. Today, a look at the NFL stats after one week has Tannehill coming in with a 89.9 rating, which makes him the NFL’s No. 13-rated passer.
In 2016, Tannehill averaged 230 yards per game.
On Sunday, Tannehill threw for 230 yards.
And, look, it is not correct to draw strong and lasting conclusions based on one game. So don’t think I’m doing that. Tannehill will have great games this year. And he will have stinkers.
But my point is that’s what he did before.
None of this is new stuff.
And what I’ve been saying all along is the Dolphins this season are likely to get the same Tannehill they have always had.
The raging debate about whether Tannehill will be greatly improved after his time away or rusty and not able to be the same guy seems moot to me. Because I believe most 30-year-old quarterbacks such as Tannehill are what they are.
Most don’t suddenly have a freakish launch into a new orbit of performance.
Obviously, that’s not what fans want to hear. They want to hear how Tannehill got better by, you know, not playing.
It’s also not what the Dolphins believe. They believe he’s getting better even now.
“There’s still some things he’ll want to clean up,” coach Adam Gase said after Sunday’s 27-20 victory over Tennessee. “I know he’ll be mad at a few decisions he made where he might have had some better plays, and that happens. That’s part of playing the position.
“The longer you play and the more times you get in those situations and don’t make the same mistake twice, that’s when you really start having good things happen, and now instead of two touchdowns you have four or five. I think there’s a lot of good things that are going to come out of this game, and we’ll just keep trying to find ways to get better.”
Yeah, we don’t agree.
The thing is, present-day-Tannehill which is also yesteryear-Tannehill, is good enough for me.
He’s not Tom Brady, folks. He’s not Aaron Rodgers.
He’s not there. Never has been.
But he’s good.
And he’s especially good when he has talent around him — which it looks like he does with the additions the Dolphins have made on offense.
And he’s a winner when he doesn’t get asked to do too much.
Again, look at his record in games he throws less than 30 passes. And look at his record in games he throws fewer than 30 passes. It’s right here.
Tannehill threw 28 passes on Sunday. The Dolphins won.
Tannehill is now 17-7 in games he throws fewer than 30 passes. That’s good. He’s good enough.
Even if he is still more or less the same guy.
For much of the offseason we heard how dynamic Miami’s pass rush is going to be with the addition of defensive end Robert Quinn and how it looks when he’s on one side and defensive end Cameron Wake is on the other side.
Well, it seems that narrative needs adjusting if Sunday’s game is an indication how that is going to play out. Yes, both Wake and Quinn started. Together.
But for most of the game they were not on the field together.
Quinn played 41 plays or 59 percent of the snaps. Wake played 38 plays or 55 percent of the snaps. So the most the two could have been on the field together was 55 percent of the time. But that didn’t happen.
Often what the Dolphins did was deploy Wake on one side and Andre Branch on the other. Or Quinn on one side and Charles Harris. Or William Hayes, who played 46 percent of the snaps, was on the field.
Look, it’s good to have a lot of talent at defensive end. More talent is never a bad thing.
But the deployment of that talent must be right. Because not all talent is equal.
In this game Branch and Harris played the least of the defensive ends. But on most weeks do I want my fourth and fifth defensive ends playing 42 and 33 percent of the snaps, respectively, while the starters get less than 60 percent?
In a game nobody really got an opportunity to get tired because there were two extended lightning delays — one in the second quarter and another in the third quarter?
That seems a bit off. And if you want to argue with this logic, then argue with this:
The Dolphins collected zero sacks for the game. There was some pressure,but that’s to be expected in a game the Titans didn’t have right tackle Jack Conklin at all and eventually lost left tackle Taylor Lewan to injury.
So let’s not you know, outsmart ourselves, please.
DeVante Parker missed Sunday’s game, as expected, and although he is expected to practice this week his status is uncertain for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.
And here’s the thing:
To say the Dolphins don’t miss Parker is incorrect. They like him. They want him back.
But to say they dearly need him back is also not true. That showed on Sunday.
The emergence of Jakeem Grant, the addition of Albert Wilson and the continued playmaking of Kenny Stills has made Parker something a luxury. And he is a luxury the Dolphins might find no rush to use — at least until he’s 100 percent.
If the team needed Parker, there might be extreme urgency to rush his recovery and get him back in the lineup. But since the players mentioned above played well Sunday against Tennessee, the Dolphins might be tempted to play it safe with Parker until he is fully, completely, 100 percent healed from his broken finger.
Holding Parker back comes with multiple advantages. The team can thus be certain a player who has sustained multiple injuries during his career doesn’t somehow hurt himself again because the injury is not fully healed.
Parker continuing his recovery also gives Grant more of a chance to show his capabilities. On Sunday Grant caught five passes for 38 yards, which is by no means dynamic, but it was solid. Grant seemingly is starting to earn Tannehill’s trust.
Why mess with that prematurely? Why mess with something that’s working?
Stay home, DeVante.
One quarter into Minkah Fitzpatrick’s NFL career, he had made three tackles and saved a touchdown for the Dolphins when he made a goal line tackle of Tennessee receiver Corey Davis on fourth down.
Fitzpatrick finished among the team leaders with six tackles and had a pass defensed.
But that stop at the 1-yard line was a play that stood out, not because Fitzpatrick stopped it but because he recognized it in the first place. Rookies are not typically well versed on their assignments in such situations.
“They were three in a bunch, and one of the plays they run is that pick play,” Fitzpatrick said, recounting his diagnosis of the play afterward. “Where they take No. 1, try and pick the nickel, which I was playing, and take No. 3 and send him to the flat, and I just had to fight through the block, and just make the tackle.
“They didn’t run it a whole lot [in preseason], but it’s a combo route that teams run down there. It’s a good play, especially in a zone coverage. They pick one guy… Zone coverage, or man coverage. They pick one guy the guy in the flat is wide open.”
Except when the rookie recognizes what’s happening and stops it.
Remember that I have told you to more or less ignore what the team says about players and instead read what they do. Actions speak. Actions don’t lie.
Well, all preseason the team has been talking about cornerback Cordrea Tankersley working toward improving. They have been talking about him competing for a spot.
But on Sunday it seemed clear where Tankersley really stands.
He did not play at all on defense. He was strictly relegated to special teams. Remember this man started 13 games last season.
This while Torry McTyer played six plays on defense ... ahead of Tankersley.
So we know what coaches really think now.