The arc on Ryan Tannehill’s deep ball was gentle, and the timing and distance were perfect. Receiver Rishard Matthews caught up to the football that fell just over the reach of a nearby defender, and with that this Dolphins practice had something very few have had the past two or three years.
A deep-ball completion.
Then things got really crazy.
Tannehill completed another deep pass to running back Lamar Miller, who lined up wide and beat linebacker Jelani Jenkins down the field for 45 yards. Then there was a deep completion that looked like a dagger through the heart of the zone defense to Jarvis Landry.
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All this in team drills with Ndamukong Suh pushing the pocket up the middle and Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon converging from the edges.
Then Tannehill completed four more deep balls in seven-on-seven drills. He faced no rush in those, but the completions were nonetheless notable because they didn’t happen in those same type of drills last year. Or the year before.
And just as that lack of deep practice completions led to a lack of game-day completions on deep passes, the Dolphins are hoping Tannehill making these practice completions commonplace will mean such plays will manifest in games as well.
“I think he’s throwing the ball better this camp than he ever has overall, just overall,” coach Joe Philbin said, “and I would say [deep passes] are part of it, too.”
There you have it. After nine days of training camp, the Dolphins have an answer to one of the major questions that hovered over this team before camp started like a summer storm cloud.
Tannehill has at least addressed, if not solved, his deep-ball accuracy issues.
Granted, we cannot put this issue fully to bed until we see it done in a regular-season games, with consistency, and done to include rookie first-round pick DeVante Parker or newly acquired deep threat Kenny Stills.
But the Dolphins are at least trending in a right direction on the deep-ball thing, even if we’re not totally there yet.
The problem the team has is that the deep-ball issue is about the only one of a handful of issues so far offering clues that it is properly resolved. The other major issues the team faced when training camp opened two weeks ago, meanwhile, remain unresolved.
Guard? Not resolved.
Linebacker? Not resolved.
Cornerback? Not resolved.
The guard problem is acute because it now seems more — not less — convoluted.
When camp began, the Dolphins had Billy Turner as the starting right guard, Dallas Thomas as the starting left guard and rookie Jamil Douglas competing with Thomas for the job on the left side.
But as days passed and Turner struggled relentlessly against star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the seemingly promising right side became murky.
The most obvious picture of the uncertainty happened during practice Sunday when fourth-year, under-the-radar free agent Jacques McClendon took first-team snaps at right guard ahead of Turner.
So not only do the Dolphins have a competition at right guard that includes a player that was on the third team as late as last week, but also they still have not resolved their starting left-guard competition, either.
“It’s wide open,” Philbin said.
Wide open is a good way to describe the competition for the starting strong-side and middle linebacker spot — a competition that would be better addressed if Koa Misi could stay healthy.
Wide open is a good way to describe the competition between Brice McCain and Jamar Taylor for the starting outside cornerback job.
“We’re still evaluating that, too,” Philbin said.
The preseason begins Thursday. The Dolphins want to have their starters set by the week prior to the third preseason game. That’s about 12 days from now.
Considering the Dolphins didn’t get many questions answered the first nine days of camp, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time.