Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ Tannehill ready to be top eight QB? That’s what his personal QB coach expects.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) sets up to pass in the first quarter as the Miami Dolphins host Arizona Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Dec. 11, 2016
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) sets up to pass in the first quarter as the Miami Dolphins host Arizona Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Dec. 11, 2016

Not only is Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill fully recovered from his worrisome December knee injury, but he’s better than ever and poised to break into the top 10 in the NFL at his position, says quarterback guru Jeff Christensen, who has been working with him in recent weeks.

“He’s much healthier than you might think,” Christensen said by phone. “He looks good as far as mobility and strength. He's moving very fluidly. He's ahead of where he was last year in terms of everything - understanding, feet positioning, balance. He is doing a much better job of self-correcting.

“His awareness of the feel of a ball being slightly errant, why it was errant, and how efficient the next rep is has gone way, way, up. He's more confident this year.”

Christensen believes Tannehill – who ranked 12th among NFL starting quarterbacks in passer rating at 93.5 last season - is ready to take the next step.

“I have a really good feeling,” Christensen said. “I think he will start out of gate quickly. He will be top 12 out of the gate [among all NFL quarterbacks]. If he's not top eight throughout the course of the rest of the season or higher, I’ll be shocked.”

Tannehill completed 67.1 percent of his passes last season – only Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott and Tom Brady were higher – and Christensen believes that number will rise, too.

“We had this conversation this [past] week,” Christensen said. “For a quarterback to complete 70 percent of his passes in this league is a [difficult thing] because receivers can basically drop no balls, maybe 15 on the year, and there are situations where you have to throw in tight spaces. As far as him throwing the ball in his spot, bang, bang plays included, I anticipate him being 72-73 percent this year” if you eliminate drops.

And this is encouraging: Christensen said Tannehill and his receivers, running backs and tight ends have been working together voluntarily for weeks on routes and other aspects of the passing game “and that shows the tremendous amount of respect they have for coach [Adam] Gase. They're showing up in groups of 9, 10, 11 to work out.

Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills and Jay Ajayi - all of them are working extremely hard,” Christensen added, noting the presence of others including Leonte Carroo and Rashawn Scott. “Parker looks tremendous. Kenny Stills, you give a guy a nice contract, and he’s working three times harder than he did last year. A lot of credit goes to [receivers coach] Shawn Jefferson and the incredible impact he has had on those kids. Julius Thomas is a tremendous player and really good person.”

Tannehill has a strong group of teachers around him in Gase, Christensen and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen (no relation), and Jeff Christensen – whose other pupils include Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins and Tom Savage, among others– appreciates Gase allowing him to be involved.

Tannehill has spoken highly of Jeff Christensen, who worked with him last offseason as well.

“There's a great cohesiveness in the building,” Jeff Christensen said. “You feel it and it’s really cool to see. It's a testament to the group they've got together. There’s a swagger there.”