Ryan Tannehill has had some lightning-quick offensive weapons over the years, from Mike Wallace to Lamar Miller to Reggie Bush. But never, Tannehill says, has he had as talented a collection of offensive players around him as he does now, entering his sixth NFL season.
This, Tannehill said, is the best offense he’s played on, and that’s one reason why this Dolphins offense, and its quarterback, have a quiet confidence that this could be the year the offense morphs from pretty good to something far better.
“Honestly, I can say it’s definitely the most talent we’ve had with the receiving corps, bringing everyone back, having a second year together in the same offense,” he said. “That’s going to be huge for us. Adding [tight ends] Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano, veterans who have played a lot of football, is [big]. Bringing back [running backs] Jay [Ajayi], Kenyan Drake.
“Keeping most of the offensive line together, adding a few pieces. Putting Laremy Tunsil back at his natural position. That’s going to be huge for us. You start to stack all those pieces together and we have a good unit. Now it’s a matter of being able to elevate our play throughout the season. Just because you have good pieces doesn’t mean you’re going to perform. That’s what the onus was on all spring. That’s what it’s on throughout the summer. As we hit training camp, it’s pushing each other each and every day to go out and be great. Not just be good, but really be great.”
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Tannehill touched on several topics in a private conversation after recently running a football camp for kids at Dolphins headquarters:
• He believes DeVante Parker is ready to break out.
“I am definitely encouraged by DeVante,” he said. “The growth he’s had this offseason has been huge. I saw it back in March when we were throwing. Just seeing him move, seeing him run, really run at top speed for the fist time.
“I’ve said it before: We had a Ferrari with four flat tires. He had all the power, but with all the injuries – the hamstring, the foot – he never could really let loose and go. We’re starting to see that. We saw it all spring, how fast he is.”
Tannehill recalled this conversation on the final day of the team’s offseason program:
“We were talking [that] Thursday with [coach Adam] Gase, and he’s just like, ‘Is it me, or is DeVante really fast?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s really fast.’ It’s just we haven’t been able to see that the past two years because he’s always been battling something. It’s been really encouraging to see him grow throughout this spring. We just want to keep him healthy because he’s definitely growing into a force.”
• Tannehill also is pleased by what he’s seen from Thomas: “He’s the full combo you want. Very, very fast. Big range, long arms, big red zone target for us.”
But there’s more to it than that, Tannehill said, noting the Dolphins needed more battle-tested players who have gone deep into the playoffs and been part of successful programs (in Denver, in Thomas’ case).
“Julius is a really smart guy,” he said. “He really understands the game. He’s played in this offense before, so he understands what we’re trying to accomplish. He knows what it takes to go deep into the playoffs. He knows what it takes to be an elite offense. He’s a good guy to have help push us. You need more and more people [on your team] to understand what it takes to be elite. To have his experience, you add that in with his playmaking ability.”
• He said what made last December’s knee injury particularly upsetting – he had tears in his eyes after that Calais Campbell hit knocked him out for the season – was the belief that everything finally was clicking for him.
“That is what made it so tough for me is the fact we went on a little run there, winning games, and I finally started to feel really comfortable in the offense and what we were trying to accomplish and how we were doing it,” he said. “The game was really slowing down for me. I was seeing things more clear for me than I ever have. And understanding what Adam was trying to get out of certain plays.
“You start to get to know a play-caller as the season goes on, what he’s trying to get out of certain plays. It just takes time. You can’t go out there week one of year one and expect to know what he wants out of each play call. I was starting to get to that point where I knew exactly what he wanted to do when he sent in a play call and I think that is what made it so tough. But it’s also exciting for me to start kind of where I left off and build on where we started last year.”
• Even though he will wear a brace this season, Tannehill said the knee is a non-issue, and teammates say his mobility hasn’t been affected at all.
So will Tannehill encourage Gase to do everything he was able to do before the knee injury, including running read options plays?
“One hundred percent,” he said. “We’ve been running our full gamut of run plays, and that includes zone read, play action, inside zone, outside zone power, we really have it all.”
• Roving quarterbacks guru Jeff Christensen, who has spent time working with Tannehill, predicts he will be a top eight quarterback by the end of the year.
But Tannehill – who was 12th in passer rating before his injury - politely tap dances when asked if he believes he’s ready to crack the top 10 of NFL quarterbacks.
“I just want to go out and win,” said Tannehill, who threw 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season (putting him at 106 TDs, 66 picks in his career) and had a career-best 93.5 passer rating before his injury. “To win in this league, the quarterback has to perform. He has to go out and play well consistently. You can’t have a couple good weeks and a couple of bad weeks. My goal is to go out and play at the level I know I can play consistently throughout the season, get better as the season goes on and play our best football in January. If I do that, the results will speak for itself.”
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