Barry Jackson

One under-the-radar edge that Dolphins QB Tannehill has in his return from knee surgery

Ryan Tannehill is doing well after last August's knee injury. And he will face a bunch of pass defenses this season that weren't very good last season.
Ryan Tannehill is doing well after last August's knee injury. And he will face a bunch of pass defenses this season that weren't very good last season.

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Monday:

Why does Ryan Tannehill have a good chance to come out of the box strong this season, presuming his surgically repaired left knee holds up?

Based on last year’s stats, no quarterback arguably will face a worse collection of pass defenses over the first three months of the season than the Dolphins.

As Warren Sharp of Sharp Football pointed out, the Dolphins “face the NFL’s easiest schedule of pass defenses in Weeks 1 through 12.”

What’s more, “the Dolphins also face a difficult run-defense slate during that stretch, enhancing their need to rely on the… passing game.”

Consider: Of Miami’s first 12 opponents, 10 of them ranked 20th or lower in pass defense last season.

The Jets, who play Miami twice in the first nine weeks, were 21st. Tennessee, which opens the season at Miami, was 25th.

Oakland, who plays the Dolphins in Week 3, was 26th. New England, the week 4 opponent, was 30th, although that’s partly a byproduct of teams needing to pass a lot against the Patriots because the Pats were usually ahead.

Detroit was 27th, Houston 24th, Green Bay 23rd and Indianapolis 28th.

The only two opponents who were higher than 20th in pass defense rankings: Cincinnati, Miami’s Week 5 opponent, was eighth. Chicago, Miami’s Week 6 opponent, was seventh.

Sharp, using a multipronged formula, rates the Dolphins’ schedule ninth-easiest in the league.

The Dolphins will be thrilled if seventh-round pick Cornell Armstrong is even half as good as their last draft pick from Southern Mississippi, three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain, who was first team all Pro in 2002.

“I don’t know much about him,” Armstrong said. “I know he went to Southern Miss and I know he came here and was a great DB. He actually hit me up on Twitter when I got drafted. I’m trying to get into contact with him just to meet up with him and just to get to know him a little bit.”

Armstrong allowed only 17 of 46 passes thrown against him to be caught last season. He compares himself with former Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes.

“(He’s) just a feisty guy,” Armstrong said of Grimes “He loves to compete. I watched his film and I like the way he plays. He goes and gets it.”

Besides Armstrong, the Dolphins also are eager to see their undrafted rookie cornerbacks when OTA field work begins this week: Jalen Davis, who had excellent metrics at Utah State and Jonathan Alston, a former receiver at North Carolina State.

Ten days ago, Alston told me he wasn’t familiar with the story of Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett, who also moved from receiver to cornerback.

“We were low on DBs during spring ball [in 2017] and [Wolfpack] coaches said to try cornerback,” Alston said. “I have ball skills. I can be physical on the boundary.”

Alston, who had three interceptions in his one year at cornerback at N.C. State, tried out for the Jets the weekend after the draft, but New York decided not to offer him a contract, and Miami signed him.

Meanwhile, not only did Davis have five interceptions last year, but he limited quarterbacks to a 30.5 passer rating in his coverage area, which was third among all draft-eligible cornerbacks.

Davis said he was surprised he wasn’t drafted and attributes that to his 5-10 size.

“I’ve always felt overlooked,” he said, noting his best scholarship offers coming out of high school were from Utah State, San Diego State, Cal-Davis and Northern Arizona. “I make plays, no matter what. I’m a good blitzer and athletic.”

He said during the draft process, he “felt a connection” with Tony Oden, who replaced Lou Anarumo as the Dolphins’ defensive backs coach.

Respected South Florida-based trainer Pete Bommarito, who runs Bommarito Performance Systems, worked with a bunch of NFL players and draft picks this offseason and was struck by new Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson.

“Albert has some traits similar to Wes Welker,” Bommarito said. “So quick and strong in and out of breaks.”

The Dolphins love the skill set.

Bommarito also likes what he has seen from defensive end Charles Harris after working with him.

“He’s really worked a ton on his acceleration,” Bommarito said. “He’s spectacular. Showed pure power.”

Over the next two months, the Dolphins will see if they’ve uncovered a gem or two in their two small school undrafted defensive ends — Fairmont State's Quincy Redmon, who had 19 sacks in college and Notre Dame (Ohio) College's Claudy Mathieu, who had 27 career sacks and five forced fumbles.

Redmon has a compelling story.

At age 9, a football collision left him partially paralyzed in his left arm and from the waist down and he was in a wheelchair for six months and on crutches for another six months.

Doctors didn’t think he would play sports again and weren’t even sure he would walk again. Redmon overcame that — and also overcame dyslexia (according to a journal from the Archdiocese of Baltimore) and a broken kneecap from basketball as a high school junior — to earn an NFL contract.

If that wasn't enough adversity, he also was homeless during stretches of his childhood, according to the West Virginia Times. “We lived in shelter to shelter just trying to get by every day,” Redmon said.

Redmon went to West Virginia as a preferred walk-on but left after one semester because “I wanted to play. I didn’t want to wait two or three years.”

He told me that he and Mathieu appreciate the challenge of making the NFL from a small school. “We know how much harder we have to work,” he said.

What most impressed new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains after his hiring this spring?

“The thing that got me excited was the skill guys,” he said. “All of a sudden you’ve got two tackles [Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James] and all of a sudden you’ve got these skill guys that can run. I think they’re a fast group that, as their knowledge of the offense grows, and going back to no huddle, they’ll play faster. Knowledge builds confidence, confidence allows you to play fast, but the thing that showed up was speed.”

Consider this: Kenny Stills had the fifth fastest time among receivers at the NFL Combine in 2013 (4.38). Albert Wilson’s 4.43 at the 2014 NFL Combine tied with Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham for seventh fastest among receivers.

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki tied for the fastest 40 time among tight ends at this year's Combine, at 4.54. Kenyan Drake’s 4.44 was third-best among running backs in the 2016 Combine.

So the Dolphins’ speed on offense is better than some outsiders might think.

Related stories from Miami Herald