Barry Jackson

Interception floodgates open for Tannehill. But here’s why fans shouldn’t worry much.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks down field behind offensive lineman Jesse Davis (77) and Daniel Kilgore during a drill at the Miami Dolphins practice last Friday.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks down field behind offensive lineman Jesse Davis (77) and Daniel Kilgore during a drill at the Miami Dolphins practice last Friday. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:

The best development with Ryan Tannehill this summer has been his recovery from two major knee injuries; he looks not the least bit affected by last August’s ACL tear and surgery.

Next on that happy-happy/joy-joy list had been how careful Tannehill had been with the ball, with a limited number of regrettable throws in the offseason program and no interceptions in the first four days of training camp.

But the past three practices have opened a floodgate of interceptions for Tannehill, with five over that time — one to Reshad Jones on Monday, another to Kiko Alonso in the end zone on Tuesday and three to Xavien Howard on Thursday (though there was uncertainty about whether Howard trapped the ball on one of them).

At least one of Howard’s picks was more a great play on his part than a egregious error by Tannehill. DeVante Parker might have shouldered some blame on another. At least one, probably more, were balls that shouldn’t have been thrown.

For perspective, Tannehill is tied for 16th in lowest percentage of passes intercepted in NFL history, his 2.5 percent tied with Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Steve Bono, Rich Gannon and Kyle Orton, according to profootballreference.com. Tannehill has 66 interceptions in 2637 career passing attempts.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard impressive with three interceptions at practice and can't wait to brag in the locker room.

Now let’s be clear: Tannehill has made a lot of good throws in this camp, including several touchdown passes. So there’s no reason for great concern, especially considering Tannehill threw only 12 picks in 13 games in his first year under Adam Gase.

But the interceptions have created some aggravation for a quarterback whose summer — until this week — had otherwise been going about as well as anyone could have hoped.

Tannehill, by the way, now leads the team in interceptions in camp with five.

Brock Osweiler has four but none in the past two practices and has looked better this week, including lofting a beautiful pass to Mike Gesicki, over T.J. McDonald’s head, for a touchdown in one-on-one drills Thursday.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke says cornerback Xavien Howard's three pics today at practice doesn't mean he will start, there is more work to be done.

While the Dolphins have no shortage of competitors for the outside cornerback job opposite Xavien Howard (Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain if Miami chooses to use him there), the level of consistency hasn’t been up to the staff’s standards.

“To me, there’s been a little bit of lack of consistency that one guy will make a good play one day and then doesn’t have a good day and then we put another guy in there and it’s sort of the same thing,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Thursday. “Especially at that position, it’s hard to play with an up and down corner. You can’t count on what’s happening.

“We’re really … stressing to whether it’s ‘Tank’ or Torry or ‘Lipp’ or whoever, Bobby, all of those guys, that we have to get that level of consistency play in and play out because then, as a coaching staff, you can know what you’re working with. If you know what you’re getting every play then whatever our calls are going to be or techniques that we’re using, then we can work with. But if you’re not sure what you’re going to get every play, then it kind of puts us in a bind.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill talks about the fights between the receivers and defensive backs in today's practice. He likes the energy but he doesn't want it to be a distraction.

By the way, Burke said safety T.J. McDonald, who continues to play ahead of Minkah Fitzpatrick to open team drills, “has been probably one of the pleasant surprises [of camp]. Reshad Jones has been very good” too.

You know who’s impressed me? Taveze Calhoun, the second-year cornerback from Mississippi State who intercepted Osweiler earlier this week and has made several nifty plays in coverage, plus forced a fumble by Kalen Ballage after a catch Thursday.

Defensive backs coach Tony Oden said Calhoun and Utah State rookie cornerback Jalen Davis — who flashes occasionally — “are right where they need to be. They’re trending. They’re light-years ahead of where they were when they first got here.”

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said the Jason Sanders/Greg Joseph kicking competition is close. Joseph has rebounded admirably after missing three field goals on the second day of camp. On Thursday, he was 6 for 7 on field goals, including a conversion from 56 yards.

“I think they’re both progressing pretty well,” Rizzi said.

Incidentally, Rizzi said there’s no need to give Danny Amendola much preseason work as a punt returner, though Jakeem Grant and Amendola would appear to be the Dolphins’ likely punt returners. Albert Wilson and Drew Morgan (who is a long shot to make the team) will get some return reps in preseason.

Quick hits: Ballage got some first team work with Frank Gore given rest and had a couple of decent runs and the aforementioned fumble. Ballage also caught a 40-yard touchdown from Bryce Petty on a wheel route… Rookie tight end Mike Gesicki again missed a blitz; Reshad Jones would have pulverized the quarterback if permitted to do so. This remains a concern, because Gesicki wasn’t required to do much blitz pickup at Penn State. But Gesicki also had the nice touchdown catch from Osweiler in one-on-one drills. ... UCF undrafted rookie defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman had a sack on Thursday but there hasn’t been much notable from UM rookie defensive tackle Anthony Moten.

On a sad note: Rizzi said a bunch of former Dolphins players and staffers attended Tony Sparano’s funeral in Minneapolis last Thursday, including Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Akin Ayodele, Ryan Baker and former Dolphins coaches Dan Campbell, David Lee and Mike Nolan and former general manager Jeff Ireland.

“Tony hired me here; I wouldn’t be out here without him,” said Rizzi, who attended the funeral with Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum and two Dolphins support staff members. “Just paying my respects to a man who was great to me. Tony was as loyal a human being as I’ve been around in my 48 years on Earth. That’s why you saw such a turnout at his services because he always was in everybody’s corner.”

Here’s my other Dolphins post on Thursday, with lots of news on how the Dolphins coaches assess their young defensive players, including Jerome Baker, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Raekwon McMillan and others, plus some lineup and injury news.

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