Written by Steven Wilson at 2:15 PM EST | Twitter: @stevenjwilson11
Through the first 32 games in his pro football career, Ryan Tannehill experienced a few ups and downs. The former Texas A&M passer – and receiver – was part of an expedited learning curve in South Beach with former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
He’s come a long way since then. Now six games into his third season, his rollercoaster performances have evened out resulting in a mechanically sound performance for Dolphins fans.
“I think for young quarterbacks,” Head Coach Joe Philbin began, “[the importance of footwork is] very important and it’s something we certainly spend a lot of time [with] – Zac (Taylor), Ben (Johnson) and Bill (Lazor) spend a lot of time emphasizing with all the quarterbacks. I think it can only help you.”
Philbin has seen growth from his young quarterback since the two arrived in Miami before the start of the 2011 season. Through six games this year, Tannehill has posted his best completion percentage as a pro (63.3), has a better touchdown percentage (4.6), and has the lowest interception percentage over his three seasons (2.3).
“Yeah, footwork is a big factor in throwing the football,” No. 17 admitted. “It’s the biggest factor in accuracy, timing [and] rhythm. Throwing the ball on the move, it’s not so much footwork I guess. You don’t really practice specific steps or anything like that. You practice getting your shoulders around, shoulders to the target. And it’s an element to our offense that I think stretches the field. Just like the read option does in the run game; keeping the ball, getting outside [and] moving the pocket. It helps the tackles where the ends are just teeing off from the same spot and changes the launch point where we can on the outside.”
Moving the pocket has been a strength for Tannehill and the Dolphins, especially over his first two season, where he posted a QBR or 57.7 out of the pocket – a 10 point positive differential than his pocket QBR of 47.3.
“I think it helps,” Philbin stated about his quarterback’s improved footwork and versatility. “Like anything else, you’ve seen quarterbacks that have had great success in this league that maybe don’t adhere to the same precise fundamental footwork. But I think as a starting point, I think it’s very important.”
This week, as the Dolphins face the Jaguars, Tannehill will be compared – at least in some aspects – to his counterpart on the other side of the field, Blake Bortles.
When asked what he thought of the Jags rookie quarterback, Philbin offered this response, “I remember watching [the Tampa Bay game in the preseason] and I remember saying, ‘Wow, this guy looks pretty good.’ I think he’s very talented and I think he can make all the different types of throws. He’s elusive. He’s got good pocket presence, so he’s doing a good job. We are going to have to play well to defend him. I really was very impressed with him the first time and I’ve seen some additional film since then. He’s come along nicely.”
Unless you’re Andrew Luck, we all know progression into the NFL takes time. For Bortles and Tannehill alike, the time to mature and grow used to playing at this level may be shortened. The time is now for both of them to compete at a high level, no matter how fair or unfair those requests may be.