It's been 13 years since Dan Marino last strapped up for Miami. And in honor of the great number 13, I've picked out 13 plays from last week's game against Arizona that prove Tannehill is the real deal.
Play #1 - This is something that we saw so often in this game (and you'll see it again on other plays in the video), but something we hadn't seen on a consistent basis previously. Ryan's pocket awareness, mobility and comfort level under pressure was sensational all day, and this play demonstrates it. It only takes a small step up to avoid the pressure; Ryan does this and never takes his eyes off of down the field. How many times did we see Chad Henne do this in his entire career in Miami? About zero, in case you don't remember.
Play #2 - This move was subtle from Tannehill, but keep an eye on how he notices the passing lane was clogged up by the D-line, holds the ball for the extra half second, and then changes his throwing motion to a radical over-the-top release in order to get it over the line. Despite this the ball is still perfectly thrown to Bess, who picks up a first down. Again, it's not only the ability to throw from different angles accurately, but to be comfortable and poised enough to make this play is rare for a young QB. These are the types of things that made Andrew Luck the best QB prospect in the last 15 years.
Play #3 - Similar play here. The passing lane closes, so Tannehill mid-release decides to hold the ball until Bess clears the defender who is in the passing lane. The throw wasn't as accurate as you'd like, but it's the awareness and poise that Tannehill has to pull this off that I'm looking for on this play.
Play #4 - Again, Tannehill senses pressure and without taking his eyes off his receiver steps up in the pocket. Tannehill then resets his feet and makes a beautiful rainbow to Hartline. Not only is the touch and accuracy clearly visible on the throw, but it's the improvement from the previous week. One thing you always want to see out of young QB's is the ability to improve on weaknesses from week to week; against the Jets Ryan's accuracy down the field was inconsistent. In this game, Tannehill was money throwing deep.
Play #5 - You can have all the mental and physical tools to be successful, but if you don't have the toughness to stand strong in the pocket and step into hits in order to make an accurate throw, you're not going to succeed at this level. Tannehill gets nailed by two different defensive lineman on this play, and yet he makes the throw as if he has a clean pocket. His feet are set, he follows through and the ball is accurate. Great play by Tannehill, and this was a common theme throughout the day.
Play #6 - Again, Tannehill steps into the throw with pressure (and a big hit from two Cardinals looming) right in his face. On this play you'll also see something extremely significant: Tannehill creates a throwing lane for himself. Again, these aren't things that you usually see consistently from a rookie QB. The pocket awareness, toughness and the ability to make an accurate throw across his body was all extremely impressive on this play.
Play #7 - Again, sensational pocket mobility from Tannehill. He sees the pressure, avoids it with a smooth move up and keeps his eyes down field. Once Tannehill was outside the pocket, especially on 3rd down and short, most young QB's will tuck it and run. Instead, Tannehill is looking at Hartline down the field all day and despite him being covered tightly by a great corner in Patrick Peterson, Tannehill is able to throw Hartline open along the sideline and complete a big play on 3rd down. Tremendous play by the rookie QB.
Play #8 - This will go down as an incompletion, but had Hartline not stopped running for a split second (also drawing the pass interference), the throw would have been perfect. Tannehill gets out of pressure and AGAIN keeps his eyes down the field, making an accurate through down the field.
Play #9 - On this play you get to see not only, again, the pocket presence and mobility of Tannehill, but the size and strength he has. Despite a defender dragging him down by his feet, he's still able to keep his balance and throw off of one foot down the field. Not only is the talent elite, but you get to see the aggressiveness and confidence that Tannehill has. Most young QB's would try and run or throw it away. Not Tannehill; he's not sacrificing the play until he absolutely has to.
Play #10 - This is my favorite play. The play call is clearly a stretch to the left; the entire offensive line, Javorskie Lane and Reggie Bush think so at least. All Ryan does on this play is wink at Hartline and the two know what to do. I love this play for so many reasons: Number 1, Tannehill and Hartline are clearly putting in extra work over the course of the week to pull this off. 2) How many young QB's have the confidence, poise and smarts to do this? It's one thing to change the play call at the line of scrimmage, but it's another to do what Tannehill does on this play. Tremendous, veteran-like play from Tannehill.
Play #11 - This is a great last-second adjustment from Tannehill at the line. He recognizes the blitz late, gets to the line to change the protection and then makes a nice throw right into the blitz to pick up a big 3rd down conversion. Tannehill is so comfortable in this offense and in what he's doing that you forget he's a rookie sometimes; he doesn't seem to miss anything.
Play #12 - Yes the accuracy is tremendous on the throw; yes the step up away from pressure AGAIN was tremendous...but how about the play action? That was one of the better play action fakes I have seen from a Dolphins QB in recent memory. Especially with the way this team wants to commit to the run game, a strong play action fake is pivotal.
Play #13 - This was simple and subtle, but again displays a couple of key things. 1) the ability to throw from different angles. Tannehill, because of the two defenders in front of him, is forced to throw this with a radical over-the-top delivery. Doesn't matter; the throw is still perfect. 2) The overall poise he does it with. Tannehill doesn't panic because there are defenders who disrupted the play, he calmly makes the correct adjustment and completes the pass for the critical 2 point conversion anyway.
While this game doesn't prove anything, these plays all demonstrate everything we could hope to see out of a rookie QB. If he continues his upward ascent, he may be a lot better a lot sooner than we all though a few weeks ago.