The Dolphins obviously have a plenty riding on Ryan Tannehill’s arm next season, but what about his legs?
More specifically, will the knee injury that has kept him out since December 2016 affect either his ability or his willingness to use his running ability?
“I know it feels like forever ago, but he got hurt in the pocket throwing a ball,” coach Adam Gase said.
Gase is right, to a point. It does feel like a lifetime ago, and Tannehill’s left knee originally was injured when he was hit by Calais Campbell of the Cardinals. But: Tannehill’s 2017 season vanished into thin air last August in a non-contact incident while scrambling during training camp.
When Gase was asked whether he expected his quarterback to return for this summer’s training camp, he said he expected Tannehill back far sooner, for OTAs.
And he expects Tannehill to look like Tannehill when he does.
‘He’s going to play his game. I don’t think he ever really put himself in harm’s way to begin with.’ — coach Adam Gase, on Ryan Tannehill’s running ability
“He’s going to play his game,” Gase said of the scrambling issue. “I don’t think he ever really put himself in harm’s way to begin with. I thought he was always smart.”
Tannehill has spoken to the South Florida media only twice since the opening of last summer’s training camp and not since reinjuring himself. A few days before going down again, he talked about how much he looked forward to keeping defenses honest with his legs.
“I like to use my feet,” Tannehill said last July. “I think that’s something that we’ve talked about throughout this offseason and I’d like to see myself do a little bit more is use my feet as a weapon. When things aren’t happening downfield, be able to escape, put pressure on the defense and make them honor my feet. That’ll be something that we’ll work on throughout the year.”
It was back in 2014 that we learned how valuable Tannehill’s elusiveness could be. He ran 56 times for 311 yards, and both numbers remain career highs. In fact, the only quarterbacks with more rushing yards that year were Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Blake Bortles.
Tannehill toned it down the two seasons that followed, rushing just 32 times in 2015 and 39 times in 2016 but still averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Along the way, he became the Dolphins’ all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks with 1,065 yards, surpassing Bob Griese’s 994.
“Occasionally I would have loved to have seen him get down,” Gase said. “But it was usually at the right time where he knew he had no choice and he had to lower his shoulder and try to run through a guy for a big play in the fourth quarter.”
Last year at this time, Tannehill was backed up by someone who was both experienced and dependable in Matt Moore. This summer, that’s hardly the case. But Gase is counting on improved protection by the offensive line — remember all the hits Tannehill took his first few years? — to reduce the risk of injury in 2018.
“If we do a good job of protecting him and he gets the ball out on time, I don’t feel like he’s going to get hit as much as he has in the past,” Gase said.
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