Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill explains taking more risks, testing windows

Can Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill go to another level? (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — When Ryan Tannehill recently said that Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase has encouraged him to “let it rip and make it happen” it made me wonder how, exactly, a quarterback who has been brain-washed to protect the football at all costs for pretty much his entire life, was going to manipulate his own DNA with a few molecules from Brett Favre.

Tannehill is pretty much probably never going to turn into Favre, and that’s OK.

But there is no doubt Gase and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen have been letting Tannehill know the time has come to trust his receivers, the time has come to take a few more chances, the time has come to serve the strawberry- and chocolate-flavored sundaes from time to time.

Because if Tannehill is going to take that next step, the one that allows national media types to proclaim he has “taken the next step (didn’t I just say that?)” and has, in fact, become “elite” (is Joe Flacco still elite, or not, anyway?) then he’ll have to , well, let it rip! and make it happen!

So I asked Tannehill on Saturday, if the messaging from Gase is different than the messaging he’s heard from coach after coach in all his football days in Texas and Florida.

Tannehill had quipped that the toughest question he got from youngsters at a football camp that day was “How do I throw a football?” because really, where do you even begin to answer that question?

But Tannehill was prepared to dig into the inquiry about messaging and fear and taking chances and driving the ball down field and being more Marino-like. OK, so I did not just say that.

“It’s definitely a different message than I’ve heard before,” Tannehill said of Gase. “And you know, I’m at a point now in my career and in this offense where I can do that. Because when you’re learning an offense, when you’re learning a playcaller and how he wants to attack and what he’s trying to get out of certain plays, you do have to think a little bit. And that’s just part of the learning process. You’ve not going to understand those things week one of year one.”

Attack. Attack. Attack.

More attack.

That’s part of the plan for 2017.

Why can Tannehill do more of this with ease of mind? For one, he has total belief in Gase.

“I think throughout last year and throughout this offseason, we’ve kind of fallen into a groove with each other of understanding what he’s trying to get out of certain things,” Tannehill said.” He knows what I want to do on certain plays. He knows how I like to run certain things. That makes the game happen a lot faster. It makes it slow down. It makes it easy for me to just go out and let it rip because I’m not trying to decipher what we’re trying to do. We have the reps together. And now it’s just a matter of making it happen.”

Tannehill had 12 interceptions in 2016. And 12 interceptions in 2015. And 12 interception in 2014.

And, well, you get the idea.

There’s a decent chance he’ll throw 12 interceptions in 2017.

All involved would like to see Tannehill’s touchdown total increase (it’s actually gone down from 27-24-19 in the past three years, but he’s been throwing less as Miami runs more).

But here’s a key. If Tannehill tosses more picks (perhaps not as many as say, Jay Cutler, but Gase once helped Cutler and so imagine what he can do with Tannehill) Gase is not going to flip out and lose his cool about it.

So, yes, Tannehill wants to make good decisions.

But I thought this was really interesting. This spring, in the 13 practices since he returned from knee injury, Tannehill said his major focuses were:

• Test his arm

• Test windows

• Test receivers

• Test his limits

Why can’t Tannehill become elite? He did just post a career-high in passer rating, and that was after only one year with Gase.

Yes, Tannehill needs to have his mobility in order to do the kind of designed roll-outs and sprints and zone-read plays that created some of Miami’s biggest plays in 2016.

I told Tannehill I held my breath each time I saw him take off with that knee brace in an OTA and minicamp practice. By the end of camp, he was running much, much more. Tannehill told me to stop holding my breath since he’s long stopped holding his.

And Tannehill told me he believes he will be as fast in 2017 as he was in 2016.

“Yeah,” he said.

As fast?

“Yeah,” he said. “Totally normal. I know that’s hard to believe.”

Gase believes there is more to tap into with Tannehill, who is still only 28 years old.

And so Gase has been encouraging Tannehill to challenge his limits in preseason work.

“Adam has encouraged me, ‘Hey, use this time to test yourself,'” Tannehill said. “Use this time to test windows, test your arm, test your situations. And you know, we’ll do the same thing in training camp. When training camp goes along we’ll tighten it up a little bit. You want to take care of the football. The biggest key to victory is taking care of the football. We want to continue to do that. But as you get to know your limits, know your receivers, and know the plays they can make for you, that opens it up some to where you are willing to take a risk because you trust the guy that at worst it’s going to be incomplete.”

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Miami Dolphins want Ryan Tannehill not to overthink; let it rip

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