Could Stephone Anthony be under-radar answer for Miami Dolphins?

Stephone Anthony has all the physical tools needed to play in the NFL. (AP)

DAVIE — All this talk about three-safety formations (which the Dolphins haven’t really practiced yet) and about the return of linebacker Raekwon McMillan and the drafting of linebacker Jerome Baker.

Completely lost in the shuffle was former first-round linebacker Stephone Anthony. Anthony is still here, and actually as of right now, he’s a starting Dolphins linebacker.

Anthony is still young and still fast and still strong and still has the potential to make a positive impact.

“He earned it by the same way all guys earn it,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said of Anthony taking many spring reps at starter. “He’s been working hard. It’s always difficult to come in the middle of the season, come from a different scheme and pick things up. He works really, really hard. He’s a big athlete. He’s almost 6-foot-3. He’s 240-something. He can run and we like those body types.”

Burke believes a full offseason with Miami will really benefit Anthony, who was criticized in New Orleans not for his physical tools but his ability to consistently diagnose offensive plays. The Dolphins consider Anthony, 25, a part of their 2018 draft class, as he was obtained for a fifth-rounder.

“We’re trying to really overload him a bit and give him a full offseason, a full year of coaching with us, and see what he can do,” Burke said. “I think we’re doing the same thing at linebacker. I think a lot of our other linebackers are younger guys right now. So Steph’s been here. He has a little bit of history in the scheme, so I think there’s just a little bit of comfort level with him in terms of knowledge.”

The Dolphins have shown in the past that they want rookies and newcomers to earn their playing time and starting statuses. So it’s completely possible that by the time the season starts or say, Week 5 of the 2018 season, rookie Jerome Baker has surpassed Anthony as Miami’s third linebacker.

But from a physical standpoint, there’s no reason Anthony can’t contribute when called upon. And right now he’s a starter.

“Stephone is another guy that he can do it all,” Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso said. “He can drop into coverage, play the run. (He’s a) high-energy guy. He’s another guy that (is) a playmaker.”

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Miami Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley: ‘It’s my job to lose’

Miami Dolphins’ Cordrea Tankersley deflects the ball from Atlanta Falcons’ Austin Hooper last season. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

DAVIE — At the NFL owner’s meetings in March, Dolphins coach Adam Gase outlined the approach he wanted cornerback Cordrea Tankersley to take into this season.

“We’d love to see him come in really with the mindset of that’s his spot and he’s not going anywhere and really be aggressive as far as not let anybody take that spot that he’s had,” Gase said.

Tankersley said Wednesday that Gase addressed that directly with him.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Tankersley said. “I kind of had the idea myself that it’s my job to lose kind of a deal. He definitely let me know that. And it’s just extra motivation.”

Tankersley started 11 games as a rookie, picking up 24 tackles and 7 passes defended.

What’s the next step in his game?

“My next step is to become one of the best corners in the league,” Tankersley said. “I’m still learning from the guys on the team. Just stepping up and being more aggressive. I feel like I can be more aggressive in my second year. Take what I learned last year. Step it up a notch.”

Tankersley said the biggest adjustment he had to make as a rookie was to the speed of the league. Tankersley was very good on short passes. He played a physical style. And he was an excellent tackler.

To reach the next level, he’ll need to continue to work on his his footwork, ball recognition and downfield plays. Tony Lippett, who is returning from an Achilles injury, is more vulnerable underneath but excellent on balls deep in the air.

“It’s hard to say,” Gase said of Tankersley. “I think he got better. I think there were times where he wishes he could go back and do some things different; but that’s the rookie year.”

The Dolphins expect Xavien Howard to emerge as a legitimate number one, shutdown corner this season. But one area of concern is definitely the level of play they can expect opposite Howard.

There is not a lot of depth at cornerback. And Miami needs Tankersley to grow quickly.

“I feel like we have competition all over the field,” Tankersley said.

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Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki has ‘flashed’

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki must learn quickly. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins drafted Mike Gesicki in the second round because of his incredible athleticism.

It’s something quarterback Ryan Tannehill is excited about already.

 “He’s flashed a couple of times,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “I think it was last week, he made a great one-handed catch down the sideline on a deep pass. He’s young; he’s learning. He’s going to take his bumps along the way, but he works really hard. He’s locked in and trying to get better each and every day, and that’s what we want. He has all of the talent and the athletic ability and once he catches up to knowing what we’re doing, he’s going to be a big weapon for us.”

Gesicki can make acrobatic plays. He can split the seam. He can be a threat in the red zone.

But sometimes Tannehill will need Gesicki to run a very precise short route in which he turns around and Tannehill has already released the ball. There is a trust factor that must develop between veteran and rookie.

On an excellent video feature recently produced by the Miami Dolphins social media team, a wired Tannehill literally runs the route for Gesicki, verbalizing exactly what he needs the rookie to do.

“Sell the takeoff,” Tannehill is telling Gesicki, as he demonstrates the route. “Once you get to eight, step in the ground. The ball should be in the air.”

After they run the play successfully, Tannehill tells Gesicki: “Good work. Keep doing it. You’re getting better each and every day. Have your notes on what you want to hit. Come out here and work on it. That’s what this time of year is for, to get better. A little bit better, each and every day. Keep it up.”

Replies Gesicki: “All right, boss. Appreciate you.”

Tannehill was, of course, a very successful wide receiver and quarterback at Texas A&M.

“I was nowhere near the route-runner that any of these guys are, so I can’t say that I can do it any better; but I have been in their shoes so to speak of feeling how a practice is, feeling how the heat affects you through a practice and can kind of relate a little bit,” Tannehill said. “As far as coaching guys up on what I’m expecting in routes, I think when you get in the first year of an offense, it’s a little tougher because you’re learning the offense yourself. You’re trying to understand what the coach wants, how you see it and how that blends together. As you move to Year 2 and Year 3, you can really take ownership of it and say ‘Okay, this is what I want. I need you to be right here at this time.’”

Rookies like Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Kalen Ballage will be leaning heavily on Tannehill. Production from the tight end position would be a nice help. Due to injuries and failure to live up expectations, tight ends Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas did not provide much of a threat for Tannehill over the past two seasons.

“Guys are going to have to come in and play well,” Tannehill said. “Like I said, accountability is huge – being in the right spot at the right time. We brought in some young guys who are really athletic. We have MarQueis Gray, who has done a good job for us. A.J. Derby is athletic on the outside. It’s really up in the air right now who’s going to come out of that group and really lead the group; but we have some veteran guys, we have some young guys. We’re expecting somebody to really step up and make big plays with us.”

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What big-money guard Josh Sitton is bringing to Miami Dolphins

Dolphins guard Josh Sitton can apparently kick field goals, too. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Josh Sitton had an idea at a recent Miami Dolphins organized team activity practice.

Sitton decided the offensive lineman should participate in a pass-punt-kick competition.

“He’s very competitive, a very competitive guy,” Dolphins offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. “He’s just a natural athlete.”

Anyone who’s been around a Dolphins practice has seen how well offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James can throw a football. For such big men, they really are nimble, all-around athletes.

“Yes,” Washburn said. “I have seen them throw it and I’m just going to tell you right now, I’ve got video evidence that they both lost to (Josh Sitton), so absolutely. They have to work on their field-goal kicking in the offseason.”

The biggest reason Miami’s offensive line is expected to be better this season is the addition of a guard. Now, historically, Miami hasn’t really felt doling out much dough to a guard is the best way to spend.

But for Sitton, the Dolphins ponied up a 2-year, $13.5 million deal. It’s because he’s tough, physical and proven.

“He’s very competitive but he’s got a really calm demeanor, which is great for an offensive lineman, particularly an interior lineman,” Washburn said.

Sitton is a four-time Pro Bowler, including three of the past four seasons.

“He’s just a really good guard,” Washburn said. “He’s really productive in what he does. I was in Detroit for seven years so we watched him non-stop. He was kind of our guy in that room, as well, as just a guy that was really good in the zone game. He’s a natural pass blocker and he’s just a smart football player and a good guy to have in your room. All of those qualities made it pretty easy for us.”

Guard Jesse Davis said he had studied Sitton even before he signed with the Dolphins.

“We watched a lot of Chicago film with (coach Adam) Gase, so seeing him and his game reps from previous years, he’s a great athlete,” Davis said. “You wouldn’t expect it as a big guy, but he’s a hell of an athlete. He can move. He can do it all. You kind of want to take some of his aspects of games and say, ‘Maybe I can use this on a certain play,’ or if you’re struggling or something, because he has a lot of good things and good qualities.”

Gase said Sitton’s knowledge of the game is as important as his strength.

“He brings confidence with that group,” Gase said. “He’s got something about him that’s probably different than a lot of guys I’ve been around. He’s very confident, very knowledgeable.”

Frank Gore, 35, helped by skipping some OTA “flag football”

What the tight ends coach thinks of two Miami Dolphins rookies

How drive for perfection causes Danny Amendola to go bonkers in practice

Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake: Kalen Ballage is one ‘smooth’ ‘freak’

Minkah Fitzpatrick already opening Reshad Jones, Dolphins’ eyes

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Frank Gore, 35, helped by skipping some OTA “flag football”

Dolphins running back Frank Gore speaks to the media Thursday. (Miami Herald)

DAVIE — When Frank Gore goes, he goes hard.

But at the age of 35, Gore has his ways of reserving strength and still getting himself ready for the season. That means passing on many spring football organized team activity reps.

“I haven’t done OTAs in seven years,” Gore said Thursday. “My second year with (49ers coach Jim) Harbaugh. Once he understood who I was and who some of the vets who were on our team were, and what we bring to the table, as long as we come in here, work out, do individuals and help the young guys, he knew that we were going to be ready for training camp. I think that kind of helped me with my career – not doing flag football.”

There is value for Gore in being around the facility and learning his new teammates and a new offense. But at this stage of his career, with 3,226 NFL carries under his belt, there is little reason to push the pedal now.

“Frank is not going to do a whole bunch in the spring,” coach Adam Gase said recently.

Gore is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. But he seems to understand he’s likely to have a reduced role on this team.

“Whatever my teammates want me (to do) and whatever my coaches want me to do,” Gore said. “We have a great young back in ‘K.D.’ (Kenyan Drake), who I think has special talent. He can run and catch the ball. I’m just going to come in here every day, especially during training camp, and just try to be me and compete. Whatever my coaches want me to do, I’ll do.”

Gore could easily call it a career and merit Hall of Fame consideration. But he’s still playing because he wants to.

“Especially at my position getting hits. If I didn’t love it and I didn’t work hard, I wouldn’t be here right now,” he said.

Gore has played on turf for Indianapolis Colts home games the last three years, and feels playing on the grass surface at Hard Rock Field will also be a big boost.

“I like grass,” Gore said. “Turf is tough on your body and it’ll have you swollen. Playing on turf, I wouldn’t get my body back until that Friday. But when I’m playing on grass, I’m good after the game. I’m happy that I’m on grass.”

Gore said he would publicly reveal his training secrets for longevity only after he’s done. Though he’d share them with his teammates. He added that he doesn’t feel 35.

“I still feel good,” Gore said. “I think about it sometimes. I think about how blessed I am to still be playing a game that I love since I was a kid. I always hear it every year: ‘When you turn this age, you can’t do it anymore.’ Especially with what it took me to get here, to play in this league, with the injuries that I had, and still to be blessed to play this game and have pretty good years, I think that’s a blessing.”

What the tight ends coach thinks of two Miami Dolphins rookies

How drive for perfection causes Danny Amendola to go bonkers in practice

How Frank Gore is already influencing Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake

Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake: Kalen Ballage is one ‘smooth’ ‘freak’

How will Jordan Phillips do with more of Ndamukong Suh’s snaps?

Minkah Fitzpatrick already opening Reshad Jones, Dolphins’ eyes

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How drive for perfection causes Danny Amendola to go bonkers in practice

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola at OTA’s (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Danny Amendola may toss a helmet or cuss himself loudly during a May practice, but don’t be alarmed.

For Amendola, it’s just part of the process.

“I’ve always been that kid, really,” Amendola said Thursday.

Miami’s newest slot receiver demands a lot of himself. And when he makes a mistake, look out.

“It’s the mentality you bring to the field every day,” Amendola said. “You want to bring an atmosphere that is conducive to winning. Practice at a championship level. Whether that’s an individual drill or the open of practice. You want to be perfect. You want to practice with great fundamentals. That’s what it’s about.”

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs]

Amendola and veteran Kenny Stills are setting a positive tone for the younger receivers in the room.

“Whatever I can do to help, on the field, or off the field, I’m always willing to help out my teammates,” Amendola said.

But why get so revved up about a practice — we’re talkin’ about, well, you know.

“Just try to bring intensity to practice in every drill,” he said. “Practice at a high level. I feel like if you practice at a high level in OTA’s and in camp and bring that into the season, then it correlates to how you play on the field on Sunday.”

Amendola has been impressed by the overall team speed on offense, including Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake and Albert Wilson.

“They are fast,” Amendola said. “Whoever crosses the line first. Jakeem is fast dude for sure. We’ve got a bunch of guys that can fly.”

Amendola ran a 4.58 in college, which is quick, but not as fast as the others.

“That was a long time ago,” Amendola said. “I’m faster now than I was in college.”

Amendola also knows what coaches often say — running fast doesn’t matter if you don’t know where to run.

“You have to know how to play football,” he said. “Football is not track. You see guys that aren’t necessarily the fastest guys on paper. But good football players. And that’s it. Every guy is different. Preparation goes into your routes. And knowing where to go, and when to go, your steps, and depending on the coverage and how smart you are, and where to be at the right time. A lot goes into being a good football player. And that can make up for a lack of speed or you know, track speed or whatever.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake: Kalen Ballage is one ‘smooth’ ‘freak’

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Minkah Fitzpatrick already opening Reshad Jones, Dolphins’ eyes

Albert Wilson: I’m open to race against Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills

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How Frank Gore is already influencing Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore at training camp. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Kenyan Drake has only known Frank Gore for a few months now, but he’s already learned the most important thing.

“He’s definitely one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known,” Drake said Tuesday.

[RELATED: Our exclusive photo gallery from Dolphins OTAs]

Gore is 35 years old. And Drake is 24 years old.

“We both have the same almost type of personality where it’s laid back, not really too flashy type of deal,” Drake said. “I feel like we definitely feed off each other and I can see how he’s been the way he is for so many years, with just the way he puts his head down and works. I think that’s something I definitely want to mold into my game just because obviously of his longevity.”

No running back in the NFL had more rushing yards than Drake over the last five weeks, an impressive statistic he downplays because Todd Gurley of the Rams rested one week.

But Drake is a willing sponge for all the knowledge that he knows Gore can provide.

“He works out like he’s a first-year, second-year guy,” Drake said. “Comes in with that same attitude. I feel like if I could have just half the success that he’s had. That would be a win in my book. Because he’s definitely the epitome of longevity in this league.”

Drake said players need to listen to coaches because they’ve earned their roles. He added that players also listen directly to other players who have earned their respect.

“Obviously, seeing somebody that you grown up watching since you’re whatever old, it’s kind of like, when you get into the same room as him at the same time, it’s like you’re kind of like caught up in yourself,” Drake said. “But when they come to your team, you’re like, ‘This is Frank Gore, who has done this and has done that,’ you see he’s a regular guy. Then he goes out and puts the work in and he’s diligent with everything he does.”

Drake laughed about the idea that when Gore came into the NFL, he was in the fifth or sixth grade.

“He obviously looks at me and he wants to compete with me too, because we’re on the same team but he’s like, ‘You’re young, man. You run around fast. I can’t keep up with you,'” Drake said. “He’s 35, but he goes out there and he’s right behind me if anything. Obviously, he’s not as fast as me, but at the end of the day, he does what he does. I’m like, ‘You’re 35. I don’t even know if I’ll have that drive or that will to keep up with some 24-year-old. It’s cool just to see it for myself.”

Drake does believe he can sustain his late-season success over a long period, and be one of the top rushers in the league.

“Yeah,” Drake said. “I feel like with the people I have around me. And how coach Gase and everybody calls the game on offense. With the receivers, the o-line revitalized. I feel like the sky is the limit. Me and the rest of my guys we’re going to take it one day at a time and when that comes that comes. But we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

Drake has taken significant steps in the area of maturity since entering the NFL in 2016, according to his coaches.

“I mean honestly it’s just about growing up,” he said. “Everybody has to take that step to be the man that they want to be. Obviously I’m nowhere where I want to be as a man and as a football player. I feel the sky is the limit for me.”

And all involved think Gore’s presence is only going to help Drake be even better.

“It’s interesting to see how long he’s really been the back he is,” Drake said. “And you know just to have him on this team is going to help not only the running backs. But everybody on this team. If you could see if you take the right steps. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player, especially at this position. To have this type of wear and tear. But he does it right every day. I feel like he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake: Kalen Ballage is one ‘smooth’ ‘freak’

Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage is a prototype. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Kalen Ballage is the tallest player in the Miami Dolphins’ running back room and he’s also the heaviest.

Ballage is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and he’s also really, really fast. It’s hard to understand how Ballage lasted until the fourth round of the last NFL Draft, but he did, and you can count running back Kenyan Drake among those happy he did.

“He’s a freak,” Drake said Tuesday. “(Ballage) runs so smooth that it doesn’t really seem like he’s running fast. For him to be as tall. Obviously, me being a long, tall back, I always had trouble running behind my pads. He always seems to have a natural bend, a natural ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.”

[RELATED: Our exclusive photo gallery from Dolphins OTAs]

Drake knows it’s very early in camp, as only four practices are complete.

“Obviously we don’t have pads on, so blocking is a different story with pads on,” Drake said. “He definitely seems to be a three-tool type of player and I’m just looking to see his development.”

Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains does believe Ballage will be able to protect.

“When he walks through the door, that’s what they’re supposed to look like,” Loggains said. “He’s big, he’s put together and he’s a really smart kid. We’re excited about trying to tap him out and make sure his head is hitting the ceiling. He’s got size, he’s got height, weight, speed. Doing those things, we’ve got to figure out what he does well and find out quickly with that stuff.”

The Dolphins acquired Ballage with a pick acquired from Philadelphia for Jay Ajayi. Coach Adam Gase believes the additions of free agent Frank Gore and Ballage creates an opportunity for increased competition and results.

“He’s a big man that runs fast and can catch the ball well,” Gase said. “He really has all of the things that you’re looking for in an all-around back. It’ll be fun to see how he progresses and how things go … how quick he learns everything and how he fits in with the group.”

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Minkah Fitzpatrick already opening Reshad Jones, Dolphins’ eyes

Albert Wilson: I’m open to race against Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills

COLUMN: Ryan Tannehill doesn’t regret bypassing surgery, but isn’t in denial about decision

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How will Jordan Phillips do with more of Ndamukong Suh’s snaps?

This may be Jordan Phillips’ last chance to fulfill his potential (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Ndamukong Suh didn’t just play well as a Miami Dolphin. He played an incredible number of snaps.

Suh played 84 percent of snaps for the Dolphins last season, unheard of for a defensive tackle. With Suh cut for salary reasons and off to the Los Angeles Rams, somebody is going to have to play a lot more.

“I don’t think snap count has an effect with anything,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said on Thursday. “I played 30 to 40 snaps last year, as well.”

As a rookie, Davon Godchaux was second among Miami defensive tackles with 48 percent of snaps. Phillips was third with 38 percent. And Vincent Taylor was fourth with 18 percent.

Phillips is sensitive to criticism. Since his arrival from Oklahoma in the 2015 NFL Draft, he’s faced questions about if he can even live up to his second-round draft status and if he can perform at a high level with increased snaps. Before last season, Phillips openly discussed how he had discovered some tricks to stay more motivated snap-to-snap.

Does Phillips expect more snaps in 2018?

“I couldn’t tell you,” Phillips said.  “I mean if that’s the message you guys got, then roll with it I guess.”

Phillips’ tackle total decreased from 23 to 16 last season. He showed a few flashes of greatness but also inconsistency.

“I mean my production wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” he said. “The good games I played, I still did really well. So, I’ve got to keep it moving forward.”

Phillips and Godchaux figure to rotate with free agent addition Akeem Spence and Taylor, with William Hayes also taking some snaps on the interior.

“We’ve got some young players in there with Jordan (Phillips) and Davon (Godchaux) that we’re expecting to make leaps from,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase believes first-year defensive line coach Kris Kocurek will have a positive impact.

“He’s going to get those guys better,” Gase said. “That’s all he has ever done in his career. He has taken guys that sometimes when you watch some of his past film, some of those guys that you’re not really sure who they are, but they’re playing hard, they’re getting to the ball, they’re harassing the quarterback. He gets guys better.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Phillips had his best season in 2017. Phillips was graded 43.3 as a rookie, then 74.9 and 75.5 in the next two seasons. But Phillips was PFF’s 74th-rated interior defender, and he was graded particularly harshly against the run last year.

With Suh gone, Phillips needs to be right more often in his run-stop gap responsibilities.

“It’s hard to replace a man like Suh, but we don’t have an option to do it,” Phillips said. “It needs to get done, so we’re going to do what it takes to get (it done).”

Phillips is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Miami can only hope that provides extra motivation.

“I can’t speak for everybody else,” Phillips said. “I know what I’m intending to do this year. That’s all I’m focused on. Be the best player I can be.”

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5 Reasons why Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill can still be elite

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Ryan Tannehill ran onto the Miami Dolphins practice field Tuesday, without a knee brace, which should give some insight into how he feels about his surgically-repaired body.

Tannehill expressed confidence last spring and summer, before a knee tore completely and Miami’s season essentially ended on that practice field. But all feel good, really good, about Tannehill’s health now.

And no, I’m not going to use the phrase “next step” because it’s cliche and because Tannehill debaters on both sides of the aisle (aqua and orange, of course) have been tossing around that phrase since 2013, his second pro season.

But I am here today to tell you that Tannehill is much better than you think. That he was an ascending player before his most recent injury, and that, yes, at the age of 29 (he’ll play this season at 30), Ryan Tannehill can still be elite.

That’s a sensitive, delicate phrase, of course. Was Alex Smith elite last season? Yes. Smith led the NFL in passer rating. Was Kirk Cousins elite? Yes. We know this because the Minnesota Vikings just paid Cousins $28 million per season.

The group of NFL quarterbacks described as elite should not be limited to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Yes, clearly those three can be considered in a tier above all others, the super-elite.

At $19.2 million a season, Tannehill ranks 18th and this is an extreme value for the Dolphins. I know, I know. You are a Tannehater. You don’t think he can win playoff games. You say Matt Moore led them into the playoffs in 2016 (hogwash) and that Jay Cutler is a superior talent (how’d that work out?).

Why can’t Tannehill do enough to be fairly lumped with the NFL’s elite quarterback in 2018?

I’m going to predict that eight to 10 NFL quarterbacks will be fairly classified as elite at the end of next season and that they will come from this group: Brady, Rogers, Brees, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz and… Ryan Tannehill.

Here are 5 Reasons we think Tannehill is nowhere near as bad as ESPN says (28th in confidence ranking) and in fact, should be one of the 10 best in the NFL in 2018:

  1. How Tannehill ended 2016. He finished 12th in the NFL in passer rating in his first season under Adam Gase. Oh, you forgot? Tannehill won 7 of his last 8 starts as a Dolphin, with 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Tannehill was throwing well on the run, throwing well to all three levels of the field and playing with as much confidence as he has in Miami.
  2. Improved offensive line. The last time Tannehill played for Miami, he stood behind an offensive line of Branden Albert-Laremy Tunsil-Anthony Steen-Jermon Bushrod-Ja’Wuan James. This time, it will be Laremy Tunsil-Josh Sitton-Daniel Kilgore-Jesse Davis-Ja’Wuan James. Tunsil should be much better in his second season at tackle. Davis has an enormous ceiling. And Sitton may end up as their most important off-season addition. It should be better.
  3. More diverse offense, with tempo. Gone is security blanket Jarvis Landry and former plow horse Jay Ajayi. But Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki and Frank Gore may have greater impacts than most expect. One thing Miami’s offense should be is less predictable. Kenyan Drake and DeVante Parker are physically capable of steps toward stardom. And Miami is really, really going to try to go NASCAR tempo more often this season.
  4. Mastery of offense. Why can Miami’s offense go faster? Because Tannehill knows every single thing about his options in Gase’s offense. And after a year on the sideline, Tannehill can process faster where everyone else is supposed to be. Tannehill was impressive at times getting to the line of scrimmage quickly in 2016. Tannehill now knows exactly how to get Miami into the best plays.
  5. He’s not Jay Cutler. Ouch. Sorry, Jay (and Kristin). But, I mean, Tannehill is tough as nails. And for most of last season, Cutler looked like a guy who didn’t want to be hit. He didn’t exactly inspire confidence among his teammates. Hanging with Cutler for a year made everyone involved miss Tannehill! They appreciate him more now! Quarterbacks returning from ACL’s now often regain most or all of their mobility. And Tannehill throws an accurate, catchable ball. You probably don’t realize how good Tannehill’s anticipation on throws can be. And you probably don’t realize just how good he can be, this season.

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