DAVIE — The way everything has lined up for quarterback David Fales this offseason, it’ll be a surprise if anyone else claims the Dolphins’ backup quarterback job.
It’s a pivotal career opportunity for Fales after bouncing around the last four years. Miami coach Adam Gase is adamant that he’s going to pick from among Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty rather than call a free agent veteran like he did with Jay Cutler a year ago.
Part of the reason he’s been so confident about moving forward with this group is what he’s seen from Fales over the past several months.
“I think after that last game, I was feeling good,” Gase said Thursday, referring to Fales’ passable performance in the season finale against Buffalo.
When he brought in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who coached Fales in Chicago, he confirmed what Gase thought. Fales looked like a much more polished quarterback than he’d been earlier in his career and appeared ready to be Ryan Tannehill’s backup.
Gase was encouraged enough by what he’d seen and what Loggains thought that he didn’t think it was necessary for the Dolphins to make any bold moves with quarterbacks in the recent free agency period.
“We felt like (keeping Fales) was a good first step for us and really we wanted to see how everything played out, because between free agency and the draft, you just never know how things are going to shake out,” Gase said. “By adding Brock and then Bryce, I think it’s been a good competition.
“That’s really what we’re going to be doing going into training camp. We’re just going to let those guys compete and see who wins out.”
As solid as Fales was last year and as well he’s performed in offseason practices, Gase isn’t installing him as the backup after the end of Organized Team Activities. He plans to keep the position battle open well into August.
“Right now I don’t even want to go in that direction yet because I don’t have a great answer for it,” Gase said. “I want to see guys play in preseason games. I want to see kind of how training camp goes. That’s a lot of time there and there’s a lot of football to be played. I want those guys all competing. I’m hoping those guys all have the same mentality that they’re the guy to beat.”
DAVIE — When Dolphins coach Adam Gase insisted last month that he won’t be making any calls to veteran free agent quarterbacks if Ryan Tannehill gets hurt again, it might have been difficult to understand why he was so resolute about going forward with the backups already on the roster.
First there’s David Fales, a 27-year-old who’s been on three teams and played in three games since being drafted in the sixth round out of San Jose State in 2014.
Then there’s Brock Osweiler. The same age as Fales, he’s on his fourth team and barely has more career touchdowns (31) than interceptions (27).
If all else fails, there’s Bryce Petty. He was a disaster with the Jets and seems highly unlikely to make the Dolphins’ roster.
So which of those three gives Gase so much confidence? The way he’s talked this offseason, it appears to be Fales.
“He just keeps getting better,” Gase said of him Tuesday, three weeks into the team’s offseason practices. “He’s making a lot of plays. I think he’s utilizing the guys he’s working with and I think getting to go with Albert (Wilson), Jakeem (Grant) and Isaiah (Ford) and Drew (Morgan), they’ve all been in this offense now – expect for Albert – for two or three years, so guys know what to do.
“He doesn’t have to worry about telling anybody what to do or dealing with any rookies at wide receiver. You’re able to just do you job. I think he’s doing a good job of finding the open guy and completing passes.”
Fales was with the Dolphins last offseason, too, and never had much chance at making the final cut. Miami was prepared to go into the year with Tannehill and Matt Moore as the only quarterbacks on the roster, and when Tannehill blew out his knee, Gase was content with Cutler and Moore.
He kept in touch with Fales, though. He worked out in California hoping someone would call, but went unsigned. When Cutler suffered broken ribs last October, Gase brought Fales back as the No. 2 behind Moore.
Miami kept him the rest of the season as a contingency because of Cutler’s age and Moore being battered by injuries. He played mop-up minutes against the Broncos in early December and took over for Cutler in the first quarter of a meaningless season finale against the Bills.
Gase would dispute labeling that game meaningless, actually. From his standpoint, Buffalo certainly wasn’t treating the game that way, so whatever Fales accomplished in that afternoon was worthwhile to him.
His line: 29 for 42, 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 83.9.
There’s nothing amazing about that, but it’s certainly above the line of what’s expected from a backup quarterback.
“It was definitely encouraging,” said Bo Hardegree, his position coach. “He did some things that you don’t get to see in practice with pocket presence. I wasn’t surprised at some things that he did, making some plays with his legs. He does a really good job of getting the ball out fast because he is a very smart person.
“It’s good for Adam Gase to be able to call plays knowing, again, that he’s not going to put us in a losing situation. He’s going to get the ball out of his hands and we’re going to stay on schedule – first down, second down, first down, second down. That’s what we try to do.”
The question on Fales, then, is why has he been a journeyman if he’s got such a promising makeup? He spent his first two years on Chicago’s bench (Gase was his offensive coordinator there in 2015), then had a brief stop with the Ravens before coming back to the Bears in 2016.
What’s held him back?
“Overthinking,” Gase said.
It was a puzzling answer considering how often Gase credits Fales’ intelligence and ability to make prudent decisions in pressure-packed situations that would rush other quarterbacks into mistakes.
Thinking is good, but thinking too much can be costly. The balance is so delicate that it’s the difference between being an NFL starter and bouncing from team to team as Fales has.
“He can process a lot in his brain, and (we’re) just making sure that he just sticks with what we’re doing and don’t go too far outside the box,” Gase said. “Sometimes he’ll take a couple of extra steps that those other guys aren’t ready for. Sometimes he just (needs to) run the play and execute it.”
If Fales can find the sweet spot Gase is describing, it sounds like it’s his job to lose.
DAVIE — The Dolphins were full of anticipation for Ryan Tannehill’s return to the practice field, and he has not disappointed.
After six Organized Team Activities practices, coaches and teammates have been impressed by his command of the offense and mobility. He looks good as ever, maybe better, as he progresses toward his comeback season.
“He’s looking great in practice,” quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree said this week. “He was moving around (Thursday) in two-minute drill, which was our first day… He was making some plays, unscheduled plays like we expect him to do, an athletic quarterback. He’s looking good.”
Tannehill has not played a game since December 2016 and had not practiced since his left knee gave out in training camp last August. He strung together some of his best games late in the 2016 season, his first one working with Adam Gase, and looked poised for a breakout year when he shined in OTAs last spring.
The Dolphins never got to see the results of that progress. Instead, they turned to Jay Cutler as their starter last year with spot appearances by backups Matt Moore and David Fales.
To Tannehill’s credit, he continued to stay fully involved in the offense. He was at practices, in meetings and had an earpiece on the sideline while standing next to Gase during games last year. That helped him continue to develop his grasp of the offense despite not playing, and that experience has shown already in OTAs.
“It just helps you make quicker decisions,” Hardegree said. “The big thing at the quarterback position is being able to play fast and think less, and just go out and react… We’re rolling, trying to play fast and he’s doing a really good job of that.”
DAVIE — Football practice is never more of a chore than in May, when teams hold voluntary-but-not-really sessions to run through plays they won’t actually use for months. It’s already sweltering in South Florida, and Dolphins players who endure these two-hour practices know it’ll be even worse when they hit training camp.
Except for a brief stretch of good health last offseason, he’s been on the sideline for a year and a half. He figured missing games would be the worst part, but watching practice from afar hit him harder. That’s believable considering how enthusiastic he looked this morning, smiling constantly as he directed the offense with poise.
“It’s been a lot of work to get back and put a helmet on again and step on the grass again,” he said in his first public comments since tearing his ACL last August. “I can remember sitting in the cafeteria looking through the glass like a little kid that’s not allowed to go outside and play. I just feel blessed to go out and compete and play and do what I love.”
Watching him run and drop back and go through play-action motions without a hitch —without a knee brace, too — brought back a memory of a much different day in Davie last training camp.
The sight of Tannehill’s knee buckling brought practice to silent halt. Teammates and coaches broke out in a cold sweat. The season shattered before it even began.
Being back this week has been the opposite. Practice has never been drudgery to Tannehill, but he’s enjoying it more than ever. His enthusiasm ripples through the team, and no one needs to tell you how refreshing that must be after a season of Jay Cutler.
“He’s had a really good energy level,” coach Adam Gase said. “When you’re away for a year and you get your opportunity to get back out there, you’ve missed it. Now you have a chance to start over again and get back going with your guys. There’s that excitement. It’s great to have him back out there.”
Tannehill’s return has energized the Dolphins, and surely there will be some sneering at the Dolphins for putting all their hope in a quarterback who’s been around six years without producing any definitive evidence that he’s above average.
But he deserves this chance. It might very well be his last chance, but give him this.
He’s earned it by gutting out the misery of rehabbing an injured left knee only to see it give out on him before ever playing a game.
And more importantly, he’s worth it.
One of the big reasons Gase earned your trust in his first year coaching the Dolphins was his work with Tannehill, a relationship that thrived quickly. By the back half of their first season, at a point when they were still acclimating to each other, that version of Tannehill was good enough to make Miami a winner.
Maybe you dismiss Gase’s reputation as a quarterback whisperer because he had the benefit of coaching Peyton Manning or because of last year’s debacle with Cutler, but don’t deny Tannehill’s progress under his watch.
In his last eight games, he completed 69.1 percent of his throws, averaged 215 yards per game and had 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. That comes out to a 100.1 passer rating, a number that would’ve been top-six in the NFL last season.
He looked good. He felt even better.
“I was finally starting to play really good football,” Tannehill said. “A few weeks before that, I finally got over the hump of learning the offense and really just feeling good about knowing what Adam wants and going out and executing it. It was tough to go down.”
He launched into the 2017 offseason fluent in the offense, and new coordinator Dowell Loggains said after watching that tape he’s convinced Tannehill can be a star. He understands every aspect of the offense, enabling him to steer teammates into the right spots and make the right decisions.
And the way Tannehill approached his time on Injured Reserve helped ensure that last season wouldn’t be a total loss. He was a mainstay at practice and in meetings. Standing next to Gase during games last season, listening to every call, gave him an even clearer vision of what this offense is intended to do.
“Now there’s no question,” Tannehill said. “We’re still ironing out little things here and there, but most of the time I know exactly what he wants when a play comes in … I’d never choose to be in that situation, but I think I learned a lot that’s going to help me the rest of my career.”
Tannehill doesn’t say that lightly, and his potential shouldn’t be taken lightly either. The six-seasons-and-don’t-know-what-they-have joke is too simplistic. There’s a lot to work with here now that he’s healthy and cohesive with Gase and everybody, including an understandably frustrated fanbase, has an interest in finding out what he can be.
DAVIE — The Dolphins are planning on quarterback Ryan Tannehill returning to the practice field this month for the first time since a major knee injury last summer, but they’re still finalizing a plan for his workload.
He’s looked strong throughout the rehabilitation process, including some workouts in public view last season while Jay Cutler played quarterback, and coach Adam Gase has been encouraged by what Tannehill’s been doing recently.
“I’ve seen a guy that’s very confident,” he said. “I know he’s excited to get back out there. I know us as coaches, we’re excited to have him out there. He’s just really smooth with the operation that we’ve been able to do as far as what we’re doing in practice or those throwing sessions. It just feels smooth.”
Tannehill has not spoken to the media since the injury, but is expected to do so during Organized Team Activities, which start May 22.
While he might appear to be back to normal, the Dolphins are being careful about their plan for him and are seeking ongoing input from medical personnel.
“He looks good to me, but at the same time, he still has to go through all of those steps with the doctors and with our trainers,” Gase said. “We’re just going through the process of it all right now. I know nobody wants to hear that, but that’s just what it is.”
Tannehill was playing the best football of his career in Gase’s first season before going down with a left knee injury in December.
Over the final eight games of 2016, the last time he played, he completed 69.1 percent of his passes, had 13 touchdowns against five interceptions, averaged 215 yards per game and posted a 100.1 passer rating.
He elected to rehab that injury, which was diagnosed as a Grade-2 sprain to his MCL and a sprained ACL, rather than have surgery. He made it through all of the offseason program, but his knee gave out in training camp and ended his season. He had surgery last year, and the Dolphins turned to Cutler and Moore.
This season, they have Brock Osweiler and David Fales as the primary competitors for the backup job, and Bryce Petty is getting a shot as well. Gase was adamant today that he will be content to go forward with Osweiler or Fales as the No. 2 quarterback and won’t be making any desperate phone calls to veterans if Tannehill goes down again.
The Dolphins are making a sizable gamble on Ryan Tannehill with the hope that he not only produces a nice comeback story after a major knee injury, but also immediately start playing the best football of his life at 30.
And while that’s living a little more dangerously than some might be able to stomach, their logic is reasonable given how well he played last time he was on the field.
What doesn’t make sense, though, is that they’ve heightened the risk by going forward with the smallest possible safety net. With no addition in the draft and no proven free agent coming aboard, they’ve made this as difficult on themselves as possible.
The lesson they said they learned from last season’s debacle — David Fales, Matt Moore and $10 million man Jay Cutler combined for some of the worst quarterback play in the NFL — doesn’t seem to have stuck.
“Last year didn’t go, obviously, the way we hoped,” vice president Mike Tannenbaum said in January. “It gave us a chance to reflect on some things we could do better. Part of that is making sure that we have good depth at as many positions as possible, knowing that over the course of a 16-game season, they’re going to play. That’s what history shows us.”
Similarly, coach Adam Gase said it’s not prudent to go without contingency at quarterback, and owner Stephen Ross was so fed up by how poorly Tannehill’s fill-ins did last year that he dropped an f-bomb when assessing the season after the finale.
Yet here the Dolphins are, about two weeks away from the start of Organized Team Activities, and the fallbacks in case something goes wrong with Tannehill are Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty. If Gase felt shaky proceeding with Moore as his starter last summer, imagine how unsettling it’ll be to march on with one of those three.
It’s hard to pick a frontrunner for the backup job, and that’s not good. The Miami secondary looks like it’ll be in for a fun spring of OTAs and minicamp as these guys try to separate themselves.
It’s very possible none of them would make an NFL roster other than the Dolphins’ this season.
Fales probably — maybe — has the inside track after performing well enough last year (mostly in practice) that he had Gase touting his potential this offseason and got re-signed. The Dolphins cut him at the end of the preseason last year, and he was out of the league until they called again when Cutler got hurt in October.
He’s played in three games since being drafted four years ago and in two appearances for the Dolphins last year, he completed 29 of 43 passes for a total of 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Likewise, Osweiler hasn’t been flush with suitors over the past year. In fact, teams have worked noticeably hard to get rid of him.
Houston gave up a second-round pick last March just to get Cleveland to take his contract in a trade. On the hook for the rest of his guaranteed money either way, the Browns decided they were better off paying him $16 million to leave than to stay.
His best season, the one that landed him a four-year, $72 million contract, was in 2015. He stepped in for Peyton Manning in Denver and completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,967 yards and 10 touchdowns against six interceptions while posting a passer rating of 86.4.
That came after three years of being coached by Gase, who was with the Broncos when they drafted Osweiler at No. 57 overall in 2012 and left for Chicago in the 2015 offseason.
Petty, who was acquired on a waiver claim Friday, is the only one who has no history with Gase and he’s the least formed of the three. At 26, he’s a year younger than Fales and Osweiler.
The Jets drafted him in the fourth round in 2015, and he never broke through as a full-time starter. He stayed on the bench his entire first year, then appeared in 10 games over the next two. He completed 53.1 percent of his attempts, had four touchdown passes, threw 10 interceptions and mustered a 57.1 passer rating.
The best thing to be said of that trio is it’ll barely cost the Dolphins anything. The three of them combined — Miami will keep two, at most — are set to count $2.1 million against the salary cap this season. The rosiest view is that perhaps Gase, hired by this team in large part because of his reputation as a quarterback whisperer, can work his magic to turn at least one of them into a viable backup.
As good as Gase might be, that doesn’t look like a great hedge in case Tannehill can’t make it through the next seven months without interruption.
It’s one thing to criticize poor play in the NFL, quite another to rip a team for effort.
Thursday morning, coach Adam Gase went after effort, blasting some of his players for going through the motions in a 24-16 loss at Buffalo that essentially ended the slim hopes this team had of turning around its season.
The Dolphins were coming off a resounding 27-20 upset of New England when they traveled to upstate New York and were flattened by the Bills, triggering a three-game losing streak as a 6-10 season ground to a halt.
“That game at Buffalo just seemed like a 20-hour game,” Gase said on Joe Rose’s show on WQAM-560AM. “I was just waiting for us to turn the corner and really get going and nothing was working for us. There was no swagger, no attitude, and it was disappointing to see. It wasn’t everybody. You turn on that tape, there are guys that stand out noticeably as far as their effort and their play that was extremely high, and they were giving everything they had. We just did not have enough guys doing that.
“That’s why we felt like we needed to change some things around.”
It was a stinging swipe by Gase, the likes of which we hadn’t heard since he blasted players’ study habits following the 40-0 shellacking at Baltimore in October.
Since Gase did not mention names, it’s natural to wonder whom he was criticizing.
The ironic part? Several of the departed were the team’s statistical leaders that day.
‘There was no swagger, no attitude, and it was disappointing to see.’ — Adam Gase, on some of his players’ lack of effort in Buffalo last season
Jarvis Landry, for example, was targeted 13 times and made 10 catches for a season-high 99 yards. Cody Parkey kicked field goals of 28, 41 and 26 yards and accounted for 10 of the 16 points. Ndamukong Suh had seven total tackles, including three for loss.
Other performances of note: Jay Cutler was 28 of 49 for 274 yards, was sacked three times, threw three interceptions, fumbled four times and had a passer rating of 47.5.
Among players still on the Dolphins, Kenyan Drake had 16 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown, DeVante Parker was targeted 12 times and had six receptions for 89 yards and Kenny Stills was targeted six times, finishing with one catch for 8 yards. Jakeem Grant had a 16.5 average on two punt returns. The other top tacklers were Kiko Alonso (10) and Reshad Jones (seven).
The game got away from the Dolphins immediately, which ought to sound familiar. Buffalo drove 81 yards in 10 plays to open the game, ending with a 1-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy. By halftime, it was 21-6, Bills.
In the grades I issue after every game, I ripped quarterback play (Grade: F) and manufactured the phrase “confoundingly erratic” to describe Cutler. I also took it out on linebackers, giving them a D, which, coincidentally, was the same grade I gave the coaching staff, saying it was “short on answers” after Buffalo took the lead. I said coaches exercised poor clock management late.
Pro Football Focus gave highest marks to Dolphins scheduled to return: T Sam Young (85.3), T Laremy Tunsil (81.9), DE Charles Harris (78.5), Parker (77.7), Drake (76.6) and LB Chase Allen (75.9). All are 25 or younger except Young, who is 30.
For amateur sleuths trying to sort culprits from innocents, there are scores of players no longer with the Dolphins who can’t be blamed because they were out injured that day, including Damien Williams, Jermon Bushrod, Michael Thomas and Nate Allen.
Mike Pouncey and Julius Thomas (two catches, 15 yards) started the game, Terrence Fede (two tackles) saw limited duty and Neville Hewitt saw spot duty. Matt Moore was inactive. Lawrence Timmons was in on 44 plays, 70 percent of the time, and finished with four tackles.
“We had a lot of good guys in that locker room that gave it everything they had and no matter what happened they never wavered and they just kept plugging away and we feel like we added good pieces to that group,” Gase said.
Here’s the bottom line: Next year at this time, neither Gase nor GM Chris Grier nor football operations chief Mike Tannenbaum will have any excuses. No one will care about “yeah, but” narratives. They’ve reshaped the roster as they wish. They’ve jettisoned some, put stock in others. Ditto for Gase’s assistants.
No, nobody should expect miracles following a 6-10 season, given the amount of talent lost. But if there aren’t tangible reasons for optimism on April 5, 2019, that’s a problem.
INDIANAPOLIS—The NFL Combine is really about prospects convincing the horde of team representatives that they’re worthy of being picked, but the Dolphins have been making a strong impression on the players as well.
That’s especially true when it comes to the quarterbacks, an area coach Adam Gase considers his specialty. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got Dan Marino walking around the Indiana Convention Center as part of Miami’s scouting delegation as well.
While Marino has a significant role within the team, including heavy day-to-day involvement with the staff during the season, any quarterback the Dolphins draft will be working most closely with Gase. That sounds good to many of them. The backwards hat, the overflowing confidence and simply being 39 years old make for a persona that’s going over well with this year’s class.
“I get along very well with him,” said Wyoming’s Josh Allen, a likely top-10 pick who has met with Miami several times. “He’s a younger guy and he’s got a really good personality. He’s a super positive guy. I’m meeting with him tonight, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Allen, Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma, Sam Darnold of Southern California and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are the consensus top four quarterbacks in the draft. Gase made a special trip to the Senior Bowl to watch Mayfield, Allen and a few other quarterbacks, but Rosen and Darnold said they haven’t formally met with the Dolphins yet.
Mayfield might be the closest to Gase in terms of personality. His defiant personality might turn some teams off, but it’s more likely to endear him to Gase.
“I think we related a lot, mindset-wise on offense,” Mayfield said. “He’s a smart guy. There’s a reason he’s a young coach and he’s that successful.”
Gase’s reputation goes beyond his last two seasons with the Dolphins and the fact that Ryan Tannehill put up some career numbers in his one year playing for him. He also guided Jay Cutler to one of his better seasons in 2015 with Chicago and worked with Peyton Manning for three seasons in Denver.
Quarterback wasn’t a pressing need for the Dolphins last year, so it’s unlikely they took a hard look at any of the top prospects. They ended up not drafting anyone at the position.
This year is different. Even with Tannehill expected to be back to full strength from knee surgery well in time for the start of training camp, Miami needs to secure a reliable backup to avoid the situation it had last summer. When Gase didn’t feel totally comfortable going into the season with Matt Moore as the starter, the team shelled out $10 million for Cutler that ultimately proved to be poorly spent money.
A high draft pick this year could develop into Tannehill’s backup and eventually his replacement. He has three years left on his current contract, which is just the right amount of time for the Dolphins to get a handle on the ability of someone they might pick up in this year’s draft.
Gase has typically been part-coach, part-buddy with his quarterbacks, a relationship dynamic that make sense considering he’s not drastically older than the players. Manning is actually two years older than him, and Cutler is close enough in age that they could’ve gone to school together.
“He’s a younger guy for sure, which is always fun,” said Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, who is projected to be a second- or third-round pick. “You naturally have more of a connection to someone like that.”
Western Kentucky’s Mike White, perhaps a mid-round pick, knows of Gase mostly through former teammate Brandon Doughty. He also happens to be a Dolphins fan from growing up in Broward County.
The Dolphins drafted Doughty out of WKU in the seventh round two years ago, and even though he’s been stuck on the practice squad the entire time, he’s had nothing but good things to relay to White about Gase.
“You can tell he’s a quarterback guy,” White said. “If I ever got the chance to play for him and learn under him, it would be an unbelievable experience—just being able to pick his brain more than anything because you can tell he’s a very knowledgeable guy.”
Lamar Jackson, a Boynton Beach High School product who won the 2016 Heisman Trophy at Louisville, is another option for the Dolphins in one of the early rounds. He painted Gase as “real cool… a laidback, chill guy.”
It’s a safe bet that no one ever used those words to describe his predecessor.
INDIANAPOLIS—Regardless of whether the Dolphins draft a quarterback high this year or find a quality veteran in free agency, they remain firmly committed to Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill, who hasn’t played since December 2016 because of injuries to his left knee, is ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation and is expected to be back no later than the start of training camp. Miami hasn’t ruled out him being on the field for Organized Team Activities in May, either.
Going without him last year, when the Dolphins settled for Jay Cutler as his replacement, underscored how valuable he is.
“I’m extremely excited,” Gase said. “I know really our entire roster is. The guys that I talk to at the end of the year, everybody appreciated what he brought to the table in years past.
“Sometimes you lose perspective of what somebody does for your team and what he did for us in 2016 when we lost him and going through an entire season without having him. I think the appreciation for him, not only for the coaching staff but other players is very high.”
Tannehill was with the team throughout last season and stayed current on tweaks Gase made to the offense in order to ensure he would not be behind when he came back.
He also often did rehab exercises in view of the media at practices and games. He was running stadium stairs by midseason and looked good throwing deep balls in pre-game warmups. All of that has been encouraging to the Dolphins.
“As far as what the trainers and doctors have told me, everything has progressed extremely well,” Gase said. “He’s a physical freak, and we’ll just kind of play this one as the week goes on, throughout the offseason. I won’t personally know until we get into those stages to where we can be out at practice throwing.
“All I can do is hear things are going good. He’s moving around well (and) he’s able to do what he needs to do to play quarterback.”
Tannehill will turn 30 this summer, and the confident comments on his recovery from knee surgery don’t guarantee anything. He and the Dolphins were equally adamant that he was fine a year ago.
The upside, though, is that his return offers a chance to continue the improvement he showed under Gase while playing for him two years ago. Tannehill posted career highs in passer rating (93.5), completion percentage (67.1) and yards per attempt (7.7).
With Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales playing quarterback for the Dolphins last year, they ranked 18th in the league in yards and had the third-most interceptions. Their collective passer rating of 78.7 placed 28th.
The Dolphins have been adamant that they expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be healthy and back to normal for the upcoming season, but those outside their building are a bit more skeptical.
ESPN published a list this week that ranked all 32 NFL teams in terms of confidence in their current quarterback situation. The best of the bunch, predictably, were the Patriots, Eagles and Packers. Not only do those teams have top-line starter, they also have reasonably reliable backups in case of emergency.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, checked in at No. 26 overall. That puts them ahead of just six teams.
Miami heads into the busy part of the offseason with Tannehill and former seventh-round pick Brandon Doughty as the only quarterbacks under contract. Tannehill is coming off two knee issues, one of which cost him all of last season, and Doughty has yet to appear in an NFL game.
Longtime backup Matt Moore figures to be gone as he hits unrestricted free agency. Moore, who has been with the team since 2011, was bypassed in favor of retired Jay Cutler to be the starter when Tannehill went down in training camp, then was shelved late in the season as Miami proceeded with Fales as the backup.
Fales, by the way, was auditioning for the No. 2 spot last year and is going to be a restricted free agent. Dolphins coach Adam Gase has long been a fan of his and seemed interested in bringing him back.
Miami’s quarterback situation will look dramatically different if it makes a significant move in free agency or the draft. There are several compelling free agents at the position, and the Dolphins should be in reach of a top college prospect if they hang on to the No. 11 pick. They could draft a quarterback with a plan of him being Tannehill’s backup for 2018 and evaluate the newcomer’s viability as a starter—as well as Tannehill’s progress—after that.