For Tannehill, touchdown represents progress

Dolphins prize free-agent acquisition Mike Wallace isn't worried about getting the ball, stressing that it is early in the preseason.

JACKSONVILLE — When it was over, when his offense blinked on and off again, when it finally blinked on for its first touchdown of the preseason, Ryan Tannehill stood by his locker and said, “Everything’s not going to be perfect.”

Maybe that’s where you start with the Dolphins offense and Tannehill. It’s not perfect. It showed there’s work to do. It finally scored a touchdown on its seventh preseason possession, if you’re keeping track of such things and if they matter come September.

Everything’s up for debate in August, including Tannehill, who showed on that final possession of his night who the Dolphins want him to be, who he’s expected to be in Year Two.

This isn’t about patience with Tannehill anymore. It’s not about development or “progress,” no matter if the owner, Steve Ross, kicked around that idea this week.

It’s about results now, just that, and after so much staggering around in their first preseason workouts Tannehill and this offense got a drive that shaped Friday night’s 27-3 win against Jacksonville in a good light.

Tannehill, who was sacked on the first play after a blocking breakdown, who only led one first down on the first three drives Friday, whose offense was looking “dicey,” according to coach Joe Philbin, ended on the kind of plays you want. So there’s that, at least.

He placed a nice pass over the middle to tight end Dustin Keller, one of his new targets, for 24 yards. That showed Keller’s ability to be a target, offered Tannehill’s touch between coverage on a mid-range pass.

The next time they got together Tannehill seemed to purposely underthrow Keller in the end zone. Keller had beat the coverage and Jacksonville linebacker Chris Prosinski had his back to Tannehill.

Keller came back for the pass, made a great catch and scored the first unit’s first touchdown this preseason. Maybe it’s meaningless in the big picture. But in the small picture of preseason you wanted to see some results.

This was it. And it was fine. Tannehill finished completing five of nine passes for 75 yards and a whopping 120.1 rating thanks to the touchdown pass. Again, it was a step forward, just like you want to see.

“We finally got some rhythm, finally got our groove,” Tannehill said. “I was hoping to go back out there, but the coaches said it was enough.”

If this was a real game, there would be a question for Tannehill about not looking Mike Wallace’s way, not once, not even when the $60 Million Man was matched one-on-one against cornerback Dwyane Gratz much of the time.

Gratz, by the way, is a rookie from Connecticut. He might be the second coming of Deion Sanders. But on a normal night, in a real game, you’d expect the quarterback to find out if he’s good enough to cover Wallace so often alone.

“He’ll eventually get the ball,” Tannehill said, smiling. “That’s what he’s here for.”

Everyone keeps repeating the same things about Tannehill no matter if they’re inside the team or outside in the media. He has all the parts. He just needs to put it together.

It needs to be the kind of big step forward his offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, said in predicting Tannehill will be show the most improvement of any quarterback.

Every throw he makes is a referendum on that, if he has it or not, if he can carry this team’s banner in a manner 17 quarterbacks since Dan Marino haven’t been able to do.

It’s like that number, 17, is as much a part of the Dolphins landscape as 1972 these days. It’s become that much of a story, that much of a way.

You still saw some questions early Saturday night. You saw the line have some problems, forcing him to do things he didn’t want. You saw the offense stagger through most of the first quarter before assembling a good series.

Ultimately, that’s a bit of progress. A baby steps forward. You don’t have to be blind to some issues to say the second week of preseason isn’t more than a time to take a step forward.

Bill Parcells didn’t get many things right in his Dolphins time, but his line about quarterbacks was one of them. The first year is about learning. The second year is about showing so that, by the third year, you know.

 

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