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Tannehill looks ready to go

Dolphins quarterback throws for 150 yards, 1 TD in half

Dave Hyde

Sun Sentinel Columnist

11:15 PM EDT, August 24, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS

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In so many ways, the best answer for the Dolphins this preseason is to the most important question, the one that seems forgotten amid Dustin Keller's injury and that sudden focal point of success, the right guard.

Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball in a graduated manner and moving this offense capably is what you wanted to see this preseason, what his teammates wanted to see and surely what he did, too.

On Saturday night, Tannehill again threw the ball in a way that says he's ready to go. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 150 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in the Dolphins' 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay

That's a good stat line. It would have been better if Tannehill's new best friend, Brandon Gibson, hadn't dropped a couple passes, including one for a touchdown to go along with the touchdown catch Gibson had.

Tannehill isn't perfect. He's not a finished product. There's going to be talk of his accuracy and his need to get the ball out more quickly are flashpoints again this year.

But when you line up his numbers from nearly five quarters of preseason work, you move toward the regular season with more hope than you had a month ago.

Here are Tannehill's preseason numbers: 34 completions in 56 pass attempts for 377 yards; three touchdowns and no interceptions; and a quarterback rating that will hover at about 100.

You'd take that, right?

You'd couple that with this defense and take your chances, right?

There's no way to capably translate what preseason's good numbers mean. But with younger players it's easy to translate what bad numbers mean. Ask the New York Jets today after Geno Smith's three interceptions on Saturday night.

The Dolphins' defense isn't anyone's worry, as we saw again Saturday night in making Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman look lost. The offense is the question, as it has been with the Dolphins for a decade.

Tannehill goes a long way to settling down some of those, if his play on Saturdays this month are what he'll produce on Sundays next month. He is expected to make the biggest stride of any second-year quarterback. Even his offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, is on record saying that.

In March, it sounds like hopeful thinking. At the end of August, you see some good signs. He threw a rope to Mike Wallace for 13 yards and a first down on the first drive. He threw a well-placed low ball on a slant to Gibson over the middle.

His best pass of the night might have been an 11-yard laser to Brian Hartline at the first-down marker a split second ahead of a Tampa Bay interception.

Gibson had five catches for 43 yards. Hartline had four catches for 40 yards, and Wallace had three for 31. So Tannehill slung the ball around the field to all his top receivers.

Again, he wasn't perfect. He had Wallace one-on-one with a cornerback and didn't look at him. As things grow serious, he'll realize how rare those chances are.

Gibson, especially, was thrown to in a way Dustin Keller was for much of August. Gibson isn't Keller. Different size. Different position. But it's like Gibson is a security blanket, especially when you watched the other tight ends on the roster.

Charles Clay couldn't separate himself from linebackers on a couple of plays. Tannehill tried to force the ball to him a few times and got one catch out of the exchange.

Michael Egnew was invisible. At one point, he was being covered downfield by defensive end Adrian Clayborn .Dion Sims, the rookie, wasn't seen with Tannehill, either.

The good news this preseason night was Tannehill. And if he's the good news this season that should be enough. You can talk about the questions at right guard, who the running back will be and if there's a tight end at all on the roster.

They matter. But Tannehill matters most. He had a good preseason. Now we'll see if those August numbers translate into September.