After several years of hovering around .500, the Miami Dolphins finally got over the 7-9, 8-8 hump last season. They went 10-6 – their second-best season since 2003 – and made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Ryan Tannehill was a big reason why.
Tannehill completed a career-high 67.1 percent of his passes and averaged a career-high 7.7 yards per attempt. He was limited to 13 games with a sprained ACL and MCL, but Tannehill, who turns 29 in July, appears to be turning the corner in his still-young NFL career.
“Definitely,” Dolphins safety Michael Thomas said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I felt like the addition of Coach (Adam) Gase and his offensive staff definitely helped Tannehill take that next step. I saw him make all the throws that they ask him to make, especially when that protection was there and the O-Line was clicking. We got that run game going with Jay Ajayi, and then when (Tannehill) used his legs, I felt like that’s when he’s at his best, showing his athleticism.”
Tannehill received a great deal of criticism in his first four seasons despite the fact that he never missed a game and the Dolphins were regularly in the playoff mix. Miami, by the way, has reached the playoffs just twice since 2001.
“I definitely think a lot of people, they ride him a little too much,” Thomas said, “but I see the grind that he puts in every single day staying late. He’s even helping us out trying to decipher what offenses are trying to do to us. So I think he is taking that next step to be an elite quarterback.”
There was once a sense that Tannehill was not ready for the spotlight and the criticism that came along with it. Now, however, he seems to have the maturity to ignore the outside voices and focus entirely on his performance.
“Pressure . . . can affect guys differently,” Thomas said. “I’d say it’s fair to say that, but I definitely say it’s helped him. He’s learned from it and now I feel like he is that leader. He is that leader in the locker room. He is that leader of our team and it’s made him better.”