Take one look at the Miami Dolphins offense, and there's a lot to be excited about.
I'm personally excited about Ryan Tannehill's development, which can only be helped by the acquisition of new weapons in Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson, as well as a revamped offensive line (which is the only thing that concerns me about Miami's offense).
I'm the first to say this, but, Ryan Tannehill will make the biggest stride—oh wait, I'm not the first to say that? OK, well, that was the NFL Network, I'm certainly the first Dolphins Featured Columnist to say—I'm not...well, this should go to show you why Alan Hubbard is one of the best we have (like the rest of the Dolphins writers on this site).
So I'm one of many to say that Ryan Tannehill is going to make major strides this season, and one of those strides will be into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.
The top 10 not only isn't out of the question, but rather the question is where in the top 10 will Tannehill wind up.
Will it take a while for Tannehill to ascend into the top 10? Yes, as I pointed out two weeks ago, the Dolphins will actually have a fairly slow to mediocre start that might cause you to lose hope in the team early. But like I said in the piece, they will pick up the pace at midseason and likely finish at 11-5 with a playoff berth fully in tow.
I'm picking the Dolphins to win the division, and the main reason for that is Ryan Tannehill and his ascendancy to the NFL's upper echelon.
If there's one thing that the Dolphins lucked out on with their tough schedule, it's the fact that the tougher teams (in Indianapolis, home against Atlanta, at New Orleans) come in their first five games. Since it will take some time for Tannehill and the offense to fully click, those five games will be tough.
But after the bye week, everything changes. I expect Tannehill and the offense to move better, like a well-oiled machine. He will be in sync with Mike Wallace, who will also start off slow but then explode during the midseason mark. Because of this, the jobs of Dustin Keller, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson will be easier with those players being open more often as Wallace takes the throne as Miami's No. 1 receiver and a man who must be double-teamed at all times.
Let's also not discount what this means for Miami's running game, which will find less men in the box and more opportunities for Lamar Miller to get into open space while rookie Mike Gillislee will be a bull in short-yardage situations.
The only concern will be the offensive line, but even then, I can't say I'm as worried about it as others will be. Tyson Clabo will take some of the pressure off of John Jerry in run blocking on the right side of the line while also ensuring, along with Jerry (who excels at pass blocking), that Tannehill doesn't get much pressure from that side. On the left side, with a full offseason at what is his natural position anyways, Jonathan Martin will surprise all of us by holding his own protecting Tannehill's blind side.
There will be no incidents of Aldon Smith blowing Martin up, and it won't just be because the Dolphins don't play the 49ers this season.
Then there's Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, two guys who we won't have to worry about unless one of them gets hurt. We know exactly what those two can do at the line of scrimmage, and they both should be punching their tickets to Hawaii again this year (the hope of course is that they have to decline that trip to go to New Jersey the week after; I'm not quite ballsy enough to say that will happen though).
The rest is up to Tannehill, and I firmly trust him to do the job.
Tannehill showed obvious signs of inexperience last season but still performed well considering the circumstances. His turnovers will go down in 2013. Now keep this in mind: He only threw one more interception last year than he did touchdown passes—and the number of touchdown passes he threw were very low for him.
Do I expect 30 touchdowns from Tannehill? That's not out of the realm of possibility, but I'll be a bit more conservative and go with 28 touchdown passes. Keep in mind that I'm erring on the side of caution with that number, for he's more than capable of throwing more. But with the slow start I pointed out, there might be games where he goes scoreless (but not the team).
As for his other stats, well, I see Tannehill completing at least 55 percent of his passes—and not one percent less. In terms of yardage, I don't know if he breaks 4,000, but he will definitely throw for more than 3,500 yards.
In other words, his season will be similar to Andy Dalton's second season in Cincinnati last year. Dalton completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 3,669 yards, 27 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 87.4.
Tannehill will likely have at least two less interceptions (he threw 13 last season), 100 more yards and one more touchdown.
My prediction for Tannehill's final rating next season: I'm going to go with somewhere between 87 and 91, which should be enough to get him into the top 10 for passer rating.
But it won't be stats that makes Tannehill an upper-echelon quarterback, it will be the results of the team's season, which in my eyes, will be a playoff season.
Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com.
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