Published October 10, 2012
DAVIE, Fla. – In the Miami Dolphins' opening game, rookie Ryan Tannehill became their 17th starting quarterback since 2000, which put the team on pace to go through 141 QBs this century.
One month later, it appears the Dolphins may have finally found a quarterback keeper.
"Ryan just gets better and better," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. "Very seldom does he make the same mistake twice. You tell him that you need to do something, and he does it. He has taken steps every single week."
Tannehill's statistics weren't flashy in the most recent game, aside from one: He had a passer rating of 92.3, his best yet. The rookie threw for 223 yards with no turnovers and helped Miami (2-3) win at Cincinnati, 17-13.
After more than a decade of steady turnover at quarterback, the Dolphins would happily take that sort of play every week.
The performance bumped Tannehill's rating for the season to 70.4, which ranks a distant 30th in the NFL. He'll go into Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams (3-2) with only two touchdown passes and six interceptions.
On the other hand, he's the first NFL rookie to pass for more than 1,250 yards and win at least twice in his team's first five games. He has thrown for more yards in his first five games than any Miami rookie, including Dan Marino.
And his bosses are delighted with his progress.
"Our quarterback position has seen the most dramatic improvement on the offensive side of the ball," Sherman said. "Ryan's decision-making has definitely improved over the last couple of weeks. Each game we come out less and less critical of his decisions."
Sherman also coached Tannehill at Texas A&M and judged the youngster a promising NFL prospect, which is one reason the Dolphins used their first-round pick on a quarterback for the first time since taking Marino in 1983.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said it appears Miami made a wise choice.
"He's got tremendous poise, he throws with accuracy, he's not making mistakes, and he's doing a great job in that offense," Fisher said. "He and coach Sherman obviously are on the same page, and I think there's a great future."
The Dolphins are hardly an offensive juggernaut — they've scored two touchdowns in each of the past three games. But with a rookie quarterback and a new regime led by first-time head coach Joe Philbin, this season is all about improvement.
And Tannehill has showed plenty. He took his lumps in a Week 1 drubbing at Houston, when he became the first Miami rookie quarterback to start an opener and threw three interceptions.
Even then, Tannehill's teammates saw lots of potential.
"He has never really seemed a rookie," guard Richie Incognito said. "He has never had that deer-in-the-headlights look."
"When I was a rookie, my head was swimming," running back Reggie Bush said. "So I can imagine what his head is going through as a rookie quarterback. But he has showed a lot of maturity at such a young age."
Tannehill's 431-yard passing performance in Week 4 at Arizona was an eye-opener, and the balance between good plays and bad tilt more in his favor with each game.
"Obviously you don't want to make a mistake in the first place," he said Wednesday. "But if you make a mistake, you have to learn from it. If you're consistently making the same mistakes over and over, you're not growing as a player. You're backpedaling. I have to hold myself to high standard and expect myself not to make the same mistake twice."
One area of improvement has been Tannehill's reaction to a crumbling pocket. He has made several completions after stepping forward rather than bailing on the play, and he has also hurt defenses by rolling out and finding open receivers.
"He throws the ball very well on the move, whether it is a pre-designed movement pass or a step-up, shuffle-in-the-pocket-and-escape throw," Philbin said.
The Bengals faced a rookie or second-year quarterback in each of their last four games. Tannehill was the only one to beat them.
"I was impressed with him," Cincinnati defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "He doesn't look like a rookie to me. He's got great arm strength, can make all of the throws and I was real impressed with his composure. They've finally found a quarterback there in Miami, it seems."
AP freelancer Kevin Goheen in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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