Last year’s class of rookie quarterbacks has been praised as perhaps the best group of quarterbacks to enter the league in nearly 30 years, and for good reason. The trio of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson took the league by storm last year, and all three appear to be here to stay. But there’s a fourth member of that class that shouldn’t be forgotten so quickly, and that’s Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He may not have made as big of a splash that the other three made during their rookie seasons, but Tannehill has a chance to catch up to the other three in his second NFL season.
When Tannehill was drafted, it was widely believed that he was not as NFL ready as the quarterbacks drafted before him, and that he would need time to develop before he could lead a team and be successful. Of course, the Dolphins threw him straight into the fire anyway, as Tannehill started 15 games, which helped to fast track his development. Despite throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, Tannehill showed great promise and even flashed moments of brilliance while helping Miami to a 7-9 record.
Tannehill did enough during his rookie season to make the Dolphins think that he can take a big step forward in his second season, and in the process, also take the Dolphins to the next level, which would mean leading them to the playoffs. To help Tannehill do that, Miami spent a lot of money in free agency to add offensive weapons around him. Free agent wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson will join Miami’s leading receiver from last year Brian Hartline to give the Dolphins a formidable trio of receiving targets for Tannehill. The addition of Wallace is the most noteworthy, as he gives Tannehill a vertical threat in the passing game, something that he was missing last year and something Tannehill is capable of utilizing now that he has the right receiver. The Dolphins also added free agent tight end Dustin Keller and drafted rookie tight end Dion Sims to give Tannehill better options in the intermediate and short passing game. With all the additions Miami made, Tannehill should have more than enough potential targets to help him succeed in his second season.
Of course, the caveat is that with Reggie Bush leaving in free agency, the Dolphins have an even less reliable running game than they did last year, which was average at best. If Miami can’t establish a solid running game, all the pressure will fall on Tannehill to make plays with his arm, and possibly his legs. Even with a much-improved set of targets, it’d be asking a lot to put the entire offense on Tannehill’s shoulders, although the Dolphins put a lot on his shoulders last season by making him the starter as a rookie, so he should be prepared to handle it.
Tannehill may not have the polish or be as established as some of the other starting quarterbacks entering their second season in the league, but he has shown flashes of being able to reach the same level as Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. The Dolphins are expecting him to make significant progress in his second season, and they’ve brought in several players to put around him and help in his progression. Miami believes in Tannehill and they’ve done a lot to support him, so don’t be surprised if another member of the quarterback class of 2012 starts to make some noise and leads their team to the playoffs in their second NFL season.