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DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — If the Miami Dolphins are going to succeed this season, they’ll need quarterback Ryan Tannehill back at his best.
Tannehill fielded questions on Twitter this week, with followers asking about his fresh-water fishing preference (open face reel), whether he could play receiver in the NFL (no way), and what kept him going when he missed all of last season (faith, family, friends and teammates).
The social media audience was too polite to ask the question on the mind of every Miami Dolphins fan: When will Tannehill win a postseason game, or at least play in one?
He doesn’t know the answer anyway. But with his first game in 21 months looming Sunday, the 30-year-old quarterback begins a season more optimistic than ever.
“I feel more ready for this year than I’ve ever felt before,” Tannehill said Wednesday. “I feel more confident, I would say, in the guys that we have and the path that we’re on. Are we there yet? No. But the standards that we have established in training camp and throughout the offseason, how guys come to work each day pushing to get better, that’s what excites me more than I’ve ever been.”
Tannehill said he has never been so confident in his offensive line. He likes his team’s depth at the skill positions, including veteran newcomers Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki. And he’s increasingly comfortable with the offensive system under third-year coach Adam Gase.
“I feel more confident in fully playing the position than I ever have, and everything it entails,” Tannehill said. “It might not be every play you see it, but I know when certain situations come up, I’m going to be quicker to react and make the right decision and not have to think about it.”
Teammates praise Tannehill’s mastery of the offense.
“Seeing how prepared and comfortable he is, it’s contagious for the other guys,” Gesicki said.
But can Tannehill win? His career record is 37-40. He became the Dolphins’ starter as a rookie in 2012, and their only playoff berth since then was in 2016, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 14.
Tannehill re-injured his left knee in training camp last year, wiping out his 2017 season. He says he’s now 100 percent, and looked it during the exhibition season.
“He has taken hold of this offense, and he has made it his own,” Gase said.
The Dolphins went 6-10 without Tannehill last year, and prognosticators say they’ll have a losing season with him. But doubters may forget how well Tannehill was playing when he first hurt his knee.
In his final eight games of 2016 — his most recent games — he had a passer rating of 100.1, and the Dolphins went 7-1. While he says he’s a better quarterback now, Gase agrees.
“I love working with him,” Gase said. “I love how he does everything from the time he gets in the building until the time he leaves. He really has shown me a lot, especially on the practice field, with how intense he is and how he treats every day like a game.”
As the biggest star on a team under the radar, Tannehill has embraced a leadership role more than ever, and raised his profile off the field, such as with the Twitter Q&A.
“I’m just trying to engage a little bit more with fans and give them a little window into my life,” he said.
That includes his wife, Lauren, and their 2-year-old son, Steel. One Twitter video Tannehill posted this week features Steel showing off his throwing arm by lobbing a rock a few feet in the backyard.
“Obviously we have a little work to do,” dad says on the video.
“It was actually a good throw,” he confessed with a laugh Wednesday. “Lauren is like, ‘He actually made a good throw. Why did you have to trash him like that?’ I’m like, ‘I guess for the price of comedy, right?'”
Tannehill laughed again. When it comes to grading the throwing arms in his family, things don’t get serious until Sunday.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)