By David Dwork

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time in nearly 650 days, Ryan Tannehill will take a snap in a regular season game for the Miami Dolphins.

That moment comes Sunday when Miami opens its 2018 campaign against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium.

It’s been a long wait for Tannehill, who sat on the sidelines for all of 2017 while Jay Cutler led the Dolphins to a 6-10 record.

During the time he spent rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee, Tannehill stayed extremely present with the team and immersed himself in the playbook.

It’s something that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains quickly pointed out when asked what about Tannehill gives him the most confidence in the upcoming season.

“His preparation,” Loggains said. “He has been an impressive guy that way. He works at it. It’s very important to him. He’s a good practice player. He studies a lot. I’m really excited to see how it is this first Sunday that I get to be part of it.”

Tannehill worked on everything he could while his knee healed.

All that effort and dedication is starting to pay off, and his teammates have taken notice.

“His communication skills are … that’s one thing that he’s really good at is communicating and getting guys lined up in the right spots, especially some new guys that are here this first year and trying to learn the offense,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola, who signed with Miami during the offseason. “He’s got us right. His ability to communicate is huge.”

Loggains is also entering his first season with the Dolphins after spending the past two years running Chicago’s offense.

Someone who is a bit more familiar with Tannehill and what he can do for the offense is Kenny Stills.

Emerging as a locker room leader in his fourth season with Miami, Stills had perhaps his most productive year in the NFL back in 2016.

It was his second year working with Tannehill and the Dolphins first under head coach Adam Gase.

A knee injury cut Tannehill’s season short and the pair has yet to resume building what was a budding chemistry, but both are well aware of the potential within Miami’s offense.

“We’ve seen what we’re capable of doing when Ryan is back there at quarterback,” Stills said. “We can’t wait to get out there on Sunday and play and have four quarters to have an opportunity to go out there and win a game.”

There has been a quiet confidence growing in the Dolphins locker room as the summer has progressed.

It’s become more and more apparent to the people who are around the team every day.

It’s not cockiness or anything like that. It’s like walking into the classroom knowing you’ve studied for the test, or getting your taxes done before April arrives.

The Dolphins come off as a group of professionals who know they are very good at what they do and are prepared for the wars to come.

A big part of this newfound luster is having number 17 back under center, but whether that translates to the standings is yet to be seen.

One thing that Gase has made clear is that he has a true leader at quarterback, someone who took a season-ending injury in stride, turning it into a positive and looking at the big picture.

It’s a true testament to the kind of person Tannehill is.

“He really took last year and used it to his advantage and taking a step back and being able to watch everything, listen to everything and kind of see how guys react to certain things.” Gase said. “And then also just listening constantly about when we’re talking about plays, concepts, progressions and why we’re doing things, he was able to really take it all in. Now it’s processing faster for him.”

The excitement for the beginning of a new season is about to hit its peak, but many of these players have been sweating and preparing since the spring.

That’s nearly half a year of physically and mentally draining days, all while focused on one circled date on the calendar.

One countdown clock, ticking smaller as the date gets closer.

Now…that day has arrived, and as far as the Dolphins are concerned, there’s only one thing left to do.

“We’ve been practicing hard; we’ve been working hard and we’re going to get out there and we have a lot to prove,” said Amendola. “We’ll get out there on Sunday and let loose.”

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