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The case for Ryan Tannehill

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Ryan Tannehill once inspired irrational excitement. He arrived to the NFL more fully formed than expected as a rookie in 2012, yet was overshadowed by the rookie shooting stars of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.

Four years into a flatline career, Tannehill now inspires apathy (and hilarious Miko Grimes tweets). He is paid like a franchise quarterback, yet dwells in a purgatory which NFL teams desperately try to avoid. Tannehill is too good to get rid of, clearly a superior option to stop-gap starters like Brian Hoyer who ride the quarterback carousel. But he still hasn't settled the question: Is he the guy?

When the Around The NFL Podcast searched for a new prime meridian of NFL quarterbacks to replace Andy Dalton and "The Dalton Scale," we strongly considered "The Tannescale."

This is the year for Tannehill to escape that purgatory. Like Dalton, he's set up for a big jump in year five. The surrounding talent is a huge reason why.

Tannehill's receivers are sneaky amazing: In Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, Tannehill has one of the best young, complementary duos in football. Landry is a master of all trades with insane hands and production. No player in NFL history has more catches in his first two seasons. Landry can line up anywhere in the formation, creating mismatches and making plays after the catch.

It's amazing how much better Tannehill's maligned deep ball looked when Parker was tracking it. Parker has the skill set of a true No. 1 receiver. He can go deep and come down with 50-50 passes. Just as important, Parker's ability to run routes appeared to improve throughout his rookie year. He gets defenders worried about his vertical ability then throttles down into zone coverage with his quick feet. Tannehill's accuracy can come and go. He's certainly not always pinpoint, and having receivers that can make tough catches will be a huge asset for him.

Miami also has depth behind the two talented young starters. Tight end Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and buzzy third-round pick Leonte Carroo make the entire group deep and dangerous.

The offensive line should be so much better: The Dolphins' offensive line went from embarrassing off the field during the Richie Incognito era to embarrassing on the field since. The Dolphins finished No. 31 in Pro Football Focus' final offensive line rankings in 2015, which is up a spot from their dead last finish in 2014.

The injuries to left Branden Albert and right tackle Ja'wuan James certainly played a big role. When center Mike Pouncey was out, the Dolphins line made the lousy Colts pass rush look like the '85 Bears.

The return to health for Albert and James should help matters. First-round pick Laremy Tunsil should slide off that mask and slide into the left guard spot between Pouncey and Albert. If the Dolphins have an injury at tackle this season, Tunsil is in place to take the spot. This is a good looking group on paper. More importantly, the failed schemes of Joe Philbin and his coaching hires are gone. Speaking of which ...

Adam Gase has a history of helping quarterbacks: This is Tannehill's fourth coordinator in the last four seasons. Mike Sherman, Joe Philbin and Bill Lazor all struggled to make Tannehill consistent. Philbin reportedly never quite believed in him. Gase was hired in large part by selling himself as a quarterback whisperer that believed in Tannehill's talent.

Gase quickly goosed the statistics of Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler when he worked with them. All offseason, we've read how Tannehill is expected to have more freedom to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Tannehill has often been slow to make decisions in his career and hasn't always shown the ability to dissect a defense before the snap. Gase has said that he's probably put "too much this fast" on Tannehill's plate in the offseason to see how much Tannehill can handle. How quickly Tannehill can process this new offense and Gase's coaching will largely determine how much I regret writing this column. At least I know that ...

Tannehill doesn't make many mistakes: Here is the list of players with a lower interception percentage than Tannehill over the last two seasons, with a minimum of 500 attempts:

1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Alex Smith
4. Russell Wilson
5. Carson Palmer

Tannehill is not in the same class as the quarterbacks above, except Smith. But his ability to avoid mistakes is laudable. He's never come close to a collapse like Colin Kaepernick or RGIII, with 51 touchdowns and 24 interceptions over the last two seasons. While Tannehill's career has been frustrating, he's been a lot better than, say, Sam Bradford.

Tannehill has started every game in his career and his stats are league average or better the last two years. He has shown anticipation throwing the ball before his receivers break on routes, something Jay Cutler still never shows. After a disastrous September last season, Tannehill was mostly solid down the stretch. He shows veteran ability in going through his reads. Maybe that doesn't get Dolphins fans out of bed excited in the morning, but there remains real upside here.

Tannehill is very athletic and can throw well on the move running to either side. He was a wide receiver at Texas A&M and Gase figures to use his movement ability more than the Dolphins did a season ago.

This year's Dalton: This article is not an argument for Tannehill to suddenly develop into a top-five quarterback. But if Kirk Cousins can get paid $20 million for one season and Andy Dalton can look like an MVP candidate after four years of stasis, then Tannehill can break out too.

Like those two players, Tannehill is largely the product of his surroundings. He's going to rise and fall based on the situation around him. The situation in Miami should be greatly improved this season.

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