Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was impressive in his NFL preseason debut, directing the offense into the red zone twice and giving his team an opportunity to score on three of his five possessions in their 20-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
Tannehill entered the game with 3:16 left in the first half, taking over for Matt Moore, who made the start after David Garrard suffered a knee injury that will require surgery Saturday. Tannehill's first pass attempt sailed over Julius Pruitt's head, causing the Dolphins to punt. Buccaneers return man Preston Parker muffed the punt, which Dolphins linebacker Jason Trusnik recovered at Tampa Bay's 48-yard line.
With a fresh set of downs, Tannehill hit fullback Charles Clay for 19 yards, and Priutt made a one-handed reception for 22 yards to give Miami first-and-goal at Tampa Bay's 7-yard line. Tannehill and Roberto Wallace appeared to connect on a 7-yard touchdown pass, but the play was overturned by the replay officials.
Tannehill's fourth-down pass attempt to Clay was defended by Buccaneers cornerback Anthony Gaitor, and the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs.
After a three-and-out on the Dolphins' first possession of the second half, Tannehill led the team on a nine-play, 70-yard drive that ended with him hitting Clay for an 11-yard touchdown pass. It was Miami's first points of the preseason under first-year coach Joe Philbin.
Tannehill finished the game 14-of-21 passing for 167 yards and one touchdown for a 106.6 rating.
It's early, and we're always wary of overreacting to one preseason performance, but Tannehill is well on his way towards making Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's decision on a starting quarterback a difficult one. With Garrard expected to miss two to four weeks, all Tannehill needs to do is outplay Moore in practice and the three remaining preseason games to earn the starting job.
Stranger things have happened.