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1 posts from April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014

Tannehill much to prove, but not the most to prove

This is the time of year we get caught up in bottom of the roster free agent signings and the visits of college prospects that will be drafted on May 10 (in rounds 4-7) or picked up as undrafted free agents.

Can we be honest?

All that is well and good, but the difference for the Dolphins in 2014 will rest mostly in the hands, and right arm, of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Entering his third season and first season away from the Mike Sherman offense he's known and sometimes but not always loved the past five years, Tannehill has a ton to prove. Is he ready to make a jump from mediocrity? Is he the future of the Dolphins franchise? Can he be a winner?

Tannehill recently told ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson that, "I've got to make a big jump."

So the Miami quarterback understands the grace period of the past few years is over. Fans want to see more from him -- in the pocket, in big games, on his deep throws, on the leadership front. And coaches, who are counting on him to produce so they can stay employed, are similarly going to ask him to raise his level of play.

But as with all things, the local focus clouds the reality that even though Tannehill is under the microscope in South Florida, he's not nearly under as much pressure as other quarterbacks around the league.

ESPN's NFL live today had a segment on quarterbacks with the most to prove in 2014. It was an interesting exercise. And it showed why Tannehill may feel the need to show significant growth ... but he's not under the kind of pressure other QBs are about to face.

Consider the Salguero list of QBs with the most to prove in 2014:

10. Tony Romo ... He's coming off back surgery and he has the weight of the Metroplex and America's Team on his back. His defense has been terrible and if he doesn't play well, his team will stink. Oh, and by the way, critics don't trust him in late-game situations and he hasn't gotten his team in the playoffs since 2009.

9. Joe Flacco ... That $120 million contract was a wonderful reward for winning the Super Bowl in Feb. 2013, but what did he do for an encore? Flacco's defending champions missed the playoffs last year and were actually eliminated from the playoff hunt in a game Flacco threw three interceptions. Flacco finished 2013 with 19 TDs and 22 INTs.

8. Jake Locker ... This is probably his final chance to prove he's a franchise quarterback before the Titans move on to finding a new franchise quarterback. Locker, going into his fourth season, not only must prove he's a good player but that he's also durable. He played only seven games last season and hasn't played more than 11 in any of his three NFL seasons.

7. Andy Dalton ... It's no longer about the regular season for Dalton and the Bengals, although he's had some notable failures there as well. But Dalton has been terrible in getting what is considered an otherwise very good NFL team to play well in the playoffs. And if you cannot play well in the playoffs, you aren't elite.

6. Eli Manning ... He had a terible season (27 interceptions) behind a terrible offensive line. And he's recovering from ankle surgery. The fact he recovered from his last terrible season with a Super Bowl win and has won the Big One twice is good enough to give Manning the benefit of the doubt for now. But keep playing poorly in 2014 and New York will turn on him.

5. Geno Smith ... Terrible quarterback play was a thing in New York last year. The difference between Smith and Manning is the Jets went out and got a guy to replace Smith in Michael Vick. So the job is Smith's for now, but he has to prove he's better than slightly terrible to keep it.

4. Josh McCown ... Remember him? He was in the Dolphins' 2008 training camp but became expendable when Chad Pennington decided he wanted to play for Bill Parcells. Well, last year McCown was the Godsend, this time to the Bears. He was amazing in throwing 13 TDs and only one INT. And now he's Tampa Bay's starter. But he has to stay on the course he plotted last year to keep the job. And given his career history, that will require hard work.

4, tied. Sam Bradford ... The Rams are committed to him as their franchise quarterback and are paying him $14 million this year as a result. But that takes a lot of faith because Bradford has been unable to stay on the field long enough to convince many people outside the Rams organization he's elite. Pressure is on to do that this year.

3. Colin Kaepernick ... He's been good and he's helped a very good team get good results. But he wants a new contract that pays around $18 million per year and doesn't have the benefit of a championship or classic QB style to drive home the point. So what's it going to be? Are you an $18 million QB? Are you championship caliber? Or not?

3, tied. Matt Schaub ... In 2009 he threw for the equivalent of 2.7 miles (4,770 yards) and was considered a solid if not spectacular starter. But last year, playing for a talented team with great receivers, a fine running back and behind a solid offensive line, Schaub became a human pick six machine. And that got him benched and eventually cut. He's been exiled to the NFL version of Siberia (aka Oakland) now were he must play well to simply stay in the league.

2. Johnny Manziel ... He's not even in the NFL and already he's a magnet for controversy. Does he have a bad attitude? Does he feel entitled? Or does he indeed have that magic he showed at Texas A&M and will it translate to the NFL? Is he the next Russell Wilson or Fran Tarkenton? Oh yeah, whatever QB needy team that takes him will be under immediate pressure to play him.

1. Robert Griffin III ... The Redskins in this draft will continue to pay the ransom of draft picks they gave up to get him and hope that after a terrible sophomore campaign, RG3 can return to his rookie form. The question is will he prosper under QB whisperer Jay Gruden? Will he stay healthy? Will he be more than a spread option, one-read thrower?

So you think Tannehill has a lot to prove? He's not even in the top 10.

It's all relative, folks.