Mo­bil­ity is still vi­tal part of Tan­nehill’s game

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Omar Kelly Staff writer

MI­AMI GAR­DENS — The Mi­ami Dol­phins of­fense needed a spark af­ter go­ing three-and-out in the first se­ries of Satur­day’s scrim­mage so coach Adam Gase went to one of his old re­li­able plays.

Quar­ter­back Ryan Tan­nehill lined up un­der cen­ter, faked a hand off to tail­back Kenyan Drake and then sprinted to the right side of the field, which was wide open be­cause of the ef­fec­tive­ness of the naked boot­leg he had just ex­e­cuted to per­fec­tion.

As de­fend­ers closed in on Mi­ami’s start­ing quar­ter­back, who has missed the past 20 games be­cause of two left knee in­juries, Tan­nehill waved off an open MarQueis Gray, in­struct­ing the tight end to go block a safety down­field.

Tan­nehill then turned on the af­ter­burn­ers to gain 16 rush­ing yards, de­liv­er­ing the first, first down of the scrim­mage.

It was just one play, some­thing Tan­nehill has prob­a­bly ex­e­cuted a hun­dred times dur­ing col­lege and NFL games in his ca­reer. But the fact the move­ment plays — bootlegs, play ac­tion, quar­ter­back sprints and read-op­tions — are in Mi­ami’s arse­nal be­cause Tan­nehill can still ex­e­cute them af­ter his in­juries is re­fresh­ing be­cause a mo­bile ver­sion of Tan­nehill is the best ver­sion of him.

“It’s big. I like hav­ing that as part of our game,” said Tan­nehill, who has gained 1,065 rush­ing yards and scored six rush­ing touch­downs on 216 at­tempts the past five sea­sons.

“I think it matches up well [with] our out­side run, zone-run plays that are go­ing to be a foun­da­tion for this of­fense. You kind of have to have those in or­der to coun­ter­act the out­side zones. It’s go­ing to be big for us.”

Gase is not try­ing to make Tan­nehill a scram­bling quar­ter­back. But hav­ing those move­ment plays are crit­i­cal for play-call­ers like him­self be­cause they pre­vent de­fenses from crash­ing down on the edges, and force teams to po­ten­tially play more zone cov­er­age. The quar­ter­back read-op­tion forces teams to make one line­backer a spy.

Dur­ing Mi­ami’s 2016 play­off run, Gase’s of­fense started to come alive af­ter he al­tered his play-call­ing ap­proach that Oc­to­ber, putting in more bootlegs, quar­ter­back read-op­tion plays and mov­ing the pocket, al­low­ing Tan­nehill to uti­lize his legs and throw on the run.

There was some con­cern Tan­nehill would lose some of his speed and mo­bil­ity play­ing with a bulky brace on his sur­gi­cally re­paired left knee, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“He re­habbed ex­tremely hard. He’s prob­a­bly stronger than he’s ever been,” Gase said of Tan­nehill.

“When you spend that much time in the train­ing room and the weight room, it’s go­ing to hap­pen. I know he’s ex­cited to get go­ing and get in a real game and just kind of get the sea­son rolling.”

Tan­nehill said he will play games with the braces that he prac­tices with as a pre­cau­tion, to pre­vent the type of in­jury he suf­fered when Calais Camp­bell hit him in 2016, end­ing his sea­son.

“I wouldn’t say it lim­its me. It’s a bit cum­ber­some, but it doesn’t limit me from do­ing any­thing,” said Tan­nehill, who is ex­per­i­ment­ing with four dif­fer­ent braces.

“I ran in the off­sea­son with it, did all the drills with it and ev­ery­thing, so you get used to it and it be­comes like sec­ond na­ture.”

How­ever, it needs to be point out that Tan­nehill tore the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his left knee while scram­bling dur­ing an 11-on-11 play in train­ing camp a year ago. No­body hit him dur­ing the play that cost him all of the 2017 sea­son. So even wear­ing a brace can’t pre­vent in­juries.

Still, Tan­nehill has no in­ten­tion of chang­ing the way he plays, and it ap­pears Gase’s play-call­ing will feed into that ap­proach.

“Any­time you have a mo­bile quar­ter­back it will help. Hav­ing him back there will help us a lot in the pass­ing game and run­ning game,” said Gray, who was a scram­bling quar­ter­back dur­ing his col­lege years at Min­nesota.

“[Scram­bling quar­ter­backs] move the chains. It’s good to have guys who can sit back there and throw the ball, but it’s bet­ter to have a guy who can make a play when an of­fen­sive line­men or any­body misses their as­sign­ment up front.”

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