Ryan Tannehill is bound to get his first start as a professional football player sometime in the next three weeks. Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday he plans to give Tannehill at least one preseason start before selecting whether Tannehill or Matt Moore will open the regular season as the team's starting quarterback.
"Our plan all along was at some point in time, whether it be this week, next week or the week after, our plan all along was to let all three of those guys have some opportunities," Philbin told the Miami Herald. He has not decided who will start Miami's next preseason game, on Friday against the Carolina Panthers, but Dolphins fans will be able to see the team's 2012 first-round pick play with the first team soon enough.
Among the benefits, according to Philbin, "It would give him a chance to work with the first group in a game situation against better competition, and I think that would be good."
Tannehill diffused any talk of starting, saying "it's not up to me to decide," followed by, "I want this team to win, so if I'm not the best guy at that time, I want this team to win." He said that if he does start, "I'll try to take advantage" of the opportunity to show what he can do against opposing first-team starters.
Tannehill seemed like a long shot to start in the season opener when training camp began. He missed the first two days while finalizing his rookie contract, and David Garrard seemed to have taken the lead in the quarterback derby.
But Garrard underwent surgery over the weekend, and all that is standing between Tannehill and the starting job is Matt Moore, the man who has started the last 12 Dolphins games. Moore is clearly not seen as a long-term solution for the team (why else would the Dolphins have acquired two quarterbacks over the offseason?), so it could be a matter of when, not if, Tannehill supplants him.
He will have to earn it, but Tannehill is clearly within reach of Moore's ability to run the offense. Philbin had Tannehill work solely with the first-team offense on Tuesday. The Dolphins aren't expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2012, Philbin could see little to lose in letting his rookie quarterback learn his way around the offense in live game action this season.
The Dolphins took a risk in selecting Tannehill with the eighth pick in the draft (he could have easily slid into the last third of the first round if the Dolphins did not take him). They could begin finding out whether that risk will pay off sooner rather than later.