This is the face of Miami's future. Hopefully it's not all bruised up after today's game against the Oakland Raiders.
Today isn't just Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, it's also Week 2 in the Ryan Tannehill era in Miami. And unlike his debut, when he was essentially thrown to the wolves against the Texans' Jack the Ripper-like defensive, Tannehill's second go-around as Dolphins franchise quarterback in waiting should give Dolphins fans a clear, accurate sense of what he's all about at this point ... without a quality receiver corps ... behind an inconsistent offensive line ... under a head coach who has been in Miami just three months longer than his rookie quarterback.
The Raiders' defensive group does a lot of good things, but it's not the Texans. It doesn't have berserk length and power up front. It doesn't have a stable of pass rushers to sick on the quarterback every play. It doesn't have Johnathan Joseph. It does have Richard Seymour, but I'd rather play against him than J.J. Watt.
Oakland's defense will become a well-coached group under new head coach Dennis Allen, but because it currently lack speed up front and overall pop in the secondary (sound familiar?), Tannehill and Miami's neutered receiver corps should be able to get some points against the silver and black today.
Still, Dolphins fans need to be realistic while watching their rookie signal caller in action this afternoon, and they should also take note of Tannehill's best traits as a quarterback: accuracy downfield, vision, the balls to stand in the pocket amidst heavy pressure, and the ability to make throws with anticipation. This is a resilient kid who could eventually become what every Dolphins fan has wished for since Dan Marino hung it up for good, so try not to rip his head off when he makes mistakes, because he is going to make a lot of mistakes between now and January.
All Tannehill really needs to do this season is battle, win some games and sharpen his already impressive command of Miami's West Coast offense. What he probably won't do is win 10 games or throw 25 touchdowns, and that's fine. If the Dolphins are lucky, Tannehill can develop a rapport with the good receivers and tight ends he has (Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and eventually/hopefully Rishard Matthews and Michael Egnew), and then Miami's front office can bring in additional talent through the draft and free agency next offseason. If they're unlucky, Tannehill will play this through this season with little-to-no-help from his receivers. You all saw what happened to Green Bay's offense on Thursday night when it took the field without Greg Jennings--it lacked pop at the top end, and turned guys like James Jones into No. 1 options, a role in which they didn't exactly thrive. Well, Miami's receiver group lacks a Jennings, Jordy Nelson (though I think Hartline is a similar player to Nelson), Jones or Randall Cobb, and it's going to make Tannehill hate life at times this season. Someone should probably remind him early and often that help will eventually arrive.
In the meantime, he can show us what he's all about by outwitting the Raiders on a hot Sunday afternoon in South Florida. Enjoy the good and bad of Tannehill's rookie season, and remember that it only goes up from here.