If anybody still gets a kick out of bashing Ryan Tannehill as some kind of a total dud compared to other quarterbacks around the league, there’s an easy measure of that coming up this season.
Three wide receivers who used to partner with Tannehill in Miami – Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson – are playing for new teams in 2015. It’s the perfect opportunity to put behind them all the groans and eyerolls and grimaces that accompanied their missed connections at Dolphins, and to prove that moving the ball down the field in hefty chunks really shouldn’t be all that difficult.
For Wallace, that means finding an easier offensive rhythm with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. If Wallace’s numbers are better than last year with the Dolphins (67 catches for 862 yards and 10 touchdowns) he’ll finally be happy.
The thing is, no Vikings receiver caught more than six touchdowns last year during Bridgewater’s 12-start rookie debut. The one who did, Greg Jennings, is now with the Dolphins. What’s more, Teddy averaged just 224.5 passing yards per game. Tannehill wasn’t exactly a monster, but he was better than that (252.8).
The best news for Wallace is that Bridgewater has a strong arm and may finally prove a good deep-ball fit with the former Pro Bowl receiver. Teddy completed an 87-yard pass to Jarius Wright last season. Only Ben Roethlisberger, Wallace’s old teammate in Pittsburgh, hit one for longer in 2014.
Who knows? Maybe Wallace will rejuvenate his career with the Vikings and Bridgewater will polish his significant skills more quickly than Tannehill has in four pro seasons. Right now, though, the Dolphins have the more efficient quarterback (Tannehill threw 27 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last year) and overall that makes life simpler, if not always spectacular, for wide receivers and everybody else.
Hartline’s in Cleveland, where Josh McCown is the starting quarterback du jour. McCown, 36, was 1-10 as a starter in Tampa Bay last year. From that standpoint, you could say he played a major role in improving the Bucs, in that he played a major role in getting Jameis Winston there.
If McCown doesn’t work out, Hartline’s Plan B is catching passes from Johnny Manziel.
Bottom line, Hartline may increase his stats from last year (39 catches for 474 yards and two touchdowns) for the simple reason that there will be more passes coming his way. He’ll have to work harder than ever for every reception, however, and he’ll be even farther from the playoffs.
Gibson gets the best deal from the respect of going to New England, where Tom Brady runs the show as long as Roger Goodell will let him. The problem is Gibson has no guarantee of making the regular-season roster.
Tannehill, meanwhile, will be working with Jarvis Landry plus a new cast of Jennings, Kenny Stills and first-round draft pick DaVante Parker, plus tight end Jordan Cameron, another offseason addition.
Maybe none of them will catch 10 touchdown passes like Wallace did in 2014, but the whole package is still promising. Tannehill, who’s no dud, will keep improving, and as always he’ll still get bashed for not doing more.
I’m guessing that $95 million extension he got in May will aid in getting over the criticism, though. The Dolphins are building a team around Tannehill, and if this new group of receivers doesn’t work out, they’ll go out and get him some more.