Trust, not rust: Ryan Tannehill fills Dolphins with confidence

DAVIE, Fla. -- There’s no such thing as a normal season opener for the Miami Dolphins in recent years.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma postponed their Week 1 contest, forcing them to play 16 consecutive games without a bye week. In their 2018 opener Sunday, they played the longest game in NFL history because of four hours of lightning delays.

But a 27-20 victory over the Tennessee TitansRyan Tannehill’s first real action in 637 days made the chaos of Sunday even better.

“It was great to be back out here,” Tannehill said. “I wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be. ... But I felt -- coming away from this long day, this grind of a game and get a win, it feels good.”

Six Dolphins players and coach Adam Gase mentioned the word "trust" when describing the impact Tannehill’s return has on the team. It didn’t feel like a cliché team-unity thing, either. It’s clear Tannehill’s return has brought an increased level of trust and a calming presence to a Miami team that was subjected to a lot of chaos in 2017, when Jay Cutler was brought in after Tannehill had ACL surgery.

“It’s just that he knows this offense well enough and he’s been in it for three years now,” Gase said of Tannehill. “I just like the way that we’re operating. I think there are some things that we’re going to clean up and we’re going to feel better about probably four weeks from now. ... It feels right. It feels like we’re headed in the right direction.”

Receiver Jakeem Grant added: “When he’s back there, we know we can make splash plays. There’s a lot of trust between us and Ryan. We play for each other.”

The Dolphins feel like they have their true franchise QB on the field again.

There were also subtle examples of that growing trust in Tannehill on Sunday, such as when defensive players kept urging Gase to go for it on fourth down when the offense was rolling or when Tannehill hit Kenny Stills perfectly in stride on a 75-yard deep ball for a touchdown.

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil said the huddle feels different this year with Tannehill in it.

“Offensively, having Ryan back has been so valuable for us,” Gase said. “Not having Ryan last year opened up a lot of guys’ eyes that he made a big difference for us."

Sunday's return wasn't perfect. Tannehill threw two interceptions, one of which slipped out of his hand on a goal-line pass to Mike Gesicki, to go with his 230 yards and two touchdowns. Tannehill admitted he “left a lot of plays out there.” But the Dolphins see that as a positive to build from.

“It’s been a steady climb for him since we got here and where he is now, where he has more control of the offense,” Gase said. “There’s still some things he’ll want to clean up. I know he’ll be mad at a few decisions he made where he might have had some better plays, and that happens.”

As for now, the Dolphins are 1-0 with their starting quarterback on the field, with room to grow.