Tannehill lives up to draft hype

With Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all tearing it up in 2012, there wasn’t enough room in the headlines for Ryan Tannehill. In 2013, the Miami Dolphins second-year quarterback has thrown himself into the mix, both figuratively and literally.

Tannehill and the 8-6 Dolphins are firmly in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot and still have an outside chance of winning the AFC East. With two games remaining, against the 5-9 Buffalo Bills and at home against the 6-8 New York Jets, the Dolphins are seeing their franchise quarterback take control of an offense that struggled early in the season.

“The guys around me are really helping me out so much, making small throws into touchdowns,” Tannehill said. “This is just another step in the process. It feels good to beat a divisional team, but we have big things ahead of us.”

Miami are coming off an impressive 24-20 win over division frontrunners the 10-4 New England Patriots. It was the first time in four tries Tannehill beat Tom Brady and company. Up next for Miami are the Bills this Sunday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m. on CBS.

Going forward, an issue of concern is Tannehill’s chemistry with the Dolphins’ $60 million receiver, Mike Wallace. The former Steeler says their relationship is improving.

“We’re getting there,” Wallace said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re picking it up at the right time. I’d rather be picking it up right now than at the beginning of the year, then falling off. It was a slow start, but we’re starting to build.”

Wilson is in a class of his own with the 12-2 Seattle Seahawks, but Griffin has taken a step back with the 3-11 Washington Redskins and Tannehill has played at a level comparable to Luck this season – which would have seemed unthinkable during the offseason. Luck, by the way, will be making his second straight playoff appearance for the 9-5 Indianapolis Colts.

The Dolphins searched for 12 years and went through 17 different starting quarterbacks looking for their franchise signal-caller, and while there is room for improvement, Tannehill’s trajectory is clearly pointing upward. Last year’s afterthought is this year’s rising star.