Tannehill hopes to even series with Colts' Luck

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Ryan Tannehill admires everything Andrew Luck can do on a football field.

He's seen the big arm, the surprising athleticism, even the stunning strength as he followed Luck's career through high school, college and the NFL.

Now, with the two Texas prep stars about to meet for the second time in the NFL, the Dolphins quarterback is eager to show everyone how much progress he's made. And that he deserves to be mentioned with the top stars from the 2012 quarterback draft class.

"Last year in training camp I was battling for the starting position, so I really got to use training camp this year to really grow, and grow in the offense," he said. "We are excited about what we can do this year."

And why not?

A year ago, Tannehill was the No. 8 pick, going behind Luck and Robert Griffin III and ahead of Russell Wilson.

Despite being upstaged by all three, Tannehill still managed to break Miami's rookie records for completions, attempts and yards - records previously held by David Woodley, Bob Griese and Dan Marino. The knock was he threw 12 TD passes and 13 interceptions and won seven games, failing to reach the playoffs like Luck, Griffin and Wilson.

Things might be changing.

A year after losing 23-20 to Luck and the Colts (1-0), Miami (1-0) returns to Indy with a new cast and coming off a 23-10 win over Cleveland.

Luck isn't surprised by Tannehill's progress.

"I've always been impressed with him as a football player," the Colts quarterback said. "To get to know him as a person was great, he's a phenomenal guy."

Here are five things to watch Sunday:

MIRROR, MIRROR: No teams spent more money in free agency than Indianapolis and Miami, and no two teams went about it quite the same way. Indy tried to reinforce its offensive line, added a high-profile receiver, a power runner and revamped its defense. The Dolphins did essentially the same thing, though they spent more money on WR Mike Wallace than any other offensive spot. Sunday's game gives the two big spenders a chance to see which team got the better bargain.

PROTECTION CONNECTION: Colts owner Jim Irsay used Twitter to "demand" the Colts protect the franchise quarterback better after giving up four sacks last week. It could have been worse. Somehow, Luck escaped another seemingly certain sack, and took a couple of other big shots during the game. Irsay expects to see far fewer hits this week. In Miami, the complaints haven't been the same after Tannehill was sacked four times, but both teams expect better performances in Indy.

UNHAPPY CAMPERS: Apparently, winning doesn't cure all ills. Miami's Randy Starks, unhappy with stalled contract negotiations and the fact he didn't start last week, made his displeasure known with an obscene gesture during last week's victory. Wallace, who signed a $60 million deal, was angry after catching one pass. If the Dolphins can put these issues behind them, it could go a long way in determining how competitive they will be against the Colts - and perhaps the rest of the season.

THE SWITCHEROO: Vontae Davis' trade from Miami to Indianapolis was profiled on last year's "Hard Knocks." He gets a second shot at his former team, and the Dolphins may not recognize Davis. Since December 2012, the former first-round draft pick has improved steadily. He won't be the only player with something to prove Sunday. Former Colts linebacker Phillip Wheeler goes against his former team, and three ex-Dolphins - center Samson Satele, right guard Donald Thomas and linebacker Erik Walden - will start for Indy.

HOME, SWEET HOME: When the Colts hired coach Chuck Pagano, he promised to make Lucas Oil Stadium a tough venue. Indy is just one play away - an improbable last-minute, 80-yard TD pass from Jacksonville - from having a perfect home mark under Pagano's tenure. The Colts have won seven straight at home, while Miami is 3-6 on the road under second-year coach Joe Philbin.

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