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Miami's Tannehill believes he's poised for breakout season heading into opener at Washington


DAVIE, Florida — Ryan Tannehill lingered at the end of practice one day this week to polish his skills as a long snapper, showing he can be accurate even when releasing the ball between his legs.

It's one more reason for the Miami Dolphins to keep him around.

"The more you can do ..." Tannehill joked as he headed to the locker room.

Not that he expects to need another job to fall back on. Tannehill and the Dolphins believe he's poised for a breakout season at quarterback that will end with their first trip to the playoffs since 2008.

Tannehill has gone 23-25 as a starter but has showed steady improvement. He's starting his second year under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and thanks to a revamped receiving corps, the supporting cast is his best yet.

This is the best Tannehill has felt heading into a season, he said Wednesday, ticking off some of the reasons.

"My second year in the offense, the team we have defensively, the guys in the skills positions. We have a lot of talent, and it's going to be tough for any team to match up against us."

The offense should be at full strength for Sunday's opener at Washington. Left tackle Branden Albert said Wednesday he expects to start, completing his comeback from reconstructive knee surgery. First-round draft pick DeVante Parker will be available after missing most the exhibition season recovering from foot surgery.

"We have talent all over the field," Tannehill said. "To finally be getting almost everyone back is exciting for me. When you have as many playmakers as we do, it creates a lot of options."

In May, Tannehill signed a $96 million, six-year deal through 2020, making him the Dolphins' first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino. Four months later, he said, he feels like the Dolphins are his team.

"It's about how you handle yourself, how you take care of your business, how you present yourself in front of the team, how you hold other people accountable," he said. "And ultimately, performing."

He performed well during the exhibition season, completing 80 percent of his passes. He was sharp in practice, too, meshing with an array of new targets.

"He was throwing the ball better than he ever has in training camp," coach Joe Philbin said. "He just looks better. I think his command of the offense is better than it was a year ago. And I think his play speed is a little better."

Last year, Tannehill became Miami's first 4,000-yard passer since Marino. His completion percentage (66.4) was the second-best in team history, and his touchdown-interception differential (27-12) was the third-best.

And in the past three seasons he has started every game despite enduring an NFL-high 139 sacks, which has won him respect in the locker room.

"With the hits he has been taking the past few years, he has been standing there like a true warrior," Albert said. "That right there puts him up as a leader. When a guy takes a beating like that and keeps fighting, you want to follow somebody like that. He's a tough guy."

Even so, the Dolphins will leave long-snapping to someone else.

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