By Nick Shook
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Ryan Tannehill has a chance to play on his injured knee, but he has to practice first.
That’s been coach Adam Gase’s stance on the matter. On Wednesday, though, Tannehill did not practice. Hours later, Gase told reporters that “unless something changes drastically,” veteran backup Matt Moore will start in the Dolphins‘ Wild Card game against the Steelers on Sunday.
Gase told reporters on a conference call with Pittsburgh media that the staff would decide later Wednesday if Tannehill will practice Thursday, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. Gase added that even if the quarterback can only practice for one day before the contest, he’ll get the start, because Tannehill knows the offense better than anyone else, Kinkhabwala added.
The biggest issue with Tannehill’s knee is how it affects his escapability, because his ability to move around is a big component of his game and without it, “it’s not really an option” to play him, Kinkhabwala reported.
Evidently, that escapability wasn’t up to par for Gase, who went from cautiously optimistic on Tannehill to all but ruling his participation out.
Tannehill is undoubtedly Miami’s best option, and shook off a slow start to the season to lead the Dolphins to a 10-6 finish and a playoff berth. Tannehill’s comfort with the offense grew as the campaign progressed, but Gase is correct in that his ability to move in and out of the pocket is important to Miami’s success. The Dolphins gain chunks with shorter passes to Jarvis Landry, but this is no short-range offense, especially with the emergence of second-year wideout DeVante Parker, who has become a deep threat.
In order for the Dolphins‘ offense to play at its peak, it needs a Tannehill who can move. The idea of a hobbled Tannehill attempting to gut it out reminds us of an injured Philip Rivers trying to do something similar against New England in the 2007 AFC Championship Game, and we know how that turned out. Gase likely doesn’t want to risk a similar outcome, instead turning to the veteran Moore, who has been serviceable in place of Tannehill, completing 55 of 87 attempts for 721 yards, eight touchdowns and three interception in three starts (appearing in four games total).