Tannehill vs. Weeden: A Matchup of Second-Year QBs

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns will kick off the 2013 season against one another in Cleveland. Starting for both squads will be a second-year quarterback taken in the first round of last year's NFL Draft. While neither Ryan Tannehill nor Brandon Weeden had the type of rookie season in 2012 as say, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III or Seattle's Russell Wilson, Sunday's contest should be a solid indicator of how far each has come as a NFL quarterback from year one.

(Photo: Brett Davis/US Presswire)
For the Miami Dolphins, big things are expected out of Ryan Tannehill in year number two. Tannehill threw just 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions a season ago, but improved as the year went on. Tannehill led the Dolphins to a 7-9 season, but kept them mathematically alive in the playoff race until Week 16. Tannehill also led Miami to victories over playoff teams Cincinnati and Seattle after the Dolphins failed to beat a playoff team the previous year.

The Dolphins have upgraded the supporting cast of last year's eighth overall pick from Texas A&M bringing in Brandon Gibson and former Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace to compliment last season's leading receiver Brian Hartline. Balance and protection will be the biggest questions for the Miami offense, but if Tannehill can get time to throw and the running game can keep opposing defenses honest, there is a strong possibility that he can be the most improved quarterback in the entire NFL in 2013.

For Cleveland, who finished just 5-11 in 2012, the expectations aren't as high, but significant improvement is expected from Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last season's draft. Like Tannehill, Weeden threw more picks (17) than touchdowns (14) as a rookie. Weeden however, did lead the Browns to three wins over the final five games and complete better than 63 percent of his passes during that stretch.

Unlike Miami, who will be expecting big numbers from Tannehill, the bigger task for Weeden will be not losing games. With another second-year man in running back Trent Richardson, likely to carry the offense, Weeden and the Browns' passing game should have less on its shoulders.

Both quarterbacks were impressive in the preseason as Weeden finished 30-for-50 with 344 yards and three touchdowns in three preseason games. In four games for the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill was 34-for-56 with 387 yards and three scores. Neither Weeden nor Tannehill threw an interception this preseason.

Weeden will likely need to convert third downs for the Browns to have success against a revamped Miami cornerback duo on Sunday while the Dolphins are hopeful that Tannehill can utilize his new weapons and make big plays that were so few and far between last season against a Browns' defense that finished just 25th against the pass in 2012.

One thing is for certain and that is that both quarterbacks will be looking for better starts than each had in last season's opener. Tannehill threw three second quarter interceptions while the Miami offense was held without a touchdown in a 30-10 loss to Houston. Weeden and the Browns came up just a point short to Philadelphia to kick off last season, but in that contest, Weeden was a dismal 12-for-35 passing with only 118 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Miami and Cleveland are set to kick off on Sunday at 1:00 P.M. eastern time.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook! Also, follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.