There are many parallels between the situations Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill are in.
Luck, 28, turned out to be the player the Indianapolis Colts thought he’d be when they picked him No. 1 overall in 2012. Enough so that the Colts gave him a then-record-breaking six-year, $139 million extension in 2016.
The Miami Dolphins drafted Tannehill seven picks after the Colts landed Luck. They were also happy with their investment and dished out an extension, albeit a more moderate commitment. Tannehill’s deal was a six-year, $95.3 million extension in 2015.
But then injury derailed both quarterbacks.
Luck suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2015 season that he played through, and he finally underwent surgery in January 2017. Tannehill suffered partial tears of his ACL and MCL in his left knee in December 2016, but didn’t immediately undergo surgery to repair the injury.
Setbacks in their recoveries cost both players the entire 2017 season. Tannehill needed knee surgery after suffering an ACL tear in August, while Luck was placed on injured reserve in November after dealing with soreness in his shoulder in his slow return to practice.
But now both are back with plenty to prove.
Luck faces the tall task of being the player he was prior to injury, an MVP candidate and perennial Pro Bowler who carried a subpar roster to three consecutive 11-win seasons. Tannehill’s on a bit shakier ground with no Pro Bowls and just one winning season (that was cut short by injury) under his belt. He’s aiming to show that he’s more than just a middle-of-the-road starter and a passer capable of taking a team over the hump.
Now three games into preseason, neither quarterback has given much clarity about his readiness to step forward in 2018.
Andrew Luck still hasn’t shown much of his arm
The Colts have reason to be optimistic about their quarterback after his outing against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 of the preseason. Luck completed 8 of 10 passes for 90 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
He showed mobility, zip on his passes, and the poise that made him an instant star in Indianapolis.
#Colts QB Andrew Luck had a good day. He was 8 of 10 for 90 yards and a touchdown pass. He also added 27 yards on 4 carries. pic.twitter.com/wEExGiyIVW— Football Dungeon (@DuaneLively) August 25, 2018
It was a much better game than his 6-of-13 performance against the Baltimore Ravens a week prior that ended with 50 passing yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.
But what he didn’t show Saturday was much deep passing. The closest he came was his touchdown pass to Ebron and a throw down the left sideline that resulted in an 18-yard pass interference penalty.
Luck has spoken optimistically about his ability to throw downfield.
“I feel stronger, I feel more fit, I feel like my arm has more in it and a little more in it and a little more in it,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “There has been a lot, a lot of positive things and I know trying to take the attitude of just getting better every day, and I know our team is taking that attitude of just getting better every day.”
But the arm still hasn’t been on display.
Maybe that’s by design, or maybe there just haven’t been receivers open downfield. It can’t last forever, though. A reined back Colts offense with no deep threat will eventually become a problem, so the only good scenario for Indianapolis is that Luck’s arm is all the way back and we just haven’t seen it.
Ryan Tannehill has been efficient, but ... a little boring
If the Dolphins’ No. 1 goal for Tannehill in preseason was for him to cut down on interceptions, he would deserve an A+. In his first five seasons as a starter, he threw at least 12 interceptions each year. But through three games in August, he hasn’t thrown one.
Tannehill has completed 74.4 percent of his preseason passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He’s been the model of efficiency with a 99.0 passer rating. But the Dolphins haven’t been many scoring points.
His touchdown pass to Danny Amendola on a shallow cross against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday was the Dolphins’ first trip to the end zone of the preseason with Tannehill under center.
TOUCHDOWN!@ryantannehill1 ➡️ @DannyAmendola— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) August 26, 2018
» @CBSMiami#BALvsMIA #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/eu4hGWwOD3
The nine previous Tannehill-led drives in preseason all came up short — including Miami’s opening drive of the night against the Ravens that started with the quarterback dropping the first snap.
It hasn’t been a bad preseason for Tannehill by any stretch, but it hasn’t inspired much hope that he’ll be the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, either.
Luck and Tannehill still have many questions to answer in 2018.
The Dolphins need the best version of Tannehill, but they haven’t seen it in preseason. The Colts are starting at square one if Luck can’t regain form, and there’s still reason to doubt his arm.
Some of that could just be because both teams want to ease their quarterbacks back into the flow of the game. Since starters typically sit out the last week of preseason, don’t expect to get any answers before the regular season begins in September. After that, it won’t be much longer until we can judge how their comeback trails are really going.