ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Eli Harold doesn’t think there will be a difference, no matter who is at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Whether it’s Brock Osweiler or Ryan Tannehill, the Detroit Lions linebacker doesn’t think it will matter.
"They are not different at all. Osweiler didn’t miss a beat," Harold said. "Obviously, he’s familiar with the system being in Denver, and he had those guys clicking on all cylinders [Sunday]."
And yet, in a world where competitive advantage is thrown around often for things both football-important and not, it is possible that the Dolphins might have a real one this week. That’s what happens when your quarterback is a true unknown -- at least until potentially the end of the week, when injury designations start to come out.
Tannehill was the starter. Then he missed Sunday’s game with an injury, and Osweiler not only replaced Tannehill but also beat the Chicago Bears 31-28 in overtime. Miami coach Adam Gase was coy when asked who his starter might be Sunday against the Lions. He said Tannehill got worse as last week went on -- after usually having "progressed positively" through weeks when he dealt with injuries in the past.
Gase will monitor Tannehill on Wednesday and Thursday and see where he is, particularly once he can watch the QB throw. But hundreds of miles north, in suburban Detroit, that’s causing a bit of a problem. Time doesn’t permit two game plans, but it does force more awareness of who is under center.
"That’s very true. Obviously, Ryan Tannehill is very talented, big, fast guy. Osweiler is a very knowledgeable, very poised, excellent guy in the pocket throwing the ball," Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. "So we’re just going to do the best we can this week of preparing for both guys and just go in there and just be ready to go.
"We’re going to talk about both. We’re going to watch both. We’re going to practice against both styles and just be prepared for whoever is in the game."
Osweiler is 1-2 against Lions coach Matt Patricia in his career, with a 56 percent completion rate, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He has never completed more than 60 percent of his passes against a Patricia defense and hit for more than 225 yards in one of three games, a 30-24 win over New England on Nov. 29, 2015, when he completed 23 of 42 passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Patricia’s scheme sacked Osweiler five times in three games.
He has seen Tannehill, a former usual opponent in the AFC East, far more often. Tannehill went 3-6 against New England with Patricia as the defensive coordinator, splitting with the Patriots in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He has a career 60.7 completion percentage against Patricia, averaging 276.2 yards, including four straight games of 300 or more yards. He has 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions against Patricia and has been sacked 31 times, an average of 3.4 per game.
"You try to take a look at both players individually. There’s a scheme that’s behind all of it. That’s probably the first and foremost thing that we’ll attack right now and try to dive into," Patricia said. "Adam [Gase] does a great job of just week-in and week-out changing up the game plan and making sure that he gets the ball into the playmakers’ hands, which they have a lot of them on the offensive side of the ball. And the quarterback is that guy that has to do that.
"Each quarterback is a little bit different, though, as far as the two players athletically and both kind of in the system and what they can do as far as that’s concerned. But both [are] very talented, very good players for us to try to prepare for."
It doesn’t always matter for players, though. Cornerback Nevin Lawson said he’s going to have to cover receivers the same, no matter who is throwing the ball, so he’s more focused on the team’s pass-catchers than the QB. He also said he wouldn’t expect route trees or plays to change whether it’s Tannehill or Osweiler taking snaps from center.
Instead, he focuses on the scheme and the receiver -- or receivers -- he is tasked to cover.
"Their system is their system," Lawson said. "They might do different things for that quarterback, but I don’t think it would change a whole lot. It would still be the same thing. Osweiler has great arm strength, and Ryan Tannehill has great arm strength as well."