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More Ryan Tannehill questions emerge as Dolphins fall to 4-7

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the major reasons for optimism entering the season for the Miami Dolphins was the belief that the team had the second-best quarterback in the AFC East behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Ryan Tannehill was coming off a career 2014 season, and Miami committed $96 million this year with the expectation that he will be their long-term solution.

However, Tannehill’s uneven 2015 continued Sunday with a 38-20 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. As Miami fell to 4-7 on the season, Tannehill continued to provide more questions than answers. He is 27-32 as a starter in four seasons.

Don't be fooled by the final stats, where Tannehill threw for 351 yards, three touchdowns and two turnovers (interception and fumble). Most of his numbers Sunday came when the team trailed by three touchdowns or more.

Tannehill started poorly in the first half, completing just 9 of 18 passes for 83 yards and an interception. That led to a 14-point deficit in the first half that Miami could not overcome.

The Dolphins entered the game as the second-worst team in the NFL in third-down conversions. On Sunday, Tannehill & Co. failed on eight straight third-down plays and didn’t have their first third-down conversion until the 4:10 mark of the third quarter. Tannehill didn't lead the Dolphins to their first points until 2:30 was left in the third quarter, when they already trailed 21-0 and the game was out of reach.

Add in that Miami's anemic running game produced just 12 yards on nine carries (a 1.3-yard-per-carry average), and you have a big mess on offense.

The Jets completed the season sweep of the Dolphins, as Tannehill was outplayed by Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the second time. Fitzpatrick threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns and had a 118.9 passer rating.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor also beat and outplayed Tannehill and the Dolphins twice this year. It's possible that Tannehill -- at least this season -- is the fourth-best quarterback in the division.

The Dolphins' steep financial commitment means Tannehill likely will be under center in Miami for at least the next two or three seasons. However, it’s been four years, and Miami’s starting quarterback is still searching for the consistency it takes to be a franchise quarterback.

What it means: The Dolphins are the laughingstock of the AFC East. They fell to 0-5 within the division and will go a full calendar year since beating a division team. Miami’s last AFC East win was on Dec. 1, 2014, against the Jets. The New England Patriots also won the first meeting against Miami this season 36-7, and will go for their own season sweep in Week 17. The Dolphins have a strong chance to go winless in the division this year, which is a strong indictment of how poor the team has played.

Pouncey hurting: Dolphins center Mike Pouncey injured his foot in the first quarter and didn’t return. He was out of uniform in the second half and had a boot on his foot, which isn't a good sign. This is certainly an injury to watch going into next week. Backup and rookie Jamil Douglas played center in Pouncey's place.

More ouches: Starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell suffered a calf injury and didn’t return. He was replaced by rookie Jordan Phillips. Receiver Rishard Matthews suffered rib and chest injuries after a big hit in the first quarter and didn’t return.

Parker plays: The injury to Matthews gave first-round draft pick DeVante Parker more playing time. Parker played more than he had all season and finished with four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. He did enough in this game to earn more playing time.

What’s next: The Dolphins return home to face the Baltimore Ravens (3-7). Miami has four home games in the final five weeks of the season.