FOXBORO -- When the Patriots play the Dolphins and their quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday, it will mark the third time this season that they face a rookie signal-caller.
The results for New England's defense so far have been split: The Patriots dominated Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 10, but fell to Seattle's Russell Wilson in Week 6.
Tannehill doesn't have the numbers to match up with either one of his 2012 draft classmates. He's in the top 10 in terms of interceptions thrown and has completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,373 yards.
But much like Luck and Wilson, Tannehill can make plays with his legs. A receiver at Texas A&M for two full seasons and part of a third, he has the athleticism to get outside of the pocket and extend plays.
Tannehill's mobility is something the Patriots have been aware of as they've watched him on tape this week.
"All these guys, Wilson, Luck, and now this guy, they all have one thing in common -- they can beat you on the ground running," Vince Wilfork said. "Up front we just have to do a good job of making sure that we keep him under control. Keep him in the pocket, make him throw from the pocket because we know if you get outside of the pocket, it'll be a nightmare for our defense."
At 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, Tannehill has the look of a prototypical quarterback. And even if his numbers suggest otherwise, the Patriots believe he has the ability to match.
"This quarterback is making some big plays for this team," Wilfork said. "Of course he makes some bonehead plays. But guess what? We all make bonehead plays. It's all in the process of learning. I think that guy has came in there and given them guys the best shot to win and he's playing very, very well as a rookie so they believe in him. Looking at him on film he's very good, he's got a lot of talent, I'll tell you that."
Against the Seeahawks last week, Tannehill led the Dolphins to two late scoring drives. His 29-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay with 5:13 left tied the game at 21. The Dolphins then were able to set up kicker Dan Carpenter for the game-winning 43-yard field goal.
He's improving, and the Patriots know it.
"Obviously he's a good athlete," Jerod Mayo said. "Right now -- what is it Week 12? -- I don't think there are any rookies left in the NFL."
They just hope to make him look like one on Sunday.