DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins' final practice before their bye had just ended when Ryan Tannehill wandered over to a large crane at the edge of the field, then climbed into the basket that hoists cameramen high in the air to videotape drills.

Studying the control panel, he resisted the temptation to crank up the motor.

"I don't want to be up there all day," Tannehill said. "I just want to try it. I always thought it would be cool."

Any refuge from a pass rush likely holds appeal for Tannehill, who is on pace to break the NFL record for sacks in a season.

He has been sacked a league-high 24 times, which makes pass protection the No. 1 problem for the Dolphins (3-2) coming off their bye this weekend.

"Obviously we have an issue," Tannehill said.

Despite the bad blocking, this is only the second time since 2004 that the Dolphins have won at least three of their first five games.

The lone losses have been to unbeaten New Orleans and Super Bowl champion Baltimore, and the schedule becomes easier beginning next week, when Miami plays host to Buffalo.

But to end a streak of four consecutive losing seasons, the Dolphins need to keep their second-year quarterback healthy, and that will be difficult unless protection improves.

The toll's already evident — Tannehill nursed a sore shoulder last month, limped briefly during last week's loss to the Ravens and wore a welt on his back afterward.

"He's tough as nails," guard John Jerry said. "But we've got to protect him better. We've got to do a better job of helping Tanny out."

Tannehill has taken at least four sacks in every game and is on pace to finish with 77, one more than David Carr's league record with expansion Houston in 2002.

"We want to get it fixed, and I don't want to be taking that many hits," Tannehill said. "You're more susceptible to injuries if you're taking that many hits. All it takes is one. One really bad hit could be the one that does you in."

The first five games were otherwise encouraging for the Dolphins, and Tannehill showed signs of blossoming into an elite quarterback.

With 1,383 yards passing, he began this week ranked eighth in the NFL, and first among QBs who were part of last year's banner rookie class.

His passer rating has climbed from 76.1 in 2012 to 85.5 this year. He has excelled on third down and led a last-minute rally for the first time when he threw the winning touchdown pass to beat Atlanta.

With success, Tannehill has quickly become the face of a franchise desperate for a star after 12 seasons without a playoff victory. His No. 17 is the league's sixth-most popular jersey at nflshop.com, just ahead of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

Tannehill's improvement this year comes despite the protection issues, the absence of a rushing threat and his slow progress meshing with $60 million newcomer Mike Wallace.

Tannehill has been sacked more than he has completions to Wallace (22). He has been sacked more than Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan — combined.

He has been sacked in four cities, day and night, indoors and out. He has been sacked more times than Dan Marino finished with in 15 of his 17 seasons. He's on pace to break Bob Griese's franchise record of 43 sacks in Game 9.

It's the most Tannehill has been hit since his sophomore season at Texas A&M, when he still played receiver. In 13 games as a senior, he was sacked just nine times.

While Tannehill's inexperience and youthful indecision are occasional factors in this season's sacks, he's often besieged before he can get ready to throw.

Sometimes the tight end or running back whiffs on a block, but the most egregious lapses are by the offensive linemen, who find themselves receiving unwanted publicity.

"People usually don't know who the linemen are unless they do something wrong," said left tackle Jonathan Martin as he faced more than a dozen reporters and cameramen at his locker.

Martin said he had never before attracted such media attention, even while protecting Andrew Luck's blind side at Stanford.

"It comes with the business," Martin said.

Business is bad — he and right tackle Tyson Clabo have allowed six sacks apiece. They're the most obvious culprits in a line that has started the same five players in every game.

Coach Joe Philbin downplayed the chance of a lineup shakeup.

"I like the group of guys we have," Philbin said. "I believe in the guys. They are an extremely hardworking group. I expect they will improve."

Tweaks in the offense could help, with formations with two tight ends and more rollouts for the athletic Tannehill among the options. But the best way for the Dolphins to reduce sacks might be to run better so they can pass less.

The ground threat has been next to nonexistent, and the Dolphins are on pace to set a franchise record for fewest yards rushing in a season.

"We've got to get our running game going," center Mike Pouncey said. "We've got to stop letting teams tee off on us when they know we're throwing the ball. If we can fix our running game, our passing issues will go away."

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman predicted the Dolphins will fix their protection problems, and the pace of sacks will slacken.

"Kind of like your golf score" Sherman said. "The first nine you get all excited about it. Then you eventually hit your normal score."

Tannehill and the Dolphins desperately hope four or five sacks a game isn't par for the course.


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