Perhaps there’s no one on the Dolphins’ roster happier about the bye week than quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as the sack numbers have been higher than both the quarterback and Miami would like at this point. However, Tannehill can’t help but be optimistic about the Dolphins’ offense moving forward.
After struggling to find open targets in his rookie campaign, the second-year quarterback now has a plethora of options. The additions have paid off, as the Dolphins’ passing offense looks to have far more big play potential than in recent years.
“I think it’s just the way the plays have been coming in,” Tannehill said in an interview with The Finsiders. “I think we have weapons across the field and that’s a luxury for me to have. We don’t have to lock in on one guy and try to force the ball to him. We have guys all over the field that we’re able to get the ball to—we have Brandon [Gibson], [Brian] Hartline, Mike [Wallace] and [Charles] Clay. They’re all viable weapons and at any point, we can choose to go to them.”
That sentiment has rang true throughout the first five weeks. Hartline currently leads the team in receptions with 25, while Brandon Gibson is next with 24, followed by Charles Clay and Mike Wallace each with 23 and 22 receptions respectively.
“We have weapons across the whole field,” Tannehill continued. “Like I said earlier, it’s a luxury at any point. We can dial up someone’s number, call the play and get them involved. We don’t have to key in on one guy, try to force one guy the ball and the defense can’t [lock] in on one guy. I think that’s something that we’ve come to learn throughout this year is that there’s certain times when they want to call it up on Mike’s side and really try to take his deep threat away, but it opens up some other guys for us.”
And while fans may be clamoring for the Wallace deep ball, Tannehill went in depth with his explanation of why they choose to target each receiver when they do.
“Some games, you go in, we like our matchups at certain places and then some games you go in and they play a completely different coverage than they’ve showed on tape,” he said. “Maybe they haven’t showed that much cloud coverage and they’re playing primarily cloud coverage. You always have to kind of feel that out early in a game. Are they going to play it the way they did on tape? Or are they going to show a little bit something different? So, there’s always a point in the game where you’re feeling out how they’re playing out and how they’re playing you and what they’re trying to do.
“It may look bad from the stands and we may look caught off guard at some times, but that’s the game. You’re trying to play a chess match with the defense.”
Based on their production, it appears like Tannehill and his weapons are getting closer to figure out a consistent method to win that chess match, but there’s no question there’s still an ingredient or two missing before that’s the case.
“I think we’re close,” Tannehill admitted. “I don’t think that we’re there yet, obviously. We need to get the run game cranked up a little bit, but we’re close.”
Another significant factor is that of pass protection, and Tannehill reiterated the common theme of the key to improving the protection encompasses the entire offense.
“I think there’s time where we’ve done really well and times when we haven’t,” he said. “And it’s not just the offensive line. [It’s] not just the running backs and sometimes it’s me, it’s me not getting the ball out. So everyone looks at those numbers and pins it on the offensive line and says, ‘Hey, they’re not protecting well’, when in all actuality, it’s a combination of routes downfield, of protection of me in the pocket, of me getting rid of the ball, so it’s a blend of those things and we have to look at it for what it is, fix the things when they’re there. Sometimes I need to get rid of the ball when the routes aren’t the way we expect them to be downfield—just get rid of the ball. Live for another play; don’t take a five-yard loss.
“And sometimes those guys are good on the other side of the ball, too. Sacks are going to happen. We’d like to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to get sacked at all’, but it’s the game of football. And those guys on the edge get paid a lot of money to sack the quarterback and we have to find a way to neutralize that, but at the same time, we realize there’s going to be a certain number where they got us.”
There’s little doubt Miami will use the week off to diagnose their issues up front and synthesize tangible solutions to allow Tannehill to operate from a cleaner pocket. And if those answers can be found, the sky is the limit for this Dolphins’ offense.
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