This offseason has certainly already carried its fair share of changes for the Dolphins dealing with coaching staff and players as well. There has been talk from fans and analysts as to whether Ryan Tannehill can cut it as a franchise quarterback, and rightfully so due to mediocre number for his first two years in the league. But in this particular offseason, there are some things that can be worked on that could potentially lead to more impressive and favorable stats for Tannehill to win the critics over.
First and foremost, the offensive line MUST establish a comfortable, trustworthy pocket for Tannehill to pass from. Giving up a league-leading 58 sacks is a horrendous stat guaranteeing that there was an issue with the line holding their blocks long enough to give Tannehill time to make his downfield reads. Tannehill’s average time from the snap of the ball to the release of the pass was 2.51 seconds (which is among the elite quarterbacks in the league with fastest release time nearing Peyton Manning at 2.51 and Tom Brady at 2.49) in the 2013 season. This basically says Tannehill is doing his job to make it easier on the line by only requiring them to hold their blocks for a short period of time. This means changes must be made to the technique and even personnel of the line during the offseason to correct this large issue, and obviously the number one concern during the free agency is picking up a solid offensive tackle to replace left tackle Jonathan Martin. Due to last season’s poor offensive line performance judgments cast on Tannehill are borderline unfair, and giving him a solid pocket and allowing him to establish himself on critical passing downs in the 2014 season will show he’s worth keeping at the starting role.
Second, the Dolphins need to utilize the screen game with the running back more often this season. Lamar Miller certainly didn’t drop any eye-opening figures only rushing for 709 yards on the season. But he did tack on 26 receptions with a 6.5 yard per reception average, which truly isn’t bad at all for a back that wasn’t used much in the passing game. Teams like the Saints and the Patriots that made the playoffs in the 2013 season certainly didn’t have any standout receivers to their roster, but running backs such as Shane Vereen for the Pats and Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles for the Saints helped establish a very solid running back screen/dump pass threat. This is a tactic that the Dolphins could certainly utilize as another tool to ease opposing defenses blitzing strategies out of mere respect for the short running back screen being dumped right in behind them.
Third, Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace must connect on the deep ball on a more consistent basis. Too many times the ball would be just out of reach for Wallace on a streak down the sideline that could have easily amounted to a game-changing play. This isn’t Tannehill simply missing too long for Wallace; it boils down to a chemistry issue. Wallace was brought to the Dolphins to make big plays and because he and Tannehill have yet to establish a QB/WR bond like Wallace and Roethlisberger had during Wallace’s tenure at Pittsburgh; the big plays would frequently come up just short. During the offseason, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will no doubt be spending many practices binding this duo together to become an assured lethal threat by the start of the 2014 season.
Ryan Tannehill has the athleticism and the arm to be the Dolphins’ established franchise quarterback, but this upcoming season will be his test to prove this to the coaches, players and Miami fan base that he can be their reliable, on-field captain.