The Miami Dolphins organization is trying to remake itself on the fly. The Dolphins’ have made off-season moves as it attempts to move from the darkness of the Jeff Ireland era, into the light of a new day, under Dennis Hickey. The signing of Branden Albert and re-signing of Brent Grimes and Randy Starks were good steps in that direction. The most important move for the Dolphins in regard to reaching the light of playoff success, is the growth of one player, Ryan Tannehill. Hickey can sign or re-sign any player he wants, what will take the Dolphins the farthest into a new bright era is the emergence of a true franchise quarterback. It is simple, they can surround Tannehill with offensive and defensive assistance, but without his growth, the stench of mediocrity will remain in the halls of Davie.
Ryan Tannehill has demonstrated some growth from year 1 to year 2. Tannehill in year 1 threw the ball 484 times for 3,294 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while being sacked 35 times. In year 2 we all know the sack total nearly doubled to 58 times, leading the league, yet he managed to double his passing touchdowns to 24 on nearly 600 pass attempts, for 3,913 yards. These numbers strongly suggest even under duress, Ryan Tannehill was an improved quarterback. However, these numbers do not scream franchise quarterback. The key stats that must go down for Tannehill to be considered the “man” for the Fins are sacks and turnovers.
The sack stat falls heavily on the porous Dolphins’ offensive line, which has been a key target area for GM Dennis Hickey, already this off-season. Tannehill does deserve some blame in that key statistic. Anyone that has watched the Dolphins play the last two seasons knows their young quarterback has the propensity to hold onto the ball for a lengthy period of time. The NFL does not allow anyone, regardless of the offensive line, to sit back 5,6, worse 7 seconds in the pocket and succeed. Ryan Tannehill takes an inordinate amount of time to make decisions; this must change in year 3.
The other statistic Ryan Tannehill must improve upon his third season as the Fins’ signal-caller is turnovers. He increased his interception total from 13 to 17 between years 1 to year 2. This number does make some sense, as he threw the ball 104 more times. The increase in attempts does leave Tannehill more susceptible to INTs. However, the other turnover stat that is troublesome to the Dolphins’ chances of success is fumbles, most importantly fumbles lost. In his rookie season Ryan Tannehill had 9 fumbles, with 4 lost. In year 2 Tannehill had again 9 fumbles, this time losing 5 balls to the opponent. He must cut down on the careless and unnecessary turnovers to even have a chance at becoming the, “franchise guy”.
It seems a bit much to put the entire future of a franchise on one man. Well when your drafted 8th overall and given the keys to the kingdom, the ultimate responsibility on the field doesn’t fall in many other places. Yes the offensive line was abysmal a year ago, the quarterback and rushing attack must be better protected to have an opportunity for any success. That is entirely true, but in the end, in the NFL, the team’s success goes by way of the man who kneels behind center. The Dolphins are doing everything they can to ensure this maturity in their young quarterback. They have brought in new GM Dennis Hickey to correct the gross offensive line issues. The Fins also gave Tannehill a new offensive coordinator, looking to shake up the young Qb. Bill Lazor was stolen from the Eagles and tabbed as the man to take Ryan Tannehill to the next level. Lazor is a man who studied under offensive innovator Chip Kelly for a season in Philadelphia. A year where once after thought 2nd round pick Nick Foles became a Pro Bowl quarterback. Lazor as quarterback coach took an up-tempo wide spread offense and married it with the skills of a pocket passer. This seems like a good fit for Tannehill; an athletic quarterback, who is trying to combine his physical prowess, with the necessity to be a skilled pocket passer. The major questions that remain are these; will Ryan Tannehill learn how to hit deep threat Mike Wallace on those big plays that were clearly there every game last season? Will Tannehill know when to escape the pocket with his legs and scamper for yards, or when to stay in the pocket and connect with his arm? These are simple questions with not so simple answers. The book is not written on Ryan Tannehill just yet, but the empty pages remaining to write the story are limited in supply. This up coming season is a make it or break it season for Tannehill. We shall see if he emerges from the shadow of number 13, or if he joins the long list of failures at the quarterback position that has haunted the Miami Dolphins’ franchise this last decade plus.