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If you frequent any of the Miami Dolphins fan forums you will in no doubt be drawn into our deep pass problem controversy? Is it Tannehill's fault or is it Miami's pass-blocking deficiencies?
You know that I am a Tannehill supporter, but I also know that if Tannehill is to be called our "franchise quarterback" then he has to take another step forward this year. I would draft a QB in the mid rounds this year, and if he does not improve I would draft a QB even higher next year. You do not fool around with the starting QB position. Average really will not do it at the most important position on any team. Aside from the deep pass problems to Wallace, you would have to admit that he has met our expectations. After two years of constant hits due to the lack of protection from his offensive line, tight ends, and running backs, he still has a fearless attitude back in the pocket. Check out this video clip of every one of his franchise record 58 sacks. You will find yourself cringing at some of the hits that he takes.
For the most part you can see a lack of protection as Tannehill didn't have time to do much of anything There are times when you can see that Tannehill needs to develop a better feel for his pocket collapsing around him, but I will also say that not having a good left tackle to protect your backside is a terrible move by our ex-GM. It cost Ireland his job. Thankfully the Dolphins spent their money wisely this year and got the best pass blocking left tackle on the free agent market in Brandon Albert.
Now, free agent guard Shelly Smith is a very good run blocker, but his pass blocking skills need work on. With the Dolphins going for a more balanced approach and running the ball more than in the past, he is a real upgrade over John Jerry who was a poor run blocker. I'm not sure how much that will help Tannehill.
Adding RB Knowshon Moreno this week was a very good move as he is a good pass blocker and should replace Daniel Thomas on the roster, and he should become our new starting running back and will replace Lamar Miller on passing downs. Moreno is explosive and should make things more exciting for us on game day. I like the move and am surprised that the Broncos didn't match the 1 year, $3 million contract that the Dolphins offered him, but they have Montee Ball waiting to take over, and that is how things should be done. You replace expensive free agents with good draft prospects.
So, here is a video clip of several of Tannehill's deep passes to WR Mike Wallace.
There are only 16 deep passes to Wallace in that video clip, and we know that Tannehill connected on only 7 of the 33 deep passes on the right side (where Wallace was lined up), so, I would say the video is incomplete. Tannhill completed 7 of 16 deep passes on the left side to his slower receivers (not Wallace).
Here are Rich's observations on the 16 deep passes in the above video clip:
Attempt #1 - Wallace wasn't wide open. He was bracketed. This should have never been thrown to begin with.
Attempt #2 - Slight underthrow but completed for a touchdown. Wallace was wide open. This was not good protection but Tannehill stepped up in the pocket.
Attempt #3 - This was not good protection as the defensive tackle was pressuring Tannehill from his right. Pass was underthrown but complete.
Attempt #4 - Tannehill was hit as he threw, not great protection, and completed the deep pass to Wallace, but it was underthrown.
Attempt #5 - Good protection, pass underthrown. Tannehill seemed to be trying to guide the pass.
Attempt #6 - Good protection, pass underthrown. Not sure if it was ruled complete or incomplete. Looks like Wallace caught it and ball came out later. I noticed a mechanical flaw in Tannehill's motion on this attempt. More on that later.
Attempt #7 - Protection wasn't great but Tannehill did a nice job of stepping up. I think this was actually a perfect throw and it appears Wallace slowed down a bit, but I could see it considered a slight overthrow. Maybe Tannehill didn't set his feet well enough after stepping up and rushed the throw? Should have been 6.
Attempt #8 - This was just great coverage. The corner was playing way off at the snap. Why force it? Why not change the route to a comeback at the LOS?
Attempt #9 - Tannehill hit as he threw. Ball came out wobbly. Not good protection.
Attempt #10 - I don't see why Wallace couldn't have gone up for this one. It was slightly high, but a receiver with good hands goes up and get it. This is a flaw in Wallace's game. He doesn't fight for the ball, he doesn't attack the ball. He waits for it to land right in his breadbasket. It's a two way street. Location is important, but so is catch radius. Wallace's catch radius is lacking.
Back to my comment in #6, it seems as if Tannehill drops his hips a bit and keeps his shoulders parallel to the ground on this throw. This may be why he has some underthrows. Typically, when you're throwing a deep touch pass, you want to maintain your hips level, rear you shoulders back to give the ball trajectory and step into the throw to guide it up the field. By dropping his hips, he is actually taking air out of the ball and relying more on arm strength, a fatal mistake when trying to throw deep is relying on arm strength. Your hips, legs and shoulders are more important on a deep ball than your arm.
By the way, Andrew Luck had a similar issue coming out of college. He did not have a consistent, credible deep ball and he spent a whole offseason working on it. He would left his back leg on deep throws and take power out of it. Contrary to what people say about either having it or not having it, these things can be worked on and it is up to Lazor and Tannehill to work on the mechanics and up to Tannehill and Wallace to put in the time to build chemistry.
What are my thoughts about our deep pass problems? While Wallace should be able to catch some of those deep passes that were thrown behind him, he did have a step or two on the DB when the ball was released. His speed and ability to catch deep passes are what we paid all that money for in last year's free agent signing. The ball is just not getting there to hit him as he runs in stride.
The major problems from what I see are pass protection break downs. Even when he has more time to throw the deep pass he has to be thinking about his lack of protection which makes him hurry the pass. I will also say that he needs to work on his mechanics when it comes to the deep pass as he needs more arc and better anticipation of where his receiver is going to be. What works so well on him on the short to medium passes just will not work on a deep pass. You do have to like his accuracy when it comes to Tannehill throwing on the run. Why didn't Sherman have him rolling out sometimes (even though it cuts out half the field)? It worked against the 1985 Bears.
Another thing, as we have read over and over from our Florida media is that Sherman did not have Tannehill and Wallace practice the deep pass much. That also falls on Tannehill to get with Wallace and work on it. I have a feeling that things will look much better this year as Tannehill gets the time to throw the deep pass, and he practices it more. Also, having a balanced attack does not allow the defense to think "pass" almost every down. Miami's new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, has a past history of being run heavy. With his work in the pistol at Philadelphia last year, I am excited to see what he will put together. Here are Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly's comments on Lazor this week:
I think everybody’s product of what you see on the field and, obviously, Nick deserves credit because Nick’s the one who’s playing. But Billy was the guy that got him prepared to play, so I think Billy did a great job with him. I think he’s got great experience in terms of being a coordinator at the college level but has also coached with the Seahawks and the Falcons and the Redskins. … I thought it was a great opportunity for him and I think he’s going to do a really good job down there. Billy’s very, very intelligent I think one of the first things that struck me when we first interviewed him was his intelligence just kind of jumps out at you. He’s an Ivy League guy that has a great way of teaching and has great knowledge in terms of the game. He did a great job with our quarterback position.
How does Tannehill compare to Andrew Luck? Rock Sexton posted this which shows that it wouldn't take much for Tannehill to improve to the quarterbacks that the national media loves to rave about:
7 for 26 on 21-30 yards ... 2 TD's, 1 INT
4 for 11 on 30-40 ...... 1 TD, 1 INT
1 for 8 on 41+ ..... no TD's, no INT's
Pro Football Focus posted the 10 worst deep passers in the NFL last year. There are 8 worst deep passers than Tannehill last year. Let's hope things look much better in 2014.