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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
This blog is weeks in the making and I am surprised it even had the chance to surface. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be starting for the Dolphins this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts and draft classmate Andrew Luck. Hollywood could not have scripted a better beginning for what should be Tannehill's last stand as the unquestioned starting quarterback for your Miami Dolphins. This is his opportunity to rewrite at least some of his legacy before major offseason decisions are made.
After a shoulder injury surfaced during the Raiders game and got progressively worse through the following weeks, Tannehill was sidelined for five games with speculation that his season (and career) could be over in Miami. It is important to note that he is not 100% healthy and we will all cringe every time a defender knocks him to the turf. Be that as it may, the return of Tannehill will at least give the offense a glimmer of hope as we head into the final stretch of the season. Brocktober turned into No-TD-vember since the Dolphins' offense hasn't registered a touchdown since October 25th with Brock Osweiler at quarterback.
Tannehill is possibly the most heavily debated player in Dolphins' history. He brings a great skillset, unquestionable work ethic and true toughness to the quarterback position. He was a raw prospect coming out of the 2012 draft and rushed into action under some bad tutelage. The hits and injuries piled up making us wonder if we were witnessing our version of David Carr. The upcoming six games could change that and more.
Please do not mistake this scenario as six games Miami must win. Miami is in the thick of the playoff hunt and fighting for that coveted 6th seed. Indianapolis, Tennessee, Baltimore and Cincinnati are also 5-5 and right there with Miami. A win against the Colts on Sunday coupled with Baltimore maybe losing Joe Flacco for the season would put Miami in a good position. If Miami can win four of the remaining six games I believe they'll have a decent shot at making the playoffs.
Now back to our friend Tannehill. I have watched every single one of his 2018 drop backs at least a half dozen times trying to figure out if there is any hope left. What stood out the most is his comfort throwing to both Kenny Stills and Devante Parker versus the other targets. This makes complete sense because he has been with them for four seasons while the others are new or newer. You could see the timing on deep throws just wasn't there with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. I'm confident that if the offensive line buys enough time and Head Coach Adam Gase dials up some intermediate level targets that Tannehill will look pretty good down the stretch. He excels at 15 yard out routes, quick slants and roll out, on the run throws. Keep 'em coming in heavy doses baby. Tap the brakes on too many deep throws and please jettison the 2 yard outs to open every drive. Another guy who needs to be more involved in the passing game is Kenyan Drake. He will be key for this offense to gain chunk yards and score in the red zone. Wheel routes and running back screens (clearing out the middle for a quick catch and go) will keep secondaries honest.
Why do I seem optimistic and am fully embracing my aqua colored glasses you ask? Again, rewatch every drop back for Tannehill without the emotion of viewing it live. His only bad game was against New England and even then his throws were rushed because the line couldn't stop four defenders from getting intense pressure. How exactly is the passing game supposed to be successful when seven guys can drop into coverage comfortably? Losing Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil and Gase not providing any help to backup Sam Young is what doomed the team in Cincinnati. That isn't an excuse for Tannehill (he had an average day) so much as a criticism of the strategy. It should have been a battle of attrition and clock killing rather than hoping the wide receivers would FINALLY get open later in the game. All of this verbal diarrhea has a point and that is the worst is behind Miami in terms of opponents and losable games. With Tannehill at the helm and Osweiler on the pine (or aluminum bench for sake of blog accuracy) this offense can produce 20 plus points per game.
First up is the Colts who rank 18th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed. No one in their right mind will think Tannehill can outgun Andrew Luck with the way Luck is currently playing. However, that Colts defense gave up a lot of points in most of their games. After that you have very winnable home games against the struggling Bills and Jaguars, a not as tough as usual Patriots team at home, and road games against the Bills and surprisingly inconsistent Vikings. The only bad weather game will be in Buffalo and by that point hopefully the Bills will be mailing it in. What once looked like murderer's row could now be a chance for Tannehill to prove his worth.
No, Tannehill does not have to look like Jared Goff or Patrick Mahomes from the recent MNF game to prove he belongs in Miami beyond these final six games. Top 10 quarterbacks this year have a 100 plus passer rating and if he plays around that level consistently (not garbage time accumulation) he'll not only get Miami above .500 for the third time in 10 seasons, he'll prove 2016 wasn't a mirage. However, this is his last stand. No more excuses, lifelines or one good game-one bad game Tannehill. He has to play the consistent, winning football that we all believed in before Calais Campbell nuked his knee in December 2016. To a certain extent I want Gase to let Tannehill play with reckless abandon. We need to see something other than robotic, predetermined throws that defenses easily sniff out. If you are going down then at least go down swinging with no regrets. The upcoming opponents are vulnerable.
For better or worse, its Tannehill Time.