Written by Matthew Cannata at 9:00 AM EST | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
Ryan Tannehill holds a 63.3% completion percentage through nine weeks of the 2014 NFL season. If he continues at his current pace, he will finish the season with the fourth best completion percentage in franchise history. Over the past few weeks, Bill Lazor has simplified the schemes and the routes and has allowed Tannehill to throw more passes underneath the coverage, in the flats and on crossing routes from zone to zone. Thus, his accuracy and completion percentage has improved but also, he’s been leading his receivers more, which allows for more yards after catch.
“Bill (Lazor) is the coordinator and is doing a great job. I thought yesterday was an illustration, I hate to bring it up, but when you watch the tape, what I saw was really good protection the vast majority of the game. So it allowed our quarterback the opportunity to go through those progressions and make the decisions that you are talking about. Again, I do think he threw the ball accurately yesterday as he probably has all year. I think that showed. I think all those elements that you talked about, again not every single pass, not every single play. The line wasn’t perfect. We certainly had some pressures, some hurries. I thought Ryan maneuvered in the pocket well yesterday. I do think he threw the ball more accurately and I think sometimes protection gives the quarterback a comfort factor that he can go through those. That will help him make better decisions.”
In Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, Tannehill completed 24 passes for 288 yards with a completion percentage of 70.6%. Lazor broke it down in detail for us as to why he’s been much more improved with his accuracy and overall quarterback play.
“I think for Ryan, it’s a mixture of his fundamentals continuing to grow, playing the way we want him to in the pocket. I think he’s a very athletic guy. We want him to play athletic, with his stance, with his knee-bend a certain way. It’s technical stuff, and it has increasingly improved, particularly lately. I think I see him buying into it, doing it, and I think the drill work and the practice is starting to show up more on game day where he can’t think about it, he just has to do it. The other thing is I believe there is just a comfort level in the fact that all the different options that occur on some of these pass plays, he’s just had a chance to see them, so he isn’t surprised when he sees them happen. Again, he could write them on paper, he can do a fantastic job standing at the board and explaining it to you, but there is no teacher like experience. Now that he is experiencing them, he seems to be reacting a little bit more naturally and quicker to them. I think it’s a mixture of the whole unit is improving and he personally is working very hard to get better at it, and it’s working for him. Now my job is to introduce new things, push him harder and make it uncomfortable again, but hopefully not call them in a game until he’s ready for them. But we have to keep going. We have to keep growing.”
One thing that I mentioned at the beginning of this story was the fact that his improved accuracy has led to many more yards after catch for the receivers. Lazor said that this isn’t by accident and is something they’ve been working on for quite some time and now, we’re starting to see it in the games.
“To me, the growth that has to happen is a couple of areas. Number one, as far as the whole unit is concerned, because you can’t just separate them, is trusting each other, just trusting on this particular route that the receiver’s angle is going to be at the upright. I’m going to throw the ball out in front of him at the upright rather than right at him, and the receiver run out of it at the upright expecting the ball is out in front of me as opposed to looking at the ball trying to adjust. It’s not just one person. It’s obviously focused on Ryan because he’s throwing all our passes but a handful this season. But it’s a growth as the offense throwing the ball before the receiver is out of his break and him coming out of his break at the proper depth, full-speed racing to the sideline expecting the ball will take me to the boundary."
With his strong performances over the past several weeks, Tannehill has crept up on the radar of the national media and pundits. With continued strong play, he'll continue to rise among the ranks of the best quarterbacks of the NFL and go a long way towards quieting his critics.