Make no mistake about it, this Miami Dolphins team is as good as their 3-0 record. I mention this, because over the next week you’ll hear and see much being made about the Patriots game being the true test. You’ll see and hear people minimizing and invalidating the record, the individual performances, and the “gimmick” playcalling.
It. Will. Happen.
But when it does, I want you to remember my opening sentence: make no mistake about it, this Miami Dolphins team is as good as their 3-0 record.
We have seen three victories, and all three have come from the Dolphins playing complimentary football, with all units contributing and playing a critical role in the win. Sunday’s victory against the Raiders *cough cough* and the officiating, was another example of the beautiful complimentary football being played.
My early season MVP? Xavien Howard; once again made game-changing play after game-changing play. The prized offseason addition, sans Sitton, who continues to impress? Albert Wilson; the ultimate elusive and multi-faceted weapon hand-chosen by Adam Gase. And many more influential players, who together have created a winning first quarter of the season; all doing it with the largest smiles behind a Dolphins facemask that I can remember since the 2008 team and Ronnie Brown.
It also helps when your Quarterback is Top 5 in the NFL in the following, as of Tuesday morning: Passer Rating (4th), Touchdown % (3rd), Yard per Attempt (3rd), Completion % (4th).
With that being said, let’s jump into our weekly review of the man behind center!
Areas for Improvement
1. Missed Opportunities
Tannehill will be the first to tell you that there have been too many points left on the field, in each of the last two games (at NJY and vs OAK). This is not to say that we expect him to be perfect, robotic, or Dan Marino (secret: even Marino wasn’t perfect); but that when critical plays are made available, good teams take advantage. If I am being entirely fair, he did take advantage previously in the game—and that will be shown later on—but the miss seen above is critical.
Obviously, the issue is that you miss a touchdown and points are taken off the board, but the dynamics of the game were much more crucial than they were at face value. This is around the period of the game where one was beginning to truly question the officiating (which if you follow me on Twitter, you know how I feel about).
It’s also after a big defensive stop, and two beautiful throws and catches. My point? It’s in a point of the game where Miami was rolling in momentum, and where the officials (whether due to competency or conspiracy) were doing their best to stifle that momentum. You hit on that pass? This game is much more relaxed.
Instead, he misfired, and the following happens: Tannehill throws to Wilson for a first down which gets called back on an imaginary offensive penalty, Tannehill throws for another first down…which gets called back on an imaginary penalty, and then Tannehill gets sacked on a beautiful effort play by Oakland’s Clinton McDonald, which results in Miami punting.
That misfire—and again, no one is perfect—did not just cost the team at most 7, but at the least 3 points. I’ll say this again, that drive’s failure was not on Tannehill, it was squarely on the officiating (I was surprised to see even the broadcasters defend the Dolphins), but Tannehill had the chance to avoid all of it; instead, the incompletion resulted in leaving the door open and the officiating closing it directly in his face.
2. Slow Starts
It may be a bit unjust to place this solely on the quarterback, so please know that this is not the case, but this offense and the signal caller need to get off to better starts. It’s simply the truth, and it is not something that we can ignore if we want to begin discussing playoff possibility; which although early to do so, it should be noted that 3-0 records are highly indicative of a playoff team. Nonetheless, the team needs to be better in the first quarter.
Three drives in the 1st quarter, resulted in three punts by Haack. Listen, I really appreciate Haack, I think he’s clearly progressed over the last year, and could be a good thing for us moving forward; but I am DONE with seeing him in the 1st quarter.
I mentioned that this isn’t solely on Tannehill, and I stand by that. It would be hard to blame him when he finished the quarter as the lead rusher for Miami, and was responsible for our only first downs. Nonetheless, he’s the signal caller for a reason, and if what Gase is calling isn’t working, then I respect Tannehill’s ability and football IQ enough to expect him to adjust at the line.
I have nothing for you. I typically try to put forth three points where I need to see improvement, but I don’t have a third for yesterday’s game. I’m sure there will be some Tannehill Contrarians out there that will be upset by this, but QB1 played well; and I won’t force the issue if I don’t have to.
So with that being said, let’s look at some of that “good.”
1. Footwork, Mechanics, and Pocket Presence
Nothing will ever be more important for me when assessing how Tannehill performed than looking at these three pillars of quarterback play. This week, in particular, was important for him, as we saw a decrease in his mechanical tendencies versus the Jets.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that there is no doubt that week was an outlier, and not a constant. Against Oakland he was back to being himself. Play after play resulted in him standing tall in the pocket, feet planted toward targets, and evading when needed and able (the “able” is important, because not every sack is on the quarterback).
Whether pressure was in his face, as we saw with the first down scramble, or whether the pocket was clean, as in the Parker 36-yard play, Tannehill was cool and collected. This is different than what we saw against the Jets. This ball placement, and excellent in-stride throw doesn’t occur if Tannehill’s mechanics were where they were against New York. As for a combination of pressure, cool and collected, and a perfect dime in-stride, look no further than the first touchdown of the game.
My goodness…how could you not see the talent in this quarterback?
2. Comeback Moments
An interesting thing happened on Sunday when the team was down 7-0, and then again with the deficit at 17-7. Ryan Tannehill decided that he was going to put the offense on his shoulders and score touchdowns. On both occasions, the Miami Dolphins roared down the field and scored critical scores to either tie the game, or make it competitive. This wasn’t done with the run, because the run was absent.
And let me tell you, if the fan sitting next to me yelling “we can’t run, throw the ball” knew the run was absent, then so did Gruden and that Raiders defense. The Oakland defense morphed into a unit built to stop the pass, and yet, Tannehill still led two drives to make sure the comeback was possible.
Tannehill Contrarians will deflect praise from the third touchdown because it was a gimmick pass (even though Mahomes is winning an MVP off of that in Kansas City), but what you should not allow them to do is deflect his two comeback drives.
Newsflash: that game icing touchdown never occurs without Tannehill and the offense mounting two comeback drives prior, so let’s give credit where credit is due. Both while being down by a touchdown or more.
3. I will repeat this one until fans finally accept it: The Leader is Back!
Again, we saw a team of players that love playing with each other and for each other. Although many would like to imagine Tannehill is not a part of that, this last game proved he is. With every celebration, the team was making it a point that everyone looking would no longer question what their captain means to them.
This is rooted in a local media member asking why Tannehill was not a part of the famous TD photo in New York; even though it was later shown that the full photo did include Tannehill. Well, this week there was no question. Each touchdown involved Tannehill running down the field, Gesicki once and Stills another time yelling at him to “hurry hurry” so that he would get in the photo.
In a league where there are many quarterbacks that choose to solely shine in the spotlight, or go straight to the sidelines, or take all the love for themselves, Tannehill and his teammates are making it all about unity and the team. Seems like there may be something to this “Gase culture” after all, and there’s no doubt that the captain has a lot to do with that!
Week 3 Overview
155.3 Quarterback Rating
17 for 23 on pass attempts
315 Total Yards
12.57 Yards per attempt
Overall Quarterback Grade: B+/A-
This story was written by Daniel Martinez. Follow him on Twitter: @all_right_Miami
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