While most Dolphins fans were still buzzing about Sunday’s comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the Miami coaching staff spent Monday addressing continuing concerns and areas for improvement, not the least of which is pass protection.
The need to protect Ryan Tannehill is nothing new, but with Sunday’s five sacks allowed, the Dolphins have now allowed Tannehill to be sacked 14 times, tied for second-worst in the league. Coach Joe Philbin said Monday that there’s plenty of blame to go around.
“I think the offensive line actually pass blocked pretty well [Sunday],” Philbin said. “We had a couple sacks where the quarterback has to get rid of the ball. Our running back gave one up. We had a scheme error, and we gave up a sack.
“While they weren’t perfect, I think there’s progress definitely from an offensive-line perspective. But it has to be better. It’s not acceptable.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman fell on the sword for two of the sacks, describing schematic errors that put players in difficult situations.
Sherman also pointed out that while the sack numbers are troubling, Tannehill isn’t getting hit much. The Dolphins have allowed 19 quarterback hits, only slightly below the NFL average. By comparison, the Cleveland Browns, who also have given up 14 sacks, have allowed 34 quarterback hits.
“I don’t think our quarterback is getting hit a lot, but we’re giving up a lot of sacks,” Sherman said. “That’s not all on the offensive line.”
Tannehill shares the blame, along with the offensive line, backs and tight ends.
“Maybe he could step up a little quicker in the pocket,” Sherman said. “He’s trying to do that a little bit more. He hung onto a read one time, on one sack.”
Philbin was asked Monday about the progress of the running game, considering that 49 of the team’s 90 rushing yards came on Lamar Miller’s second-quarter burst through the middle.
“They all count!” Philbin countered, evoking laughter.
After quickly restoring his typical stoic countenance, he continued, “The biggest thing I think we’re doing better is we’re not having as many negative-yardage plays, where we’re second-and-12, second-and-11. It’s hard calling a game offensively when you’re in those situations.”
Sherman said that games like Sunday’s make it difficult to evaluate the running game. The Dolphins ran just 16 offensive plays in the first half, with seven coming in the two-minute offense setting up a field goal before halftime.
“We never really got in sync,” Sherman said. “We never really got into a flow with the run game. [The Falcons] were kind of holding onto the ball, so that contributed to it as well.
“Lamar hits that long run, then we’re in and out of it a little bit. It never really felt like we got it unleashed.”
This and that
• After Sunday’s game, Tannehill said that he suggested the play call from the 1-yard line that went on to be the game-winning touchdown pass to Dion Sims. On Monday, Sherman clarified the play-calling process.
When the clock was running, Sherman had dialed up a different play. When the Falcons called a timeout, Sherman put his goal-line personnel on the field and called the pass to Sims. Without knowing Sherman had made the decision, Tannehill suggested the same play — one that Sherman knew was one of Tannehill’s favorites close to the goal line.
“It was already called,” Sherman said. “But it just goes to show that we’re on the same page.”
• On Tannehill’s game-winning drive, he completed passes to six different receivers, including unproven commodities such as wide receiver Rishard Matthews and tight ends Michael Egnew and, eventually, Sims. Sherman said Monday that he didn’t even consider the inexperience of the targets on the field during that last drive.
“When they’re out there, I’ll be honest, I don’t think about who’s catching the ball,” he said. “We just call the play based on coverages that we think might be, and if they’re out there we expect them to catch the ball.”
• The Dolphins committed just two penalties for 13 yards Sunday. Sherman said Monday that Philbin doesn’t get enough credit for the team’s clean play. Philbin credited the coaching staffs, especially on defense.
“Our targeting when we’re tackling has been very good,” Philbin said. “We’ve hit quarterbacks over the last few weeks a number of times and our guys have been very disciplined about the location of the hit and not going too high, and the same thing with receivers, I think.”