Panic? Not the time, at least yet, for the Dolphins.
It most certainly is the time, however, to get it turned around. Ryan Tannehill is the first to admit that.
“I think we feel the urgency and understand that we’re at a critical point in our season,” Miami’s quarterback said Wednesday. “Obviously, we haven’t performed up to par or even close to it the past two weeks.”
Of all the reasons the Dolphins are 1-2 — their AWOL pass rush, poor protection, missing running game — Tannehill’s play is relatively low on the list.
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Through three weeks, he ranks fifth in passing yards (882), and his passer rating (85.5) is respectable.
But if he has another half like he did Sunday against the Bills — three interceptions in his first 23 pass attempts — Tannehill will be seen by many as part of the problem, and not the solution.
The task gets no easier Sunday, when the Dolphins face the stingy Jets in London. New York’s defense ranks first in scoring (13.7 points per game) and fourth in yards (298.3).
The Jets have the league’s fourth-best pass defense despite recording just four sacks in three games.
“We’ve got to score more points, especially this week,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We’re playing an excellent defense. We’ve got to put more points on the board than we are at the present time, without a doubt. [Ryan’s] part of that. It’s not all him, but I really liked what he was doing, but it was kind of a tough day at the office for everybody.”
Tannehill needs help. He hasn’t proven to be a quarterback who can consistently rise up when everything around him crumbles, as has been the case this young season.
But pass protection has always been an issue for Tannehill, and yet, he still was able to complete 66.4 percent of his passes in 2014. Not so thus far in 2015; his completion percentage is back down to 61, which is his career average.
146 Times Ryan Tannehill has been sacked in 51 career NFL games.
Still, Tannehill’s play through three weeks seems to be more of a symptom of what ails the Dolphins, and not the cause.
They are not built to play from behind. The supposed strength of the defense — the pass rush — has never really got going. That’s due, in part, to opponents not having to play much catch-up, in either the down-and-distance or the scoreboard.
Opposing teams have scored on their first possession in each of the first three games.
And they have done a great job containing Miami’s best player. The Bills on Sunday threw double- and even triple-teams at Ndamukong Suh, who is still looking for his first sack with his new team.
“Teams don’t want us to get sacks and I commend them for that,” Suh said. “We have to go out there and will ourselves to sacks. Nobody is going to give them to us. I’ve never known a team that wants to give away sacks and still win games.”
Perhaps the answer is putting Suh on the move.
For the vast majority of snaps this season, Suh has lined up at left defensive tackle, perhaps making it easier for offenses to game-plan for him. But on Wednesday, Suh expressed an openness to doing more.
“I’ve always prided myself on playing all four positions on the defensive line,” Suh said. “I want to be able to understand them and at the same time be able to execute them and be productive in all of them.”
He added: “Wherever I’m at on the field, I’m fine with making plays wherever I’m slotted, whether that is three-technique, two-high, shade, whatever it is, I’m happy with where I’m at. Go from there and make plays.”
The NFL is an adjustment league — from game to game, and even drive to drive. And on both sides of the ball, no one would argue that things would change.
But where Suh would quibble with most: That this game, more than any of the three that preceded it, is a must-win.
“I don’t know,” Suh said. “Every single game in the league is a must-win. To say that Sunday is the only game that’s a must-win would be incorrect.”
▪ Defensive end Cameron Wake, who has been slowed by a hamstring, practiced Wednesday with no issues.