So here’s the list of quarterbacks you’d expect to have more rushing yards than Ryan Tannehill this year:
Cam Newton. Russell Wilson. Tyrod Taylor. And Colin Kaepernick.
Now here’s a list of quarterbacks you wouldn’t:
Jay Cutler. Andy Dalton. Matt Cassel. And most amazingly, Eli Manning.
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Not one of the second group ran 40-yard dashes faster than 4.75 during the draft process. That’s a polite way to say they’re slower than a dial-up modem.
Tannehill, meanwhile, was a collegiate wide receiver for a big-time program and projected as a dangerously mobile quarterback.
And yet, Cutler, Dalton, Cassel and Manning all have had more success on the ground than Tannehill, who ranks 24th among NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards — a staggering stat, considering he was the team’s second-leading rusher a year ago.
Tannehill has 44 yards on 17 carries this season. He’s on pace to set career lows in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing average.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Tannehill this week acknowledged that he “would like to” run the ball more.
Receiver Rishard Matthews feels the same way.
“He has speed,” Matthews said. “He has to be smart too when he runs and know how to slide and get out of bounds and things like that. [But] I’d like to see him run more too.”
And the most important opinion — Dan Campbell’s — is the same.
“That’s certainly still in our package,” the Dolphins’ interim head coach said. “Would we like to run him more? Yeah.”
Why? The Dolphins can control the number of defenders blocked by running their quarterback, Campbell explained. When Tannehill keeps the ball, it frees up another player to block. It was the same thinking behind the Wildcat.
They had great success a year ago with Tannehill keeping the ball on the read option. This year? They’ve hardly tried it.
Perhaps this week — with the Cowboys and their average run defense coming to town — is when it changes.
The Dolphins could use the lift.
“We somewhat hit a brick wall last week,” Campbell said, speaking about the Dolphins’ effort on the ground against the Eagles. “We averaged 3.8 per carry, and that’s not good enough. We need to be averaging a minimum of four.”
Deciding when and how often to run a quarterback is always a tricky proposition. Coaches weigh the reward (a big play) against the risk (potential for injury).
That’s doubly true for Tannehill, who has been at or near the top of the league in sacks taken every year of his career. Tannehill has been sacked 27 times in 2015, fifth-most in football.
But as Matthews noted, quarterbacks can protect themselves as ball-carriers, and you can count on one hand the number of times Tannehill has gotten drilled as a ball-carrier.
Still, Dolphins coaches insist the lack of production this year is not from a lack of trying — at least completely.
“Some of it is our decision. Some of it is the decision of the defenses we’re playing. … Sometimes we’ve called runs that are just designed runs that are not read but the look is wrong, we don’t wan’t him running into a bad look and we’ve gotten out of it.”
“… [And] sometimes when we do read defenders, whether it’s the end or the linebacker, it turns out the look they’ve given has been for him to hand the ball.”
Campbell added: “There’s some teams that we’ve played that you could tell, that’s what they were going to do. ‘Make sure we don’t get hurt by Tannehill’s legs.’ ”
A worry, for sure, that doesn’t even make the list when defensive coordinators game-plan for Eli Manning.