Though there’s obviously no final decision, the Dolphins, at this point, expect to keep Ryan Tannehill next season. But here’s something that must change: His play within the division.
Tannehill’s AFC East record through 25 games? An unacceptable 8-17.
His passer ratings: a dismal 70.6 against the Jets, 75.6 against the Bills, 81.9 against the Patriots.
Against the AFC East, he has 32 touchdowns, 27 picks and a 76 career rating.
Against the rest of the league, his rating is close to 90, with 61 touchdowns and 34 picks.
You know how many times the Dolphins have topped 20 points in 25 AFC East games in the Tannehill era?
Eight, and he missed most of one of those seven (a 30-9 win against the Jets). So it’s essentially 7 of 24.
More glaring: The Dolphins’ offense couldn’t top 20 points in any of six games against the AFC East last year.
This season, they scored 24 points against the Patriots Sept. 18 because of a furious late rally after faltering throughout the first half.
Of his last 15 games inside the division (during which Miami has been outscored 407-241), Tannehill has had only three good games, three decent ones and nine bad games; his passer rating has been below 80 (usually well below) in eight of them.
Obviously, blame extends well beyond Tannehill, with the defense and offensive line also at fault. Tannehill was sacked 75 times in those 25 AFC East games, and that point shouldn’t be overlooked.
The good news: Tannehill has played well in his last two AFC East games, against the Patriots. And Tannehill, given time to throw, was terrific against Pittsburgh.
If Sam Bradford keeps winning in Minnesota, Tannehill could find himself with an ignominious distinction by the end of the season.
Of the quarterbacks with the NFL’s 20 biggest contracts, Tannehill and Bradford are the only ones who have had neither a winning season nor led his team to the playoffs.
CBS’ Phil Simms made an excellent point on Tannehill in an offseason chat with WQAM’s Joe Rose, a point that still holds true today.
Simms mentioned Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and other top quarterbacks and said: “When those guys walk through the locker-room, there is something that happens. They know he's the man. They admire him but they're a little afraid of him, too. [Tannehill] needs enough success to take over the football team. It is important because practice always carries over to the game. That's the next step for him.”
• Some good news on Tannehill: His deep ball has gone from a weakness to a strength. He’s 7 for 17 on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air this season, that 41.2 percentage ranking 10th among quarterbacks (minimum 10 throws).
On passes thrown at least 30 yards in the air, he’s 4 for 8, that 50 percent tied for fourth (minimum five throws). And both numbers would be better if Kenny Stills hadn’t dropped an easy pass.
• What we’re hearing inside the Dolphins building: Coaches absolutely love what Andre Branch did as a new defensive end starter last week. Branch said he was told he will start again on Sunday…One player said tight end Marqueis Gray will end up being the team’s steal of the offseason....
One thing that has helped defensive communication, which had been poor at times, according to linebacker Spencer Paysinger: Linebackers and defensive backs have begun meeting together mid-week to look at tape and describe how they see the same plays. Defensive linemen join them later in the week.
• Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has allowed 5.5 sacks, said the past month has been the most stressful of his football life.
“I still feel I’m a [good right tackle], but you start to question: What’s going on? You have to look deep within yourself.”
James admits the technique changes required from new offensive line coach Chris Foerster have been challenging. He has watched tape of himself at his best to boost his confidence, and he played well against Pittsburgh.
• Walt Aikens, who hasn’t played a defensive snap all season, becomes the No. 3 safety beginning this weekend, in the wake of Reshad Jones’ season-ending injury.
“He has really come a long way since at least we started,” coach Adam Gase said. “He has done a great job. He knows what to do. He's reacting quicker, as far as his breaks go, especially when he's in the middle of the field. But I think him having that special teams background and as vital as he is to us on special teams, he is a good tackler. Hopefully that translates to defense, which everything that we've seen tells us yes. So we feel like we have a good group back there as far as trying to do ... you're never going to match what Reshad (Jones) brought, but just try to get as close as possible."
• Gase, on the state of his offense after six games: "I think from what I thought in training camp and where we are right now, I thought we were ahead of where I had been in the past. And then I think we took a little bit (of a) step back when we had some guys, some influx and DeVante (Parker) missing as much time as he did and then shuffling around the o-line. I think we kind of slid back a little bit.
“That was earlier, those first two or three weeks. I think now we're starting to really come together and guys are really understanding the why of why we do everything. Each game plan is different. We're going to change throughout the year. I think guys have really taken to it. They understand that it's not an easy offense as far as if you don't put in the time outside the building, it makes it tough on yourself. I think the guys have figured it out. Last week was a good example of what we could be as far as the balance using both the run game, pass game, screens - things like that - moving the quarterback. That's really what we want to try to be. Obviously, every week is going to be a little different, but I think we're catching up to where I thought we were going to be."
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