With a rookie quarterback, the Dolphins expected opposing defenses to blitz more often than not. And they have.
Ryan Tannehill seems to be working his way through it.
Tannehill, the eighth overall selection out of Texas A&M, had more than a working knowledge of the Dolphins’ offense as he picked up where he left off with the Aggies. Former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is Miami’s offensive coordinator.
“[Defensive] coordinators are going to want to pressure the quarterback because they want to see if he can handle the pressure,” running back Reggie Bush said. “That’s something you kind of already know. It’s just built in for rookie quarterbacks, and you know they’re probably going to stack the box if you’ve got a pretty solid running game. Those are all things that we’ve been seeing, but, at the same time, I think Ryan has handled it amazing and he’s done a great job with it.”
In early games this season, it looked like Tannehill was locking in on one receiver when teams loaded up on the line. Brian Hartline caught 25 passes for 453 yards to lead the NFL through Miami’s first four games.
Against Arizona alone, Hartline caught a franchise-record 12 passes for 253 yards. It looks like teams are upping their coverage against him as he has been held to four catches in the two games since.
“Brian is a great player, and I think we’ve seen a little more attention over towards his side,” Tannehill said. “I think he’s still done a good job of getting open. This last game, for whatever reason, going into the game we were planning on getting him the ball, and it wasn’t like they were taking him out of the game. For whatever reason, we didn’t get him the ball enough. I think we’re looking forward to going back this week and opening it up to both sides and getting the ball in the air a little bit more.”
With Hartline taken out of the game plan a bit, Tannehill has spread things out more.
Davone Bess, Miami’s second-leading receiver this year, led Miami with six catches in last Sunday’s win over the Rams. Hartline was held without a reception.
As Hartline was being shut out, the little-used Marlon Moore caught a 29-yard touchdown pass when St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins barely paid any attention as Moore went flying by toward the end zone. Moore was all alone when he caught Tannehill’s pass in the corner.
“It definitely felt good to contribute, get into the end zone,” said Moore, a special-teams ace who has caught all three of his passes this season against the Rams. “Last year, I didn’t get any catches, didn’t get any looks. It was a good thing to help us win. I couldn’t believe I was that wide open. That could be the worst thing for a receiver. It’s nerve-racking, You have too much time to think.”
In the third quarter, Tannehill found tight end Anthony Fasano for Miami’s second score of the day. In the past two weeks, Tannehill has seen his completion percentage — as well as his passer rating — rise as he has worked the ball around.
“I think it’s just being more comfortable,” Tannehill said. “Not rushing, not worrying about small things that are happening in the pocket, seeing the big picture and knowing exactly what’s going on. It’s not like I’ve changed my motion or done anything like that. It’s just being more comfortable, being on the same page with receivers coming out of the breaks and things of that sort.”
And Tannehill might have another weapon to throw to against the Jets because Jabar Gaffney could make his Miami debut. Gaffney, cut by the Patriots after training camp, has been inactive for the first two games since signing with Miami.
Coach Joe Philbin said the Dolphins will know a little more about Gaffney after next week’s practices but added that Gaffney is “a gamer” and isn’t far from getting into the lineup.
The Dolphins could certainly use some help — their offense is ranked 22nd in the league.
“I think it’s the more weapons that we have, the better we’re going to be offensively,” said Philbin, whose team is 19th in the league in scoring. “We haven’t been super productive.
“I think we’ve scored, what, 17 points the last two weeks? We’ve won two games. Common sense would tell you in this league you probably need to start scoring some more points to keep winning consistently. That’s not an indictment of our offense. Those are just facts. The more weapons we can have, the better.”