Barry Jackson

Does Tannehill do worse than most when facing a pass rush? Here’s what the metrics say

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill says things ‘unraveled quickly’ in their defeat to the Vikings

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said things "unraveled quickly" in their defeat to the Vikings
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said things "unraveled quickly" in their defeat to the Vikings

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a day Miami placed Frank Gore on injured reserve with a sprained foot:

Like most quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill isn’t at his best when he faces an intense pass rush. But Sunday against Minnesota was about as bad as it could get.

In addition to being sacked nine times, Tannehill was awful when he got the ball off against pressure.

Per Pro Football Focus, Tannehill completed just 2-of-10 passes for 17 yards when facing pressure.

So is this reflective of how Tannehill plays under pressure?

Not entirely, but somewhat.

Tannehill has been decent against pressure this season except for the Bengals game and the Vikings games. And those can’t be dismissed because they were two key losses.

Overall against pressure this season, he has a 79.4 passer rating, which is eighth best among starting quarterbacks. He’s 28 for 62 for 390 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions and 28 sacks taken.

But Tannehill was dismal against pressure in 2016, with a 49.1 passer rating that ranked 26th among NFL starters. In the 13 games he played that season, he completed 71 of 133 passes for 840 yards with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions when facing pressure, under criteria used by PFF. He took 29 sacks.

So here are Tannehill’s total numbers under Adam Gase when facing pressure 99 for 195, 1230 yards, eight touchdowns, 12 picks, 57 sacks taken and a 58.7 rating. Not good.

For perspective, that 58.7 passer rating when facing pressure would rank 23rd this season among all quarterbacks who have started at least half their team’s games. So yes, Tannehill is below average in that area. And it’s not good to be below average in that area on a team that has yielded the fifth-most sacks in the league.

So is Tannehill simply holding onto the ball too long? On his sacks, Tannehill has held onto the ball 3.11 seconds, which is 15th in the league. The top two in the league in that category: San Francisco’s Nick Mullen (holds onto the ball 2.79 seconds) and the Saints’ Drew Brees (2.81). The worst are Joe Flacco (4.1) and Jameis Winston (4.08).

What this stat doesn’t measure is pocket presence, where Tannehill is sometimes lacking. And it doesn’t measure the fact that on one of the nine sacks Sunday, he missed a hot read that would have gotten the ball out before he was sacked.

Meanwhile, Tannehill has been sacked on 30.1 percent of the times that he has been pressured this season, the highest-rate for any QB in the league.

The Dolphins have been outgained by 1,402 yards, or by 107 per game, which is the second-worst margin of any team in the league, behind only 3-11 Arizona. So in some ways, it’s remarkable their record is as good as 7-7.

Only the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers have been outgained by 90-plus yards per game and finished over .500, according to CBS.

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Reshad Jones suggested he’s less effective because the Dolphins are using him at free safety after spending his first eight seasons at strong safety, where he can play in the box more, working to his strengths. And the metrics bear that out.

“They have me in a different role, like they are trying to cut my numbers back or whatever,” he said.

Jones, who traditionally rated highly among safeties against the run, ranks just 55th overall again the run this season, per Pro Football

Focus. He also rates 55th overall among 85 qualifying safeties.

In coverage, he has allowed 18 of 25 targets to be caught for 271 yards, which equates to a 87.3 passer rating against, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Conversely, T.J. McDonald, who is being used at strong safety, has a 101.1 passer rating in his coverage area, with 27 completions in 36 targets for 375 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. So Jones has been more effective in coverage than McDonald.

Even after leading the league in rushing over the final five games last season, Kenyan Drake is now averaging only 7.3 carries per game and had just one Sunday even with Gore’s injury.

He has fewer carries for the season (103) than Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has started five games but already had 114 rushing attempts.

Drake and injured Frank Gore are both averaging 4.6 per carry — tied for 26th in the league. Gore had 156 carries before his foot injury.

Last season, Drake averaged a robust 4.9 yards per carry in games in which he ran the ball at least 10 times. So he can clearly handle a bigger workload, even though Gase worries about Drake putting Miami in a bad spot by losing yards on some runs or having a mental breakdown.

Drake has far more receptions than Gore (44 to 12) but he’s being underutilized as a runner. That’s among the most puzzling personnel usage decisions of this season.

Smart move by the Dolphins to give a two-week look at Kendrick Norton, who some thought would be a mid-round pick before he fell to the seventh round in April’s draft. If the Dolphins like what they see, they could sign him to a futures contract and keep him around next offseason. The Dolphins poached Norton off Carolina’s practice squad on Tuesday.

One thing Chris Grier and this front office have done well is identify defensive tackles who fall in the draft — with Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor at the top of the list.

To refresh, here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said about Norton before the draft:

“Norton is a run-plugging nose tackle with the potential to fit in either odd or even fronts. He has the size and strength to beat single blocks and hang in against double teams, but won’t offer much help as a pocket-pusher against the pass. He doesn’t offer special physical traits so it is unlikely he will get over-drafted, but he has a specific value and should continue to improve as a run defender with more coaching and improved technique.”

As a junior last season, He started 23 games and had 26 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and two sacks. Norton made a name for himself as a third-team all-conference selection the previous season, starting all 13 games, closing with 39 tackles, 10 for loss, and two sacks.

He didn’t play a game for Carolina this season.

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Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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