Setting the Stage
Ryan Tannehill grew up in west Texas playing high school football and basketball and running track. He played defensive back as a sophomore before switching to quarterback. In two seasons, he threw for 7,768 yards and ran for 1,519 yards. He also played some wide receiver and punted. In track, he participated in jumping and running hurdles. His best performances can in the triple jump and the 300-meter hurdles. He was lightly recruited after high school, being ranked as a three-star dual threat quarterback by both Rivals.com and 247Sports. He accepted a scholarship to attend Texas A&M.
Tannehill red-shirted his first season and then finished third in the quarterback completion as a second-year freshman and was moved to wide receiver. His position was successful as he had 844 receiving yards. He still wanted to play quarterback, but again lost out and moved back to wide receiver where he led the Aggies with 46 receptions for 609 yards and 4 TDs. It was not until mid-way though his junior season when he finally got the opportunity to play significant downs at quarterback. His success helped his team to be ranked in the top 25 and he earned Big 12 Honorable Mention honors, despite playing for only half the year. Finally, as a senior, he started all 13 games and served as Team Captain. He passed for 3,744 yards and 29 TDs and also ran for 306 yards and scored 4 TDs.
Tannehill’s draft stock rose quickly even though he had little experience playing quarterback at Texas A&M. His athleticism and potential was the primary factor. In a draft with lots of solid quarterback prospects, he was the third one taken at 8th overall after Andrew Luck 1st and Robert Griffin III 2nd. Brandon Weeden was the 4th one drafted in the first round. Brock Osweiler in the second round and Russell Wilson in the 3rd round give the 2015 NFL Draft quite a talented group of quarterbacks.
Tannehill’s selection by Miami should not have been a surprise as his college head coach, Mike Sherman left Texas A&M at the same time and became the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator. Sherman felt like Tannehill was a perfect fit for the offensive game plan and even though he lacked experience, he was familiar with Sherman’s offense.
In his first four seasons with the Dolphins, Tannehill has never missed a game and continues to show improvement. His completion percentage has generally increased from 58.3% as a rookie to low to mid 60s the past two seasons. His yards per attempt dipped a little in his second year, but it too has been gradually rising to 7.17 ypa last year. His touchdown to interception rate was terrible as a rookie, but has also improved.
Tannehill’s play though improving still has concerns in a few areas. Even though athletic and a threat to scramble, he gets sacked a lot, 184 times in his career and has averaged 9.3 fumbles per year as a result. Tannehills’ deep throw accuracy has long been questioned, beginning with Mike Wallace’s time in Miami. Cian Fehey wrote “The Mike Wallace Effect, Deep Ball Accuracy and Ryan Tannehill” and charted all quarterbacks with at least 250 passing attempts on their accuracy on passes thrown at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Tannehill tied for 4th most accurate, with only Roethlisberger, Luck and Newton being ranked ahead. It is an interesting article and features several videos, but still believe that Tannehill lacks deep ball accuracy.
Looking Forward to 2016
The Dolphins have a much improved offensive line from a year ago. Footballguys.com ranks them as 16th best in the pre-season, up from 30th at the end of 2015. They drafted Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss at 13th overall. Prior to the draft, there was some discussion that Tunsil might go 1st overall, but fell much farther than anticipated primarily due to the gas mask photos. The Dolphins also return several solid starters from a year ago, so their depth should be much improved.
Their wide receivers should be the best they have had in several years. Devante Parker, drafted 14th overall last season started slowly due to injury, but had 22 catches for 445 yards (20.2 ypc) and 3 TDs in their final 6 games. Jarvis Landry has been a ppr dynamo, catching 195 passes over his first two years in the NFL. Kenny Stills returns as a solid depth player and the team added Leonte Carroo in the 3rd round this year. Jordan Cameron only caught 35 passes in his first year in Miami, but caught 80 passes for 917 yards and 7 TDs in Cleveland in 2013. The offensive coaching changes could again make Cameron relevant.
Miami allowed Lamar Miller to leave in free agency and looks to be counting on Jay Ajayi drafted in round 5 a year ago to make more of an impact in his second season. Ajayi only played in 9 games last year averaging only 3.9 ypc on 49 carries. Damien Williams and rookie Kenyan Drake provide depth at running back.
The biggest offensive change for Miami was the hiring of Head Coach Adam Gase, who has already stated that he will be call the offensive plays. Gase hired Clyde Christensen has been Andrew Luck’s quarterback coach the past four years. The offensive game plan will likely lean heavily on the passing game and should be another NFL team that looks to increase the pace on offense.
• Tannehill has shown steady improvement and has best receiving corps of his career
• New head coach with excellent offensive history
• The offensive line should be improved
• The running game is unproven
• Tannehill has never thrown over 27 TD passes in a season
• Miami has a daunting schedule including games at Seattle, Cincinnati, San Diego and Los Angeles (three west coast trips)
• The AFC East has solid defenses across the board
Tannehill has ranked as QB14, QB9, and QB15 in the past three seasons in Footballguys.com scoring. He has a lot of positives for 2016 including a new coach with an anticipated better offense and excellent receivers. The Dolphins running game has not been strong the past few seasons and they have limited experience going into 2016. Despite these many positives, Tannehill’s current ADP of QB21 and 141 overall is surprisingly low. Spending a rather late round pick on him looks to be a guaranteed bargain.
Chris Burke of si.com “Quarterbacks with the most to prove in 2016: Miami’s Ryan Tannehill”
… Adam Gase’s arrival in Miami marks a fork in the road of Tannehill’s career. If the Dolphins' new head coach, who helped turn Tim Tebow into a playoff-winning QB in Denver and then revitalized Jay Cutler in 2015 as Chicago’s offensive coordinator, cannot elevate Tannehill from that frustrating middle ground to an upper-echelon starter, then perhaps it cannot be done at all.
Miami has yet to top .500 with Tannehill and has made the playoffs just once in the past 13 seasons, so patience for its QB likely won’t last too long. And as Tannehill heads into his fifth year as the starter, with a substantial pay increase on the horizon, he has minimal chances remaining to show he can be anything more than an average NFL quarterback.
Jason Wood in his Footballguys.com player comments – I’m intrigued by what Adam Gase can do with the Dolphins offense. Given the lack of a great running back corps, I expect Tannehill to get plenty of chances to air the ball out 40+ times per game. Let’s not forget Tannehill is one season removed from a top 6 finish. Gase can get him back to QB1 value.
James Walker on ESPN.com Will Dolphins' offense improve on third down and in red zone?
The Miami Dolphins’ offense on third down and inside the red zone last season often was an exercise in futility. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL in third-down conversions and 27th in scoring at just 19.4 points per game. The combination was a major factor in the team’s disappointing 6-10 finish.
The Dolphins plan to move the ball quickly and get more snaps per game. That puts pressure on defenses, but it also requires Miami’s offense to be successful on third down to keep its defense off the field for extended periods of time. Last year the Dolphins converted on just 30.7 percent of third downs. Only the San Francisco 49ers (30.5 percent) and Los Angeles Rams (25.9 percent) were worse.