Tan­nehill re­turns among NFL’s worst in two key ar­eas

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Sports - BY BARRY JACK­SON bjack­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

When Ryan Tan­nehill re­turns to the Dol­phins’ lineup on Sun­day af­ter miss­ing five games with a shoul­der in­jury, he es­sen­tially has six games to con­vince the Dol­phins to keep him next sea­son and pay him $19.2 mil­lion with a $26.6 mil­lion 2019 cap hit.

The other al­ter­na­tives: Ei­ther ask him to take a pay cut or cut him, pay him noth­ing and carry a

$7.9 mil­lion dead money cap hit in 2019 (with a postJune 1 re­lease des­ig­na­tion) and a $5.6 mil­lion dead money cap hit in 2020.

And this much is clear: The Dol­phins need to see a bet­ter Tan­nehill to con­vince them to keep him.

Tan­nehill ranks av­er­age to be­low-av­er­age in key sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gories this sea­son that can be mea­sured while tak­ing into the ac­count the fact he has missed five games. He’s 20th in av­er­age passer rat­ing (92.9) and 16th in com­ple­tion per­cent­age (65.9).

But here’s what’s more trou­ble­some: Tan­nehill ranks at or very close to the bot­tom in two key cat­e­gories where he has been well be­low av­er­age for most of his ca­reer: fourthquar­ter per­for­mance and third downs.

Let’s take a close look at both:

Fourth-quar­ter play:

A

Among 25 qual­i­fy­ing quar­ter­backs from the time Tan­nehill came into the league in 2012, his 79.6 passer rat­ing in the fi­nal 15 min­utes of games ranked 23rd of 25 at the time of his shoul­der in­jury, ahead of only Ryan Fitz­patrick and Blake Bor­tles.

Over his ca­reer, his 57.5 per­cent com­ple­tion per­cent­age in the fourth quar­ter is worst among those

25, ac­cord­ing to An­thony Fras­cone of 3oh5s­ports.com.

There have been a few ster­ling fourth-quar­ter mo­ments — in­clud­ing the come­back vic­tory in 2016 at the Rams, but not nearly enough.

What’s more, Tan­nehill has been even worse than usual in the fourth quar­ter this year, with a 65.4 passer rat­ing — ahead of only two starters, rook­ies Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. By con­trast, 17 quar­ter­backs have a fourth-quar­ter passer rat­ing above 100 this sea­son, led by Drew Brees’ 133.8.

And Tan­nehill’s 9.4 fourth-quar­ter in­ter­cep­tion rate and 53.1 com­ple­tion per­cent­age (17 for 32) are worst among cur­rent NFL starters this sea­son.

Yes, it’s only five games. But it’s re­flec­tive on his whole ca­reer, where he does some of his worst work in the fi­nal 15 min­utes. That sim­ply can­not con­tinue.

Third-down per­formA ance: In his ca­reer, only 36 per­cent of Tan­nehill’s third-down pass­ing at­tempts re­sulted in first downs, among the worst for quar­ter­backs who have been starters the past few years. This year, Tan­nehill is even worse than nor­mal at 29.7 per­cent.

And there’s this: For his ca­reer, Tan­nehill has a 75 passer rat­ing on third down, 12 points be­low his ca­reer av­er­age passer rat­ing. And this year, Tan­nehill’s 57.4 third-down passer rat­ing is worst among cur­rent starters, with Brees (121.3) more than dou­bling that num­ber.

On third-and-long, need­ing be­tween 11 yards and 15 yards, Mi­ami has got­ten a first down only 12 per­cent of the time with Tan­nehill un­der cen­ter, worst among mul­ti­year start­ing quar­ter­backs since 2012, per Fras­cone.

This year, on third-and- any­where from 8 to 15, only one of Tan­nehill’s 12 throws re­sulted in first downs, that 8.3 per­cent con­ver­sion rate tied with Cam New­ton for worst at the time of Tan­nehill’s in­jury.

Now let’s be clear: This last stat can­not be blamed en­tirely on Tan­nehill, be­cause coach Adam Gase calls a lot of third-and-long pass­ing plays that are short of the third-down yard marker. Mi­ami’s of­fen­sive line also de­serves a share of the blame.

But if Tan­nehill wants to con­vince the Dol­phins he’s worth the pu­ni­tive

$26.6 mil­lion cap hit next year, im­prov­ing ap­pre­cia­bly in those two cat­e­gories — along with win­ning — would be a good place to start.

One area where Tan­nehill has im­proved is deep- ball pass­ing, where he was top 10 in the league’s met­rics be­fore his in­jury. “We missed that part of our game,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dow­ell Log­gains said.

CHAT­TER

The Dol­phins are run

A ning low on Pro Bowl can­di­dates, but three who could make a case: Left tackle Laremy Tun­sil, who hasn’t al­lowed a sack this sea­son; line­backer Kiko Alonso, who is third in the league with 89 tack­les, with three forced fum­bles and three in­ter­cep­tions but has of­ten been vic­tim­ized in pass cov­er­age; and kicker Ja­son San­ders, third in league in field-goal ac­cu­racy (15 for 16, 93.8 per­cent). Cor­ner­back Xavien Howard was good early but has al­lowed four TD catches to go with three in­ter­cep­tions. Minkah Fitz­patrick can make a case, too.

A Why are the Dol­phins play­ing Nick O’Leary and A.J. Derby more than Mike Gesicki at tight end? Three rea­sons: O’Leary “does ev­ery­thing well,” Log­gains said; be­cause Gesicki’s block­ing re­mains a short­com­ing and be­cause “A.J. has more short-area quick­ness, the savvi­ness in zones [as a re­ceiver],” Log­gains said. “Mike is bet­ter when you get him on the move run­ning away from peo­ple.”

The Dol­phins re­ally do A need to con­sider giv­ing Vin­cent Tay­lor more play­ing time when he re­turns next year from an Oct. 25 foot in­jury that ended his sea­son. Tay­lor has made a tackle ev­ery

8.6 snaps since he came into the league in 2017 — the sec­ond best rate by an NFL de­fen­sive tackle in that pe­riod (min­i­mum 200 snaps).

A Among draft-el­i­gi­ble UM play­ers, ESPN’s Mel Kiper rates Gerald Wil­lis 10th among de­fen­sive tack­les, Shaquille Quar­ter­man fifth among in­side lineback­ers, Joe Jack­son sixth among out­side lineback­ers (he’s re­ally a de­fen­sive end) and Jaquan John­son 10th among safeties. The Canes have no sure-fire, first-round pick.

Big dis­ap­point­ment for A

UM hoops to lose out on Fort Laud­erdale Univer­sity School cen­ter Vernon Carey Jr., rated the No. 1 Class of 2019 bas­ket­ball prospect by Ri­vals. He elim­i­nated UM from con­sid­er­a­tion and nar­rowed his fi­nal­ists to Duke, North Carolina and Michi­gan State.

Though the Heat has

A been men­tioned as a pos­si­bil­ity for Carmelo An­thony (and can­not be dis­counted), the Heat’s meet­ing with him this sum­mer came about be­cause An­thony re­quested it, not be­cause the Heat was ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing him. There are some Heat bas­ket­ball peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­ily like the fit, es­pe­cially with Mi­ami’s em­pha­sis on de­fense.

AL DIAZ [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

As Ryan Tan­nehill re­turns to the lineup, he need to im­prove in third-down sit­u­a­tions and in fourth quar­ters.

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