Tannehill returns among NFL’s worst in two key areas
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:
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.
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.
As Ryan Tannehill returns to the lineup, he need to improve in third-down situations and in fourth quarters.