Tactical Tuesday: Tannehill Handling the Pressure

After starting the season 1-3, including consecutive ’should have been wins’ against New York and Arizona, the Miami Dolphins avoided disaster by winning two in a row against Cincinnati and St. Louis.  Although the Dolphins defense is the main reason the team finds itself with the chance to win most games, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been impressive, while seemingly improving each week.

It is common to hear that the largest obstacle for a rookie quarterback is to adjust to the ’speed of the game’.  Picking up blitzes and reading coverages against NFL athletes takes some getting used to and dealing with some growing pains is a part of that process (Andrew Luck vs. Jets for a recent example).

Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine might want to hold back on the blitzes when they face the Dolphins on Sunday.

But it seems the opposite is true for Tannehill, who seems to have success when the quickest of decisions are being made under pressure.

Here are notes for Tannehill against the blitz.

Week 7: BYE.

Week 6: 17-14 Win vs. St. Louis Rams

According to Ben Volin who writes for The Palm Beach Post, on downs where the Rams sent at least five pass rushers, Tannehill completed 11-13 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.  Through Week 6, Tannehill leads the NFL in yards thrown against at least five pass rushers with 828.

ProFootballFocus confirms Tannehill’s success, stating Tannehill’s quarterback rating was 130.6 during the 14 plays where the Rams blitzed, totaling for 104 yards and a touchdown on 10-12 passing.

Week 5: 17-13 Win vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals only blitzed on 9 passing plays, but Tannehill didn’t turn the ball over and picked up a road win.  Out of his 17 completions during the game, seven different receivers caught a pass after concerns that Tannehill had been locking on to wide receiver Brian Hartline too often.

Week 4: 24-21 Loss vs. Arizona Cardinals

Again using information recorded by Volin, the Cardinals sent at least five pass rushers on 25 of 44 passing plays.  Tannehill picked it apart, completing 16-25 for 306 yards and a touchdown.  According to Volin who credited ESPN STATS Inc., this was most yards against the blitz by any quarterback over the past five seasons.

Week 3: 23-30 Loss vs. New York Jets

We all watched the game and know what happened.  Tannehill took advantage of Rex Ryan’s defense after losing Darrelle Revis and dropped a ball into a window in overtime that nine times out of 10 would’ve given the Dolphins a comeback victory.  Tannehill did throw an interception for a touchdown to LaRon Landry in the beginning of the second half, but most viewers had to be impressed with how Tannehill took advantage of the secondary when the loss of Revis created an opening.  Miami’s kicker Dan Carpenter was the Jets best defender.

Week 2: 35-13 Win vs. Oakland Raiders

According to Armando Salguero from the Miami Herald, Tannehill was blitzed 13 times during the demolition of the Raiders and his numbers were pedestrian.  Overall he was 8-13 against the blitz, but the encouraging statistic was completing 5-6 against the blitz in the second half, which shows early signs of being able to adjust mid-game.

Week 1: 30-10 Loss vs. Houston Texans

Tannehill didn’t have a pretty start to his NFL career, throwing three interceptions in a loss against one of the league’s best defenses.  Tannehill had trouble moving on to his second and third options on passing plays and was caught locking on to his primary target.

From Week 1 to Week 6, there has been steady improvement from the rookie quarterback.  He has taken his lumps early, but is seemingly learning from each negative experience.  Week 8 against the Jets will be an interesting matchup as first and foremost, these teams have played once already.  Secondly, Ryan is known for his defensive schemes and blitzes, which might not be the way to attack the Dolphins franchise quarterback.  The game plans from the two games will be different from a Jets defensive perspective, as the team is fully adjusted to life without Revis.

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