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After four years as a ground and pound offense, the Miami Dolphins have transitioned into a west coast offense looking to spread the ball around, using first round draft pick Ryan Tannehill's right arm as the basis for the offense. The offense has shunned the traditional huddle this season, leading the league in no huddle percentage this season, despite Tannehill being a rookie.
The Miami Dolphins head into their bye week with a 3&3 record and a share of the AFC East lead. The team has transitioned from a power running team last year into a west coast offense this year, lead by rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill, however, is running the offense unlike any rookie before him.
SI.com's Peter King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback that the Dolphins are currently leading the NFL in use of the no-huddle offense. The team, according to King and STATS, Inc., ran the no-huddle on 58.9% of their snaps through Week 5 of the season. And, King goes on to explain, the Dolphins are highly effective in it, averaging nearly a yard more per play on no-huddle plays than when they do huddle.
King goes on to use fellow rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to emphasize his point. Luck ran 13 no-huddle plays in the Indianapolis Colts' Week 5 win over the Green Bay Packers. King writes that Colts coach Bruce Arians explained that running no-huddle plays at that rate is something Peyton Manning did not do until this third or fourth year in the league.
All preseason, the talk around Dolphins camp was the tempo of practice. The offense was looking to get to the line of scrimmage fast and run around 90 offensive plays a game. While the team is still rushing to the line of scrimmage, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman explained during his press conference Monday that wearing out the defense is not the main focus right now.
"It's not tempo because we're not snapping the ball as fast as I would like at this point," Sherman explained. "It's more his ability to see what the defense is deploying and get us into the right protection or the right check. He's not threatened by the clock as much as if he were in the huddle. You'd probably have to take eight to ten seconds off the clock, so he's snapping the ball at about ten seconds, maybe sometimes eight. Sometimes even lower than that. His ability to be able to make some schematic decisions to put us in the best situation possible is enhanced by us being at the line of scrimmage sooner."
The Dolphins are looking to get Tannehill to the line of scrimmage and let him have time remaining on the play clock to survey the defense. From there, Tannehill can audible and send signals so the entire offense knows what he is seeing, and what he wants them to do.
"I think we get to the line quicker obviously and then we are able to assess the defense and get ourselves into a good play," Tannehill told the media yesterday.
"We huddle occasionally if I need to say anything," Tannehill continued. "I'm still talking to my linemen and my backs every play, so if I need to say something to them I can say it. I talk to the receivers a lot on the sideline and we are in constant communication throughout the game. We run these same plays no huddle in practice, so we're used to not being able to say, ‘do this on this play.' It's just kind of understood that we're on the same page."
Left guard Richie Incognito explained the offense's scheme to the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin this week. "Usually after a play you run down field, and you got to get everybody up and huddle up, you're wasting a lot of time," Incognito said. "Now we just find the ball, get set and we have all our communication and code right on the line."
"He's amazing back there," Incognito continued, talking about Tannehill. "He sees exactly what they're trying to do, and he gets us to exactly what we need to do to exploit them."
Tannehill, meanwhile, told the media at his press conference that Sherman also had Texas A&M, where Tannehill was the quarterback and Sherman was the head coach, working on no-huddle plays there as well. "[F]or the most part. We have a lot new stuff here that we didn't have at A&M. A lot of the terminology is slightly changed, but the same principal."
Star running back Reggie Bush also weighed in on the no huddle offense during his turn with the media on Tuesday. "I think he's doing a great job at it," Bush said of Tannehill's ability at running the no-huddle. "When we get into a rhythm in our no huddle offense, it's a little hard for defenses to stop. It's just about getting into that rhythm.
"I think our no huddle and our tempo is key for us. Especially when we're playing all these different exotic looks we are getting from these defenses. That's definitely something we want to focus on throughout the season is our tempo."
Bush was asked what upsets the rhythm in the no-huddle. "I think it's incompletions, penalties, those things throw it off, so obviously those are things we want to avoid. I think you saw in the last game where we had a little string of penalties we kept getting backed up and those are the types of things that hurt the no huddle offense, so those are the types of things we want to stay away from. Obviously penalties hurt you regardless, whether you are running no huddle or not. It really hurts a no huddle offense."
Of course, rookie head coach Joe Philbin was also asked about the team's use of the no-huddle, and in leading the league in it's use so far this season. "Well, I think he's got familiarity with it obviously," Philbin said, referring to Tannehill. "He's used to it. He'd probably be the better one to ask to be quite honest with you. A, I was not aware of that statistic and I think, again, we're trying to get some first downs and score some points. It's a system he's familiar with. I don't think it's been a detriment."
A rookie quarterback being asked to run a no-huddle offense more than half of the offensive snaps is impressive. A rookie quarterback who can run it without it being a "detriment" is incredible.
"In the best sense, again, you're trying to create tempo," Philbin continued, looking at how the no-huddle offense can affect opposing defenses. "Ideally, you're getting a bunch of first downs. You're looking to push the tempo, play fast, wear an opponent down, kind of play faster than they are. Those are really the two most obvious glaring ones. Maybe it's a little harder for them to get their calls in possible."
Bush also looked at the impact of the no-huddle on defenses, relating the effects to Tannehill's handling of the defenses he is facing. "Ryan's done a great job. Honestly he's done an amazing job. Every time I get asked about him I say the same thing, and it's that he is so poised. That's something you usually don't get from a rookie quarterback. His poise is tremendous and is making a huge difference in our offense and our ability to run the no huddle for one, run it successfully and then ID the different exotic looks we're getting from defenses."
However, it's not all positives when you run a no-huddle, fast tempo offense. "You can be on and off the field a lot quicker if we're not careful," receiver Brian Hartline told Volin.
But, the team seems to be handling the offense, and enjoying the change. "It's a lot easier to run a no-huddle offense," Incognito said to Volin. "We really have a feel for what the defense wants to do before they even get lined up. It really forces them to show their hand. I've never played in a no-huddle offense, but I really like this."
As King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback,it may be time to stop calling the rookie quarterbacks "rookies." And Tannehill may be leading that charge. "Sometimes we're in the middle of history and don't realize what we're seeing," King concluded. "But there's a new era of quarterback play, and it's trending much younger and happening before our eyes today."
The Dolphins have a bye this week before heading to New Jersey to face the New York Jets on October 28.