A Drop is In the Eye of the Beholder...But We All Beheld a Ton of Drops

Remember when we drafted Tannehill, and Jeff Ireland said in an interview that Tannehill's stats suffered from 60+ drops from Texas A&M pass catchers?

Despite lacking playmakers on the level of Coby Fleener (Luck), Justin Blackmon (Weeden), and Kendall Wright (RG3), Tannehill still remained a confident, determined quarterback, and that experience in dealing with adversity may come in handy this season given the drop count in the last game.

Omar Kelly: 7 drops with Tannehill at QB (Per his Twitter feed)

Ben Volin: 5 drops with Tannehill at QB (Post-game writeup - Fasano 3, Naanee 1, Clay 1)

Me: 6 drops with Tannehill at QB (see below)

Mike Sherman: "8 drops, maybe more." (per Ben Volin's Twitter, but he was talking about 8+ drops the entire game, including when Moore was in the game.)

Other tidbits from Sherman: He reveals Tannehill will start the fourth pre-season game. He also added when speaking of the WRs, "I think we’ll keep Bess. I can pretty much guarantee that, but there’s only one of him."

Ah, Bess. See, Omar and I also agree that Matt Moore suffered from 3 drops (no word on how many Ben counted), but since the QB battle is over, I won't go over those drops in detail. I bring that up to point out that if these guys can't catch passes from Tannehill and can't catch passes from Moore, it's more likely that the problem is with them than with the QBs.

Bess apparently was the only man on the field capable of catching passes that hit him in the hands.

Now, on another writeup, I mentioned 4 bad passes by Tannehill in pre-season game 2, and someone disputed that by pointing to his many incomplete passes. I countered that the incompletions stemmed from drops, not poor throws.

As it says in the title, drops are in the eye of the beholder, so I figured why not talk about each of Tannehill's incomplete passes, rate them as either:

+1: Good Pass - usually means a drop since we're only looking at incomplete passes

+0: So-so Pass - he missed his target slightly but didn't put the ball in jeopardy

-1: Bad pass - he missed an open target badly or put the ball in jeopardy by throwing at a well-covered receiver and allowing a defensive player to make a play on the ball

In terms of pure stats, Tannehill went 11 of 27 for 112 yards and 1 INT. That means he had 16 incompletions for us to analyze. You could play this analysis game for his 11 completions and rate them, but for the sake of time, I decided to focus on the incompletions.

As part of full disclosure - I felt Tannehill played fairly well, despite being let down by his receivers, made both good and bad throws (but more good than bad), and drew 2 offsides penalties through the use of hard-counts (not bad for a rookie).

1. First incompletion: Quick Slant to Naanee on 1st and 5, 14:15 to go in the first quarter, the ball hit Naanee' hands but was thrown high


Score of 0 - He led Naanee by the correct distance, but threw the ball needlessly high, yet not so high that the ball didn't hit Naanee's hands. I'm counting this as a "Welker in the Super Bowl" drop because if the ball hits a receiver's hands, it's generally catchable, but Tannehill could have helped Naanee tremendously by throwing the ball just a little lower, just as how Brady could have helped Welker on that infamous Super Bowl pass by throwing it just a wee bit lower. Welker ultimately called it a drop, and if Naanee wants to be our new #1 WR, he should view this as a drop.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count:1

2. Second incompletion - Tannehill misses Naanee on 1st and 10, 13:47 to go in the first quarter, as the ball whizzes by the receiver's outstretched hands without making contact


Score of 0 - he missed slightly, but missed to the outside. What that means is that the nearby DB had NO chance at intercepting it. It's a miss, no doubt, but it wasn't a bad miss - the ball was near his target but not in a position to be intercepted. A +1 worthy throw would have been to the outside, like this throw, but 2 feet closer to the wide receiver (allowing him to make a catch away from his body and the DB).

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count:1

3. Third incompletion -Tannehill slightly overthrows Naanee on a comeback route on 2nd and 12.


I'm giving Tannehill a 0 on this - it was a comeback route, the DB was deep, and Tannehill threw the ball needlessly high. The receiver is coming towards Tannehill, so he can throw the ball low without fear of an interception with the DB downfield. However, as you can see in the picture, the ball clearly hit both of his hands. I'm calling this a drop - again, not a great throw, but it's catchable if the ball is in the receiver's hands.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 2

4. Fourth incompletion - Interception while targeting Davone Bess after a linebacker, reading Tannehill's eyes, tips the ball on 3rd and 12.



Yep, this is a -1 score for Tannehill, for not looking off the linebacker before throwing to a well-covered receiver. Even without the interception, this was a bad throw made by a rookie QB who had previously endured 2 drops from targeting his new #1 WR, Naanee, and then decided to lock onto his most reliable target, Bess. As you see in the first photo, there are defenders 1 and 2 surrounding Bess, while the receiver at the top of the screen is open, with only 1 defender (Defender 3) behind him.

As you see in the second photo, as Tannehill throws, Sean Weatherspoon (#56) lies in wait directly in front of him, meaning Tannehill either didn't see him or incorrectly thought he could throw over the LB.

Cumulative Tannehill score: -1, Drop Count: 2

5. Fifth incompletion - Tannehill hits a wide open Naanee in the hands, but Naanee drops the pass on 1st and 10 with 1:18 left in the first quarter



This is a +1 score for Tannehill. He found a wide open receiver (first picture above), threw a catchable ball, but Naanee drops it after catching it in both hands (2nd picture above). Depressing.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 3

6. Sixth incompletion - First drop by Fasano on 2nd and 10 with 1:16 to go in the first quarter.


+1 for Tannehill - good ball location to an open receiver, followed by a terrible drop by Fasano

Cumulative Tannehill score: 1, Drop Count: 4

7. Seventh incompletion - Marlon Moore was open for a brief moment, but the pass came late and the defensive back managed to make a play on the ball on 1st and goal at the 8 yard line with 13:56 left in the 2nd quarter.


Tannehill gets -1 points - it's a late throw to a guy who was open but is now well-covered. The good news is the ball was thrown to the side of Moore away from the nearest defender (Moore's right) and thus the defender was unable to get his hands on it. A pass to Moore's left would have been an interception. I don't count this as a drop since Moore had to deal with a DB making a play on the ball after the throw came late.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count:4

8. Eighth incompletion - Fasano's TD drop on 3rd and goal at the 4 yard line



First photo shows Fasano catching the ball.

The second photo shows the ball location - very catchable.

+1 to Tannehill for a good throw to an open receiver in the end-zone, but once again, a clear drop.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 1, Drop Count: 5

9. Ninth incompletion - Tannehill throws the ball away after a profound breakdown in the offensive line on 2nd and 9 with 7:42 to go in the 2nd quarter.


So many defenders break through that I honestly thought it was a screen at first. I give him 0 points - Throwing the ball away was a smart play to avoid risking a sack or interception, but he fails to earn +1 points since he failed to give a receiver a chance to make a play. Marlon Moore had no chance to catch a clear throwaway.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 1, Drop Count: 5

10. Tenth incompletion - Pass to Fasano is broken up by Sean Weatherspoon (ball is hitting Weatherspoons outstretched right hand below) on 3rd and 3 with 4:01 to go in the second half.


-1 points - he threw a ball to a well-covered Fasano, and the covering LB (Sean Weatherspoon) got his hands on the ball. Not a drop since Fasano never had a chance at the ball given how well he was covered.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 5

11. Eleventh incompletion - Fasano is hit hard as he catches a pass and drops the ball on 1st and 10 at the start of a 2 minute drive.

This is a picture of Fasano trying to secure the ball before he gets hit:


But the ball pops out. It was a well thrown pass to an open receiver, so Tannehill gets a +1. Fasano has an excuse for dropping the pass - the hard hit - but it's still a drop

Cumulative Tannehill score: 1, Drop Count: 6

12. Twelfth incompletion - Near interception after a deflection by a blitzing DB saved by Clyde Gates on 1st and 10


DB Blitz comes in on the left and Tannehill tries to throw over the DB but the DB tips it. Clyde makes a heads-up play that prevents an INT. A near interception = -1 for Tannehill. It's not a drop since Clyde became defender after the pass was tipped and the CB made a break on the ball.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 6

13. Thirteenth incompletion - Uncatchable throw to Marlon Moore after Tannehill rolls out of the pocket due to pressure on 2nd and 10 with 0:38 left in the 2nd quarter


Above is the ball headed to the sideline far too ahead of Moore


Here's a photo of Moore barely managing to get his hands on the ball as he runs out of bounds after he had to chase a ball thrown short. Moore ended up catching it but landing out of bounds. To me it looked near uncatchable so I can't call it a drop, but I give Tannehill a 0 instead of a -1 because he was under pressure and the ball was thrown to an area where only the receiver could possibly make the catch (DB was downfield, so a short throw prevents an INT)

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 6

14. Fourteenth incompletion - In a sign of miscommunication, on fourth and 1, Tannehill throws the ball deep to where Bess would be if he hadn't changed direction on his route with 0:21 left in the 2nd quarter.


Tannehill gets a +0 since I can't tell if it was a route miscommunication or an overthrow, and if it's a route miscommunication, was it Bess' fault or Tannehill's fault? At the very least, no defender could make a play on the ball, so no -1. Obviously, it's not a drop if the nearest receiver is over 5 yards away. Jake Long was called for holding, so the play wouldn't have counted regardless, but still, a completion would have been nice.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count: 6

15. Fifteenth incompletion - Tannehill throws a ball to Gates who makes a leaping catch but lands out of bounds on 1st and 10.



Tannehill gets a +1 - the commentators blamed Gates for not giving Tannehill enough room to throw him a pass that kept him inbounds, but to me it looked possible for him to land in-bounds. Still, the window was small, and Tannehill threw a pass that couldn't be intercepted and gave Gates a chance to make a play, hence a +1. It's not a drop since Gates held on and landing inbounds would have been tough, but I would've loved to see him make the play, and in the second photo, it looks possible.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 1, Drop Count: 6

Interesting Tidbit: If you choose to rewatch this game, notice how much respect Falcons DBs gave Clyde Gates due to his speed. That allowed for quick throws to Gates yielding yards after the catch due to the cushion. Something to keep an eye on for game 4.

16. Sixteenth incompletion - Tannehill throws to a well-covered Charles Clay resulting in a pass deflection on 2nd and 10 with 12:23 to go (his last throw of the game, as he scrambles on 3rd down, resulting in a punt).


Tannehill gets a -1 for throwing into very good coverage, and it's not a drop since the pass deflection prevents Clay from trying to catch it.

Cumulative Tannehill score: 0, Drop Count:6

Summary of my Thoughts: So with my scoring system (-1, 0, or +1) for each of 16 incompletions, Tannehill could have gotten as high as a +16 (meaning he's throwing like Aaron Rodgers, but his receivers are letting him down) or as low as a -16 (meaning he's throwing like any number of our past QBs who have crashed and burned and the receivers aren't to blame). He scored a 0, meaning just looking at his incompletions, it was a pretty even mix of good throws being wasted by his receivers (6 drops by my count), okay throws that were off due to lack of timing and experience, and bad throws (a handful of defenders were able to get their hands on the ball, including one interception).

My impression is that Tannehill never became gun-shy or antsy and for the most part gave his receivers a chance on every throw. If we had playmakers at WR and TE who helped Tannehill this game, a writeup of Tannehill incompletions would have been much shorter. Make no mistake, 6 drops is pretty devastating considering Tannehill only played 1 half and threw the ball 27 times.

11 of 27 passes were complete (40.7%)

6 of 27 passes (estimates seem to vary between 5 and 7) of Tannehill's passes were on target but were dropped (22.2%).

That leaves just 10 of 27 (37%) of passes that were misses, and only 5 were bad throws in my opinion. Put another way - take away the drops, and Tannehill throws 63% while up against a Mike Nolan-coached first-string defense that game-planned for him. Very respectable for a rookie.

It's only pre-season, and I'm expecting things to get better as Tannehill gets more first-team reps. Also, this writeup is unfair to Tannehill because I only evaluated the incompletions - he played a pretty solid game overall and made some really nice throws. But enough about me - let's have an independent guy offer his take...

Summary of the Ryan Tannehill's performance from ProFootball Focus:

"A second preseason start for Ryan Tannehill and once again the supposedly ‘raw’ rookie looked far from out of his depth. He showed an ability to hit receivers to the outside and over the middle, and displayed the rare ability for a young quarterback to know how and when to come back to the middle of the field on a second or third read. There will be growing pains ahead for Tannehill when the real games start and the problem for him, for the Dolphins, and for their fans is that the support around him looks almost completely non-existent.

Tannehill hooked up well with Davone Bess, Miami’s only real weapon of any quality, but support from the rest of his receiving corps was lacking. There were drops, there was an inability to fight through coverage and there were occasions where the receiving corps just looked clueless. Unless you are of a truly rare talent as a rookie you need help when you first break into the league, and right now Tannehill has next to none. He made mistakes himself, his interception–while a little unlucky–was forced, and another throw to a hitch route was also extremely poor. But unless Miami find someone to emerge as an outside receiver to give Tannehill a go-to guy, he will be in for a long rookie season.

The fans, coaching staff and playing staff will need to be patient with Tannehill and the offense this season, because right now the passing game simply isn’t set up to succeed."

I plan on a follow-up FanPost looking at signs of progress I've noted (no batted passes by the defensive linemen), as well as highlighting some excellent throws, but for now I wanted to give everybody a chance to read about and debate how many "drops" were "drops."

I also wanted to put up a poll, but I can't find the "Add a Poll" box anymore...

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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