Tipped Passes: Who Is To Blame? - A Look at Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill's Deflected Passes

I am going to try assess blame for the number of tipped passes that we have all seen in Ryan Tannehill. It is a correctable problem. But it is a problem that needs to be corrected at a couple different positions (levels).

QB - 10%: Tipped passes at the LOS aren't the result of a QB "staring down a WR". For some reason that phrase has become the catch all for all bad things that happen to a QB. "Staring down a WR" is when a QB takes a DB to the WR he is going to throw the ball too, like a Safety or a LB, that can see the route develop in front of them and react to a QB's eyes. Plus, all QB's "stare down a WR" in a quick passing game like Miami is running. They have no choice. Tannehill was getting rid of the ball in less than 2 seconds. In that 2 seconds he has to catch a shotgun snap, take one or two steps back, make his either / or read, and deliver the ball. You can't do that without a pre-snap read and "staring down a WR".

A DL player has no idea what is going on behind them, so "staring down a WR" has nothing to do with them tipping a pass. What the DL is doing, especially DT's, is rushing in lanes in likely areas in which a pass will be thrown. This is coaching on a DC level that not many people understand. When you hear that the DL has to stay in the rushing lanes it is usually in the context of containing a running QB. But the other thing they are doing in rush lanes, especially against a quick pass offense, is that the DC realizes that getting quick pressure isn't likely to happen, so they align the DT's in likely passing lanes in the hopes to tip a pass.

Where the QB can help with this is to recognize the rushing lanes from the DT's. A QB is trained not to look at the rush and keep his eyes downfield. But what he can do is pre-snap, look at the alignment of the DL. Knowing the alignment of the DL and the routes to be run, really good QB's adjust their drops just enough to find a clear passing lane. Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Marino were masters at this. They were masters at the ability to move slightly in the pocket to create that lane. Tannehill will figure it out, especially when he adjusts to the speed of the game.

WR - 10%: WR's need to present a target to a QB. They need to find that soft spot in the zone to a QB can clearly see them, especially in a quick passing game. Bess does this really well against a zone. So does Welker. They do this because they understand the coverage and where the soft spots are going to be. You can't play WR and run a robotic route. What good does running a 5 yard hook route in the middle of the field when the 6'5" DT is in front of you 5 yards away? That isn't a target that a QB can hit. If you float that route 1 yard in either direction, based on where the MLB is, you present that target that the QB needs.

Coaching (play calling) - 30%: Play calling is an art. As a play caller you are attempting to establish a rhythm to the offense, especially in a passing game. But that being said, you can't call the same "rhythm" type passes all the time because that also lets the defense get in a rhythm. Against the Texans, Sherman let the defense get in a rhythm, IMO. He kept calling the same quick passes over and over again. Tannehill, like I said above, was throwing those passes in less than 2 seconds. Early in the game, that was OK, because the defense didn't get the rhythm of the offense. By the middle of the 2nd quarter, Wade Phillips (an outstanding DC), made an adjustment, told his DL what was going on in the quick passing game and got them in the passing lanes and told them to look for deflections.

What Sherman needed to do was change the rhythm of the passing game by throwing longer routes, having Tannehill roll out of the pocket or take deeper drops, etc. You hear the term "keeping a defense off balance" all the time. One of the more effective ways of doing that is by varying the passing game's timing. To do that you need to vary the routes, the QB drops, and the protections. Miami didn't do that very well on Sunday.

OL - 50%: As a former LT, I got pissed every time my guy tipped a pass. That is completely unacceptable to any OL player. Miami's OL better be pissed about their performance in this regard on Sunday.

Very simply, an OL has to keep the DL's hands down. You do this a couple of different ways. In a quick passing game, like Miami's, you cannot use a traditional set. Your first step cannot be an extended drop step or kick step because you have to engage the defender earlier. You either take a quick set, basically popping up out of your stance without stepping or you fire off the ball and engage like a run block. That keeps a defenders hands down. Basically, an engaged defender will have a much harder time deflecting a pass because they usually don't want to expose themselves to punches by raising their hands while engage with the OL. So the object of an OL player is to get up close to a defender in a quick passing game. Against the Texans, Miami's OL gave the Texans DL too much space allowing them to raise their hands and deflect passes.

Another way to keep DL's hands down is to cut them because they will lower their hands to protect their knees. DL players hate, absolutely hate, when the OL goes low and they will always choose to protect themselves. The other advantage to doing this is that it will usually slow down their pass rush because they will become cautious of a cut block.

My personal favorite way to get a DL to lower their hands is the punch to the nuts. I learned this from Anthony Munoz, one of the greatest LT's in the history of the NFL. During an OL camp that I attended, he was teaching us how to set and punch properly. During the teaching session he talked about using a quick set and punching low, in the stomach because "fat guys hate to get hit in the gut" (his words). He also said to miss low, not high, meaning hit that guy in the nuts. In practice, it works like a charm. You punch a guy in the nuts a couple of times, they get the hint and will keep their arms down to protect themselves.

One other thing. I was sitting in the corner of the endzone at the Texans stadium for the game. There was a 4th down play, late in the game, where Tannehill's pass was deflected by the other DT (not Watt) to end the scoring chance. It was happening right in front of me. This DT stopped rushing and Incognito let him stand on the LOS. Incognito wasn't even close enough to touch this DT. That is simply unacceptable from Incognito. You cannot let a DL player stand on the LOS without engaging him because getting a pass tipped is more likely to happen. You have to engage that defender as an OL.

PS: I was at the game in Houston. I was on the sideline in pregame. It was awesome. I have plenty of pictures to post and I will later in the week along with my thoughts on the game, stadium, crowd, etc. I am traveling on business right now and I can't download the pictures to my new laptop. But here is a taste:


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.