Ryan Tannehill, the MIami Dolphins' starting quarterback, has struggled through the first two games this season with poorly placed passes. He's overthrown and underthrown wide receivers. He's put the ball on the wrong shoulder, or forced a receiver to slow down instead of being able to catch the ball in stride. He has not been far off, but it is off enough to be noticeable.
Tannehill discussed that issue after practice on Wednesday, explaining, "I think it boils down to feet, just being consistent in footwork and getting the ball out in the right spot."
During the offseason, new Dolphins offensive coordinator worked with Tannehill to adjust his footwork in an effort to make him more accurate. After two games, it may not be working quite as well as hoped.
Through two games, Tannehill has thrown for 419 yards, the 21st most in the league. His 60.5-percent completion rate is 27th, and his passer rating of 76.1 is 29th (on a side note, that's just one position behind Tom Brady, so there's at least that). The Dolphins are looking for Tannehill to take the next step in his development this year, use the weapons they have put around him, and prove that he is the franchise quarterback this team has been searching for since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season. Through two games, he has not been able to do that.
Though it is not all doom-and-gloom for Tannehill. According to the grades put out by the popular Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins passer is actually the third rated quarterback in the league, trailing just the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers. Tannehill has the best grade in the league on passing plays. Why the big difference between PFF's grades, Tannehill stats, and what most of us are seeing?
Drops. At least, that's how PFF sees the issue. No quarterback has lost more yardage on dropped passes this year than Tannehill, according to PFF's explanation on Tannehill's rating. He's had the second most passes dropped by his receivers in the league through two games, with his seven only trailing Joe Flacco. As PFF writes, "If a quarterback fires a perfect pass that hits his receiver in the hands for what should be a first down, but that receiver drops it - we give the quarterback credit for that throw - statistics don't."
What does Tannehill think of the PFF rating? "Not accurate by what I'm considering," Tannehill replied when asked that exact question. "I haven't been playing up to my standards and up to our standards as a team. Just have to get better."
"It's frustrating," Tannehill said of his overall play this year. "I'm upset at myself for the way that I've played, obviously I want to get it corrected. We've got a long season ahead of us and it starts with this week. You flip it around in one week and you play well and you start stringing good games together. It's just a matter of going out and taking care of business this week."
Head coach Joe Philbin was asked about how to improve Tannehill's accuracy during his Wednesday media availability as well. "We talk about it as an offensive staff, one of the things we did today, a subtle thing, is the route timing periods we have, it doesn't look like much against air, are very very important periods where we make sure and we have the time, detail, the exact depth, the exact spacing horizontally on the field, whether we want the ball at the waist, the chin, above the helmet. So we've been spending a little bit more time on that this week just emphasizing both. It's not just the accuracy of the quarterback. It's the detail and the precision of the wide receivers that make it all go in the passing game."
Fans want better from their quarterback. The coaches want better from their quarterback. And Tannehill wants better from himself. "I'm a competitor, I want to play well. When you don't make the play, you're not happy with yourself. You look at it on tape and it doesn't make you feel good inside. But that doesn't change the fact of what it is. It boils down to coming out on the practice field and doing it the right way here."
As Tannehill said, the first step to fixing the issue will be this weekend, when the Dolphins host the Kansas City Chiefs. Hopefully we will all see the third best quarterback in the league that PFF is seeing, rather than the 29th ranked passer rating quarterback.