The Dolphins were expected to be playoff contenders in 2015. After barely beating the Redskins in week one, fans were expecting a better effort against a Jaguars team. Miami continued the trend of a leaky defense and sputtering offense that resulted in a crushing loss.
This week we'll begin with the defense. The Jaguars rushed 33 times for 123 yards. The Dolphins did a fairly good job of bottling up rookie T.J Yeldon who had 25 carries for 70 yards. Quarterback Blake Bortles chipped in 2 rushes for 27 yards. Unfortunately, the pass defense wasn't good at all. Bortles went 18-33, 273 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both touchdowns went to second year wideout Allen Robinson. Robinson, 6'3" 215, used his size to his advantage over the smaller Brent Grimes. Grimes would struggle all season defending bigger receivers. In the second quarter, Robinson used a double move that got safety Walt Aikens to bite, resulting in a 46 yard touchdown.
Offensively, it was more of the nonsensically lopsided passing offense, with the Dolphins only rushing 16 times. This despite the game being close. It's one thing when a team is getting blown out and offenses have to forsake the run to try and catch up. This was a tied game early in the 3rd quarter and there was STILL only 16 carries. That's not good folks. In any case, the Dolphins leaned on the passing game, and Tannehill was better than his Washington showing. He went 30-44, 358 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He was consistently under pressure, especially in the second half. Ultimately, the game came down to the final possession and the Dolphins defense didn't hold. A late game personal foul penalty against Olivier Vernon allowed the Jaguars into field goal territory and they kicked the game winning field goal.
Let's first look at how Allen Robinson beat up on the Dolphins secondary.
Here you see Robinson at the bottom of the screen with Grimes lined up 9 yards off the line of scrimmage.
In this shot, Robinson has broken outside, forcing Grimes to turn with him. Look at how Robinson's hips have turned towards the sideline. That's a veteran move by a young receiver. He's a rising star in the NFL because of route running savvy like this. Deep safety Walt Aikens is at the top right corner, on the far hash from Robinson.
Robinson has now turned back upfield and Grimes has stayed with him, but appears off balance. You can see that Bortles has released the ball (you can see it near the 50 at the top of the screen). Grimes, despite turning with Robinson, how now given up the inside of the field. It will be on safety Walt Aikens, who is now running to the play, to break on anything inside.
Walt Aikens has taken a good angle to make a play on the ball or the receiver. However, the ball is underthrown - to the point that Robinson has to stop and jump to make a play on the ball. Note: underthrown deep passes happen to all QBs. Sometimes, a QB just needs his receiver to make a play on the ball. More on that from the offensive side later.
Had the ball been out in front of Robinson, Aikens may have been on time or a step late based on this angle. However, this shows how Robinson used his size to create a big target, despite two defenders.
Here's a broadcast angle. Grimes is hopelessly out of position to make a play on the ball and Aikens was running to the spot. Grimes tries to get a hand in there, but Robinson is too strong. This is a 36 yard gain for the Jaguars.
Here is Robinson a few plays later. The Jaguars had overloaded the right side of the offensive line with 3 tight ends. There is a running back in this play, meaning this is a ONE receiver route. Looking at this shot, you can predict one of two things: Robinson gets the TD or Brice McCain gets the pass break up (PBU).
McCain gets beat. However, Bortles' ball placement allows McCain a chance to make a play on the ball. On one drive, we've seen an underthrown deep ball that forced a WR to stop and out-jump a defender and a slant pass thrown behind an open WR enough to allow the beaten defender to make a play on the ball. And in both cases, the WR wins at the catch point and bails out his QB. It happens to other quarterbacks too.
Here's the deep TD to Robinson. You can see Miami in a Cover-2 look with Aikens as the near safety, Jones as the far safety. Jamar Taylor has the zone on the outside. Robinson is lined up in the slot.
Robinson has broken inside, forcing Aikens to react, which you can see Aikens running up.
Robinson breaks back upfield; Aikens is already committed and cannot react quick enough. Oops.
More oops. Robinson is as wide open as a receiver can get. The ball is already in the air, as you can see it's shadow just above the hashmarks around the 30 yard line. Only a severely underthrown pass can bail out Aikens. That didn't happen and the Jaguars put up 14 in the first half on Miami.
This was Miami's first play of the game. Rishard Matthews has busted up the seam and Tannehill looks for him. From this angle, it appears the ball would have been on target had it maintained it's original trajectory. However, the DB has undercut and made an incredible play to get his hand on the ball.
The tipped pass ends up in Matthews' hands. He gets tackled/tripped-up a little later down the field, but the Dolphins were the beneficiary of a fluky play. Before anyone can complain about the pass...
Notice the defensive tackle all up in Tannehill's grill?
His presence alters the way Tannehill throws this pass. Instead of fully stepping into the pass, Tannehill just kind of slings it out there. Even then, the original trajectory would have been great.
Miami is marching down the field, thanks to the fluky play to Matthews. Facing a 3rd and 8, Tannehill sees Greg Jennings (blue arrow) on a crosser, well past the sticks for a first down. Tannehill has to thread it in between 3 defenders (red arrows).
Here is the end zone shot, with the perfectly thrown pass threaded in between 3 defenders and now finding its way out of Jennings' hands and onto the turf.
You can't ask for better ball placement than that. Earlier, we saw Allen Robinson take two passes that were off target and bring them in. Here, we see the ball hit Jennings in the hands, in stride, in between defenders, and it cannot be corralled. Sometimes, a WR needs to make a play on the ball and bail out his QB. Sometimes, the WR just needs to catch a perfect pass.
Even as a Tannehill supporter, I will not claim he has great pocket presence. But the situation isn't as bad as fans and media can often portray. I'm sure people can find plenty of bad examples, but let's look at a couple of good examples where Tannehill uses great pocket presence and athleticism to get out of a jam and make a play. Above, you can see the pocket developing. The Jaguars have ran a stunt and the edge rusher Skuta is preparing to make his move on Dallas Thomas.
In this shot, you'll notice two things. Tannehill has used some subtle movement to avoid the pressure coming from Skuta, by slightly moving to his left. You'll also notice Skuta has put his move on Thomas and has now beaten him.
This shot is the very next moment. Tannehill had started moving left, but now has to react to the defender right in his face. As I mentioned, this is not several seconds later. Tannehill wasn't camping out in the pocket. The entire time from snap to this moment is about 2.5 seconds. The moment from when he drifts left to this moment is about 0.4 seconds, which is the equivalent time of an average human eye blink. So look at this shot and the preceding shot, then blink your eyes. That's the amount of time Tannehill had to react to this. This has to be a sack right?
Nope! Tannehill has escaped Skuta's clutches. Skuta earns a facemask penalty on this play (notice the referee at the bottom right corner throwing his flag). Tannehill is now on the run and has plenty of green grass in front of him. He can run for a first down now. It's third down and all he needs is 2 yards. Except...
Tannehill sees Jordan Cameron turn upfield and takes a shot.
Cameron is open and raises his hand to let Tannehill know. But Tannehill already knows and throws it. Notice how Tannehill throws off of his back foot and cannot properly set to make a perfect pass.
Cameron goes up and brings down the pass for Tannehill. It was a 26 yard play and the facemask penalty added an additional 15 yards. (I was listening to my music channels while typing this up and put it on the 70s music channel. The Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" was playing while diagramming the play. I thought it was sweetly apropos).
Later on this drive, Tannehill faces 3rd and 5 from the 10. He takes the snap and looks at his reads to his right. Jamil Douglas and Mike Pouncey have defenders engaged.
Tannehill has drifted right, due to feeling the pressure from the defenders Jason Fox and Ja'Wuan James are trying to block. Notice where he is in relation to the hashmarks compared to the previous picture.
The defenders Pouncey and Douglas were blocking have shaken free and have a direct shot at Tannehill. Tannehill has only two options: force a pass or roll back to his left.
Tannehill escapes left. He has an open defender in the end zone. Unfortunately, that throw would not be possible given where he is. He'd have to throw across his body while rolling left (a HUGE no-no), or set his feet at which point Jared Odrick would crush him. His only option is Damien Williams cutting left across the field.
Tannehill once again throws off his back foot on the run - not ideal for making perfect passes.
Is that ball placement ideal? No. Is it bad? No. The ball hits Williams in stride, but ever-so-slightly behind him. However, the ball placement does not affect his ability to turn and get into the end zone. This play and the previous play led to big plays all because of Tannehill's pocket presence.
Dion Sims suffered a concussion during the Washington game (in part to a poorly placed pass from Tannehill). The Dolphins activated Jake Stoneburner from the practice squad. They wasted no time getting him his first touchdown.
After Tannehill takes the snap, he surveys his options. Notice the position of linebacker #50. This is key.
Whoever Tannehill had looked at on the offensive left side has caused #50 to drift in that direction. At the bottom right corner, you can see Stoneburner enter the picture. Why was the position of #50 key?
Because Tannehill puts the ball in the area that #50 just vacated. The LB is out of position and the pass is JUST beyond his reach.
Perfect ball placement. Right into the hands of Stoneburner and just out of the reach of two defenders.
The defender has his left arm wrapped around Stoneburner and is reaching with his right arm to try and break up the pass. But the pass is simply too well thrown. Stoneburner secures it for his first NFL touchdown, which coincidentally was his first NFL catch. This may have been my favorite throw of the season.
Despite the positive plays I posted above, the Dolphins didn't do enough to win this game. This loss was the first of three that ultimately brought an end to the Joe Philbin era. Unfortunately, we have to cover those games as well. Up next, the home opening debacle against the Buffalo Bills.