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Exploring the 1st Quarter: The 16 Opening Drives of 2016

In a follow-up to my 2017 case study, let’s take a look at how we fared on the opening drive with Ryan Tannehill under center in 2016.

Arizona Cardinals v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

I studied every opening drive of 2017, trying to decipher why we started off so slow. After sitting and reflecting on the 2017 data, it was natural to wonder, “Well, how did things look with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback instead of Jay Cutler?” So I pissed into the wind and looked at 2016, too.

Miami Dolphins 1st Quarter, 2015-2017

Year Points Scored Points Allowed Time of Possession
Year Points Scored Points Allowed Time of Possession
2015 28th (2.9) 29th (6.0) 31st
2016 31st (2.6) 32nd (7.3) 32nd
2017 30th (2.6) 18th (4.4) 15th

Sorry if you have the taste of bile in your mouth from having to look at this chart again, I promise I’m not doing it to be intentionally sadistic - quite the opposite - I’m trying to find out how to start games better. It’s not an aesthetic pursuit, but a necessary one in my humble opinion. I’ve already rooted for this team for 30 years, what’s a research project on 1st quarter ineptitude really going to do to me?

Andy Dufresne crawled through a tunnel of crap for his freedom. I’m doing it to the save the Miami Dolphins...

Opening Drive Rush Totals

Name Left Middle Right
Name Left Middle Right
Arian Foster 2 att, 2 yds
Jay Ajayi 13 att, 91 yds, 1 TD 8 att, 25 yds 8 att, 32 yds
Kenyan Drake 1 att, 0 yds
Jarvis Landry 1 att, 2 yds

Opening Drive Passing Totals

Name Short Left Short Mid Short Right Deep Left Deep Middle Deep Right
Name Short Left Short Mid Short Right Deep Left Deep Middle Deep Right
Ryan Tannehill 12/13, 84 yds, 1 INT 3/5, 37 yds 9/16, 78 yds 1/1, 28 yds, 1 TD 1/2, 74 yds, 1 TD 0/2
Matt Moore 2/2, 10 yds 0/2 0/1

Opening Drive Receiving Totals

Name Targets Catches Yards
Name Targets Catches Yards
Kenny Stills 10 6 139 yds (2 TD, 1 INT)
Jarvis Landry 10 7 53 yds
DeVante Parker 6 5 31 yds
MarQueis Gray 4 4 30 yds
Dominique Jones 2 2 29 yds
Jay Ajayi 4 1 2 yds
Damien Williams 3 0
Jordan Cameron 1 0
Dion Sims 3 3 27 yds

Data by Grouping

TD’s: 3 (@ Cincy, vs. NYJ, vs. Ari)

FG’s: 2/3 (Made FG’s: 30 yd. vs. Pitt and 36 yd. vs Buff; Missed FG’s: 46 yd. @ Bal)

Penalties: 5 (False start - 2 [Jermon Bushrod vs. Buff, Ja’Wuan James vs. NE]; Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 1 [Ja’Wuan James vs. Pitt]; Holding - 1 [Mike Pouncey vs. Buff]; Offensive Pass Interference - 1 [DeVante Parker @ LA Rams])

Turnovers: 1 (Ryan Tannehill INT vs. Cle)...*(Jay Ajayi fumbled on the 1st play vs. NYJ but recovered; Tannehill was sacked and fumbled on 3rd down @ Chargers, but we recovered and punted.)

Deep Passes: 2/6 (Tannehill completions: 74 yds, 1 TD @ Cincy, and 28 yds, 1 TD @ Ariz - both to Kenny Stills. Tannehill misses: @ NE [Stills], @ Rams [Damien Williams], vs. Pitt [Parker]) (Moore missed vs. NE [Williams])

Sacks Given Up: 2 (vs. Tenn, @ Chargers)

Opening Play Call Pass/Run Ratio: 6/10

Plays of Negative Yardage (not including sacks): 5 (Landry catch @ Sea, Ajayi run vs. NYJ, Ajayi run @ Chargers, Ajayi run vs. Ariz, Ajayi run @ NYJ)

3 and outs: 5 (@ Sea, @ Rams, vs. SF, @ Buff, vs. NE)

Number of games starting with the ball: 3 (vs. Cle, vs. Buff, vs. SF)

General Observations

Remember that we’re working with a smaller sample size: it’s every play of the opening drive, but that in itself doesn’t paint the entire picture.

  • The Miami Dolphins were almost dead last in points for, points against, and time of possession in the 1st quarter during the 2016 regular season. At first glance it’s damning. However, only receiving the ball 3 times the entire regular season mitigates some of the anxiety I had about the overall situation. We’re not perfect, but we’re not AIDS either.
  • Glass Half Full: Compared to 2017 we had more TD’s, more field goal attempts, fewer penalties, fewer turnovers, more deep passes completed down the field, and fewer plays of negative yardage.
  • Glass Half Empty: Compared to 2017 we gave up more sacks, missed more field goals, and had more 3 and outs.
  • The Dolphins struggled throwing to the right side of the field.
  • The Dolphins targeted RB’s on 7 plays, resulting in 1 catch for 2 yards.
  • In fact, now that I think about it, Adam Gase really likes targeting TE’s on the opening drive of the game. Julius Thomas had more targets than Kenny Stills or DeVante Parker in 2017, and MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones combined for more catches and as many targets as Parker in 2016. I hope you’ll be ready Mike Gesicki.
  • Combining 2016 and 2017 data...we’re not great getting DeVante Parker involved early, nor have we involved our running backs well in the passing game. Kenny Stills is Jekyll-and-Hyde, he’s been targeted 20 times with just 11 catches, but responsible for 2 of our 4 TD’s.

What are your thoughts, fam? I’ll post the opening drives of 2017 again here. Compare it with this article. Do we have a 1st quarter problem? Or do we see a regression to the mean/some kind of “statistical boomerang”? Long story short, how do we start with a lead for a change in 2018?