One of the most polarizing selections of the 2012 NFL draft, and a participant in one of the most interesting aspects of the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Knocks series, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made his debut in Miami last week under much scrutiny.
Tannehill had 21 pass attempts against the Buccaneers and showed plenty of flashes to excite football fans. After watching Tannehill’s debut against the Buccaneers, here is a break down of a few of his plays during his first quarter of action.
2Q: 02:17, 3rd & 6, MIA 17.
The Dolphins are in shotgun with a running back to the right of Tannehill. There is one tight end to the right side with two receivers to the left and one to the right. At the snap, the Buccaneers are showing press man coverage outside with three down linemen shifted to the defense’s right and a blitz threatened to the opposite side with two linebackers and a safety.
Tannehill keeps his feet beneath him as he drops deeper into the pocket. His initial gaze appears to be directly down the center of the field, as if holding a safety with his eyes. The Buccaneers are in man coverage sending a four man rush that turns into five when the Dolphins’ back stays in. Another linebacker is spying the center of the field.
Tannehill has a clean pocket to step into but he never steps into the throw. His back leg was too straight on his final step which left him vulnerable to the outside rusher coming off the edge. Tannehill had enough time to throw the ball but never stepped into the throw enough to completely control the football.
As a result of his footwork, Tannehill’s accuracy was off however he appeared to make the right read on the defense(judging without the All-22 tape however which is not available for preseason games). His slot receiver to the left hand side ran a seven yard out and there was a window for him to throw the football. Tannehill overthrew his intended target however.
It was certainly not an easy play for his first pass in the NFL as poor accuracy would have almost certainly been a touchdown the other way. However, Tannehill made the right decision and would have had a first down with an accurate pass.
He appeared tentative.
2Q: 01:54, 1st and 10, TB 48.
Tannehill in the shotgun. HB to the right. Two receivers each side of the formation. The Buccaneers are showing cover two with press man coverage and a linebacker to the running back’s side of the field.
At the snap of the ball the Buccaneers blitz both cornerbacks who were covering the Dolphins’ inside receivers. The Buccaneers have only one player, a linebacker, covering both inside receivers who run out routes. The clean blitzer comes from Tannehill’s blindside.
Tannehill quickly recognizes the blitz and sets his feet to throw the ball to the right-hand side. Even though the linebacker in coverage was closer to Tannehill’s intended target, the quarterback made the right decision to throw the ball his way because the free blizter to the other side would have been difficult to throw over.
With his high release, Tannehill threw the ball over the defenders with their hands in the air. The ball arrived at its intended target a little bit high, but accurately enough to be considered a catchable pass.
2Q: 01:47, 1st and 10, TB 29.
A hard count exposes the Buccaneers’ plans to blitz the right A-gap. At the snap the Buccaneers send both linebackers to attack that gap with an outside stunt from their defensive linemen on the opposite side. The initial hard count allows Daniel Thomas to see the blitz coming with ease.
With the blitz cleanly picked up, Tannehill has plenty of time and space to operate in. His eyes remain downfield from the beginning the play to the end while his feet are set perfectly for him to step into his throw. Unlike his first attempt of the game, his back leg is deep enough to appropriately spread his weight and contort his body into the throw.
Notably Tannehill is also on the balls of his feet. By shifting his weight that way he should be able to avoid the pass rush when necessary or keep himself in greater control within the pocket.
With time to survey the field and set his feet, Tannehill showed off his deft touch with a very accurate throw down the sideline. The ball appeared to float on him initially, but with the defender’s back turned, Tannehill put the ball in a place where if his receiver didn’t catch it, nobody would.
The reception was for 22 yards, but the actual depth of the throw was closer to 35 yards from quarterback to receiver. The touch and accuracy on the throw was outstanding and would have been difficult for even Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
Criticizing Tannehill, you would argue that the ball appeared to float a little. However if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, you will credit him for understanding the situation and coverage.
2Q: 01:09, 1st and Goal, TB 7.
The Dolphins had Tannehill in the shotgun again, this time with a back to the left side, tight end to the right, one receiver to the left, two to the right. The Buccaneers are playing off, hinting at zone but not completely, and appear willing to just defend the goal-line from the snap.
At the snap, Tannehill looked to the left all the way. In what is a glaring rookie mistake, Tannehill is staring down one receiver who is covered by two defenders. The Buccaneers rush only four linemen and are playing zone coverage.
In spite of Tannehill’s eyes, there was an opportunity for him to fit the ball into a small window at the pylon. Aggressively he attacked for the touchdown opposed to giving his back a chance to make a play in space(highlighted).
Tannehill’s initial mistakes in staring down the receiver would likely have been punished by a better defense, ie one he would face in the regular season. The window was only open because of the poor coverage played by the outside corner.
Tannehill wasn’t comfortable making a dangerous pass across his body into a tight window. He didn’t get everything behind the pass as it arced to the floor opposed to zipped to an area where the receiver could have caught it.
Considering the occasion, Tannehill was likely eager to impress at this point. It may be a blessing in disguise that his pass fell short as that way his bad habits are not being rewarded.
2Q: 01:04, 2nd and Goal, TB 7.
The Buccaneers rush only three lineman dropping every other player into zone coverage. Tannehill immediately ignores the receiver to his left who is in the vicinity of two players, instead focusing his attention to the right side.
Tannehill has plenty of time in the pocket but he quickly gets rid of the football. With so many players dropping into coverage, he had to do so if he was going to take advantage of any open window.
That window was open and Tannehill found a miniscule spot in the endzone to give his receiver every opportunity to score a touchdown. Roberto Wallace got free inside the zone but had a defender on his back. It would have been an exceptional catch if he was to make it, but Tannehill still put the ball in a position his teammate could catch it and the defender had no play on the football.
The ball fell incomplete, but the throw showed off his phenomenal accuracy and good arm strength to go along with good anticipation to find the soft spot of the defense.
It’s easy to see why the Dolphins were attracted to Tannehill. He showed exceptional accuracy in his first game, with good mechanics and a decent level of awareness of what the opposing defense was doing for a rookie.
Tannehill has a lot of work to do, but there is obviously exceptional talent, if not a massive arm, under center in Miami.