AFC East: Bill Lazor

QB snapshot: Ryan Tannehill

December, 23, 2014
12/23/14
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A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and how he played in the Miami Dolphins' 37-35 win in Week 16:

Tannehill
Tannehill saved his best for one of the final games of the season. In Week 16, Tannehill threw for a season-high 396 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, and he had a 118.8 passer rating in Miami's victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

This was the kind of performance Dolphins fans have been waiting for. Tannehill made big plays and small plays and was a dominant player. Miami (8-7) had a franchise-record 36 first downs -- and 23 were via Tannehill and the passing game.

There also were subtle things Tannehill did well that didn't show up in the box score. He stood tall in the pocket, took some big shots from Vikings' defenders, and eluded pressure to keep the chains the moving.

Tannehill received praise Monday from offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for successfully executing the game-plan details against Minnesota (6-9).

"This guy is playing quarterback," Lazor said. "It's not just making the deep throws. It's not just getting some things out."

Tannehill solidified his case to be Miami's starter in 2015. This was a big third season for the quarterback and head coach Joe Philbin, who also is set to return for his fourth season.

With one game remaining, Tannehill already has set new career bests in touchdown passes (26) and passer rating (93.2) this season. He needs just 128 passing yards Sunday against the New York Jets to top his previous career mark of 3,913 yards. Tannehill needs 214 passing yards in the final game to reach 4,000 yards for the first time in his career.

Either way, it's been a successful season in which Tannehill made enough strides to provide optimism for 2015.
DAVIE, Fla. -- How did Joe Philbin celebrate Sunday night’s news that he will return as Miami Dolphins' head coach in 2015?

“I had one Guinness,” Philbin said Monday.

Philbin can breathe easier now that his job is secure for another year. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pulled a somewhat surprising move by making the coaching announcement following Sunday’s 37-35 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Philbin
There was a lot of speculation that Philbin’s future would be determined in the final two games. However, Ross said he made up his mind before Sunday.

"Things are happening as an organization. I think everyone feels the buzz that things are changing around here," Ross said. "They say patience is a virtue, you know. But I'm expecting big things next year -- I will tell you that."

Questions about Philbin have been removed, and the mood is different this week going into the season finale.

“It’s important for the head coach of an NFL football team that the owner believes in him and what he’s doing and the program he’s instilling,” Philbin said. “It’s very, very important. If you don’t have that kind of belief and faith from the owner then it’s not going to work.”

Questions remain if Philbin will keep everyone on his coaching staff, particularly on defense, where the team has struggled in the final five weeks of the season. Ross assured Philbin will return, but it remains to be seen if offseason tweaks will be required for the assistants.

Last year, Miami fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and replaced him with Bill Lazor, who has been an upgrade. Miami’s points per game increased from 19.8 in 2013 to 24.3 this season.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and Philbin both deflected questions about the future of the staff on Monday.

“Right now, I’m just concerned about playing the New York Jets and winning this football game,” Philbin said. “There’s a time and place to talk about staff.”

Added Coyle, “I don’t think it’s my place to answer any of that type of stuff. Right now we have one game to get ready for as the season ends. That’s not [something] I’m going to deal with.”

A victory over the Jets (3-12) would give the Dolphins (8-7) their first winning season since 2008, and it would mark Philbin’s first winning season as head coach.

A victory over New York also could provide some momentum and good vibes heading into the offseason.

“We approach this as a privilege to put the uniform on and put the whistle on as a coach to represent this organization,” Philbin said. “The goal is to win every single time you step on this field. ... That's the only way I know how to go about preparing a team to play in the National Football League. So that's exactly what we're going to do.”
Lost in Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ newsworthy announcement that head coach Joe Philbin will return in 2015 was the stellar performance by their quarterback that led to Sunday's 37-35 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Tannehill
 Third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill also solidified his case to be next year's starter. He had his best game of the season, throwing for 396 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Tannehill also recorded a 118.8 passer rating.

Tannehill posted big numbers in the most important season of his career. He set career-highs for touchdowns (26) and passer rating (93.2) while learning a new offensive scheme.

Similar to the head coach, there is no question on who will be under center in Miami next season. The Tannehill-Philbin tandem will lead the Dolphins again in 2015.

“I’m happy to hear [Philbin is] coming back,” Tannehill said after Sunday's game. “I’m looking forward to it. Let’s keep working on it.”

Tannehill surpassed Carson Palmer for the sixth-most passing yards in the first three seasons in NFL history. He’s started every game since 2012 and has 10,993 passing yards.

The addition of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has paid off for Tannehill. Together, the pair has improved Miami’s points per game from 19.8 in 2013 to 24.3 this season. And if the Dolphins get 37 points next week against the New York Jets (3-12), they will have 400 points in a season for the first time since the Dan Marino era.

There are still things Tannehill needs to work on. He hasn’t hit on enough deep balls to stretch the defense, and his play speed should improve in his second year in the system. Tannehill -- and Philbin -- also must improve their 23-24 career record. Miami will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.

But the Dolphins are optimistic Tannehill and Philbin will improve and grow in their fourth season together. They still have a chance to lead Miami (8-7) to its first winning season since 2008 with a victory Sunday over the Jets.

“It’s big,” Tannehill said. “Finishing with a winning record was not our goal to start the year. But at this point that’s what we have to aim for. We’re out of the playoff competition. We’re playing for each other right now. To be able finish on a positive note against a division opponent at home is huge.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (7-7) are on a path towards their sixth consecutive non-playoff season. But one player who is having a consistent season is starting tailback Lamar Miller.

Miller
 Miami’s third-year tailback already set new career highs for rushing yards (829) and touchdowns (six) this season. Miller is just 171 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season, and that goal is within reach with two games remaining against the Minnesota Vikings (6-8) and New York Jets (3-11).

“You know, it would be great just to reach 1,000 yards,” Miller said. “I just have to continue to do what I do, come to work every day and try to get better.”

Miller has thrived in first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's new scheme. Miami’s spread, quick-hitting offense has allowed Miller to find more creases in the defense and make plays in open space, which are strengths.

This season Miller is doing a much better job of getting to the second level. He's run for a career-high 45 first downs, nearly doubling his previous career best of 26 first downs in 2013. Miller also increased his yards per carry from 4.0 last season to 4.7 this season.

“I think he’s made better decisions running the ball,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It’s not always perfect, like the quarterback is not perfect every single time in decision-making. He does a good job, and I think he's done a better job. Less shuffling, less dancing, more running.”

Although Miller has improved in several areas, he mentioned there are still things he must work on to become a complete running back. For example, Miller citied pass protection and catching out of the backfield. Taking on blockers has been a struggle for Miller throughout his career, and he's dropped a few passes this season.

But running is Miller's biggest priority and he's done it well. Perhaps what is most impressive is Miller is approaching 1,000 yards rushing without getting nearly as many carries as other feature tailbacks around the NFL. Miller only received more than 16 carries once in a game this season while constantly rotating with backups Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas. But Miller is making the most of his opportunities.

Miller needs to average 85.5 rushing yards in the final two weeks to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.

“Every time I get the ball, I try to make a big play for this team,” Miller said. “Once I get it, I just try to be decisive, make the right reads and use my vision.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- Let's travel back two years ago with the Miami Dolphins: It is 2012 and no secret that they're in desperate need of a quarterback in the NFL draft. The Chad Henne fiasco just ended and Miami hired a new head coach in Joe Philbin, who needed a quarterback to start his program.

The Dolphins, along with most likely 31 other teams, had Robert Griffin III rated higher than Ryan Tannehill. In fact, many believed it was a reach when Miami selected Tannehill No. 8 overall after Andrew Luck and Griffin were taken off the board with the first two picks by the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, respectively. Both were viewed as future superstars, and Tannehill was more of a project with just 19 career starts at Texas A&M.

Tannehill
Griffin
However, three seasons later, the Dolphins are better off with Tannehill than Griffin. Tannehill will start his 44th consecutive game for Miami (6-5) when it faces the New York Jets on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.”

Things haven't been perfect, but Tannehill has gradually improved each season and is on pace for a career year in 2014. He has thrown for 2,582 yards, 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. His passer rating is 93.4.

Most important, Tannehill still offers hope that he can be Miami's long-term solution at quarterback. He's playing arguably the best football of his career with a 4-2 record over his past six games.

“Yeah, I think he’s been playing better,” Philbin said of Tannehill. “I think he's been playing better for probably even a hair longer than that. Certainly, he’s been throwing the ball accurately and doing a good job running the offense.”

Griffin’s chances of doing the same for the Redskins have all but disappeared since he was benched this week in favor of third-string quarterback Colt McCoy. Griffin struggled the past two seasons since returning from major knee surgery. He has a 13-20 record as a starter, including a 4-14 mark in 2013 and 2014.

Granted, Tannehill also must win more games. He is 21-22 as a starter. But Tannehill's individual stats are up across the board in assistant Bill Lazor's new offense. Tannehill also has Miami in playoff contention in December for the second consecutive season.

“I don't know exactly how my numbers look, [but] I feel more and more comfortable the more games we play,” Tannehill said. “The guys around me are making plays right now. The line is protecting me. The run game is going pretty well. So when the guys around you are making plays and you can just get them the ball in space, it makes it a lot more fun to be a quarterback.”

The Dolphins will have a decision to make on Tannehill's future soon. He's under contract next season and the team must decide if it wants to pick up Tannehill’s fifth-year option. Miami also can determine if it wants to work out a long-term contract instead. Those choices are all in play.

But the Redskins apparently made a decision that Griffin is not the long-term solution at quarterback in Washington. It’s an interesting contrast of two third-year quarterbacks -- just six draft slots apart -- heading in opposite directions.


DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is direct and to the point. He is honest in his assessments, whether they are good or bad.

In fact, Lazor did a good job summarizing his philosophy a few weeks ago on how to get the best out of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"I have to make things uncomfortable so he can get comfortable," Lazor explained.

Tannehill
In other words, Lazor is constantly pushing Tannehill to test his limits as a quarterback. Despite some rocky moments, Tannehill is making solid progress in his third season. He is on pace for career highs in touchdowns (17) and passer rating (92.2). Most importantly, the Dolphins are 5-2 in their past seven games with Tannehill under center entering Sunday's contest against the Denver Broncos (7-3).

Lazor is doing a good job of accentuating what Tannehill does well, and their chemistry is developing. Tannehill has posted four games of triple-digit passer ratings already this season. He only had four games with triple-digit passer ratings in his previous two seasons.

"I didn’t know what to expect, honestly, coming in," Tannehill said of Lazor. "I came in kind of with an open mind just to see what he brought to the table. I think he’s done a great job of utilizing not only my skill set, but our team’s as well. I think the stuff we do utilizes my ability to move around, make some plays with my feet, and gets the ball in the hands of our playmakers."

A recent NFL.com article, citing anonymous sources, reported a "rift" between some offensive players and Lazor because of his coaching style. This week Lazor shrugged off the report and said his rapport with players is "about what a normal NFL offensive team would be."

"I probably just don’t put a lot of credence on anonymous reports," Lazor said. "Like I said, I enjoy the professionals, the guys we work with. I enjoy coming to work every day because of the people I work with. You’ve been at practice, nothing is different. You’ve been at training camp where you could be at the whole practices. I would like to think that, if the players were asked, that they would say I’ve been professional."

Tannehill said his rapport with Lazor is getting better and better, which is evident in the results. Tannehill is playing arguably the best football of his career over this seven-game stretch.

"It’s good. I think he does a good job of creating a game plan for us, putting us in positions to make plays during the game with his play-calling," Tannehill said. "I think our relationship has definitely grown as the season has gone on. I’ve gotten to know him more, and his personality more, and we’ve gotten more on the same page on not only football stuff, but just joking around with each other as well."

This pair must remain in synch if Miami (6-4) aims to end its six-year playoff drought. Tannehill and Lazor have a chance to prove over the next six games that they can thrive together for the long haul.
The Miami Dolphins (5-3) picked up an impressive and dominant 37-0 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers (5-4).

Here are five additional observations from Sunday’s game:
  • Jones
    Jones
    Dolphins safety Reshad Jones is playing some of the best football of his career. Jones tied for the Dolphins lead with five tackles and also recorded his second interception in three games. Miami's secondary play raised another notch once Jones returned from his four-game suspension. Jones showed up in good shape and made immediate contributions. During the Dolphins' current three-game winning streak, their defense is only allowing nine points per game.
  • It’s not a coincidence that Miami's offense produced a season-high 37 points once starting tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Brian Hartline were involved. The two veterans combined for 10 receptions, 115 yards and a touchdown. Both players have been mostly quiet during the first half of the season, but new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor made it a point to get both capable veterans involved against San Diego. Miami did score 38 total points in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders, but seven points were credited to the defense when cornerback Cortland Finnegan returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown.
  • Dolphins guard Mike Pouncey brought up a good point in the locker room after Sunday's game. The win over the Chargers was the first time Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been sacked all season. For an offensive line, this is the baseball equivalent of pitching a shutout. Tannehill dropped back 34 times and wasn’t sacked once by San Diego.
  • Miami rookie receiver Jarvis Landry is wise beyond his years. Landry is always thinking on the field and continues to do subtle things that lead to winning football. Landry made several nice cuts to elude defenders and turn short catches or returns into bigger gains. His 14-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter showed toughness to stay in bounds on the sideline and get the ball over the pylon. The Dolphins already were up 30 points, but Landry continued to give maximum effort.
  • The Dolphins are playing playoff-caliber football. But don’t assume the road to the postseason in the AFC will be easy. Miami is currently the No. 9 seed in the AFC; the top six seeds make the playoffs. The wild-card teams currently are the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (5-3). Yes, the Chiefs have the same record as Miami. But Kansas City owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins with its Week 3 victory at Sun Life Stadium. Miami also is behind the Buffalo Bills (5-3) and Cleveland Browns (5-3) due to various tiebreakers. The Dolphins will host the Bills in Week 11 in an effort to split the season series.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- One of the biggest issues for Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been his lack of consistency. But there are recent signs that show Tannehill is making strides in that department in his third season.

Tannehill has posted a passer rating of 100.0 or better in three of his past five starts. He has been on his "A" game lately in victories over the Oakland Raiders (109.3 passer rating), Chicago Bears (123.6) and Sunday's 37-0 blowout win against the San Diego Chargers (125.6 rating). It's not a coincidence that Miami is 4-1 during this stretch in which Tannehill is playing some of the best football of his career.

Miami’s starting quarterback impressively outdueled MVP candidate and Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers at Sun Life Stadium. Tannehill completed 11 of his first 13 throws and produced back-to-back touchdown drives to start the game. He finished with 288 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“Just getting more comfortable in the offense and getting out and playing. I think that’s been the biggest thing,” Tannehill said. “That, and guys around me are making plays. When that happens, obviously it elevates my play.”

Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has done a good job of focusing on Tannehill's strengths.

For example, the Dolphins rarely throw the deep the ball, which is an area Tannehill struggles. Tannehill had only one completion of 25 yards or more Sunday and the offense still produced 37 points. But Lazor has Tannehill throwing short and mid-range passes accurately while also using his athleticism to run the football more and move the pocket. Tannehill had his fourth straight game with an explosive run of 20 yards or more.

Miami's offensive line also has been a major upgrade. The Dolphins have allowed just 17 sacks in eight games. They are on pace to allow 34 sacks this season, well below last year's franchise-record 58 sacks. Miami allowed zero sacks of Tannehill against San Diego.

“You look at the offensive line, who did an outstanding job in pass protection [Sunday], kept me clean and I got to go through my progressions,” Tannehill said. “[I] got to No. 4 in progressions a couple times and [they] kept me clean.”

The formula is fairly simple for the Dolphins: Miami is 4-1 this year when Tannehill posts a passer rating of 80.0 or higher. The Dolphins have a lot of talent and they can compete with just about anyone when they get consistency from the quarterback position. But when Tannehill is playing poorly, that puts a lot of pressure on other aspects of the Dolphins to have little margin for error. Miami is just 1-2 in the first half of the season when Tannehill posts a passer rating below 80.0.

It's clear the Dolphins (5-3) will go as far as Tannehill can take them this season.

The San Diego Chargers (5-3) will travel to face the Miami Dolphins (4-3) in an important game with early playoff implications. Both teams could be fighting for a wild card in the AFC, which would make owning the head-to-head tiebreaker important.

Who will prevail in this matchup? ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker discuss:

Walker: Miami has won two in a row and San Diego has lost two in a row, so momentum may be a factor in this matchup. Where are the Chargers in terms of confidence and ending their losing streak?

Williams: The Chargers are a veteran-led group that understands the ebb and flow of an NFL season, so confidence will not be an issue traveling on the road to face the Dolphins. Two of San Diego's three losses have come on the road, against teams that have one loss apiece (Denver and Arizona). San Diego's other loss was a three-point setback to AFC West rival Kansas City at home.

The Chargers don't make a lot of mistakes and generally force opponents to beat them. Coach Mike McCoy is meticulous in his game-day preparation and his staff is skilled in making in-game adjustments. I expect San Diego will be ready for whatever the Dolphins plan to do scheme-wise on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins are doing a nice job of running, ranked No. 6 by averaging 138 rushing yards per game. How has new coordinator Bill Lazor turned things around on offense?

Walker: Most people expected Lazor to come in and quickly fix the passing game, but he has made his biggest contribution with the running game. Miami's ground game has been consistent, whether it was Knowshon Moreno early, Lamar Miller lately or even quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has three runs of 30 yards or more in the past three games. Lazor has done a good job of spreading out defenses and calling run plays at the right time. His read-option with Tannehill and Miller has been a huge success. Miami's passing game still needs work, but there is progress.

West Coast teams often don't look the same in Miami; San Diego hasn't won here since the 1981 season. How are the Chargers combating that and will the 10-day layoff help?

Williams: Although West Coast teams traditionally struggle in early games traveling east, the Chargers have been relatively successful of late, posting a 7-5 record in 10 a.m. PT games since 2012. The extra days off have given this banged-up team a chance to get some players healthy, and with Philip Rivers controlling the offense, the Chargers are competitive more times than not. One of the keys for San Diego will be the possible return of running back Ryan Mathews. Out for the past six games with an MCL sprain, the Fresno State product could help provide some much-needed balance to San Diego's offense if healthy and cleared to play on Sunday.

After starting 1-2, the Dolphins have won three of their past four games to get back into the AFC playoff race. What has been the difference?

Walker: Part of it is the schedule. The Dolphins cannot hide from that fact. All three of Miami's victories during this stretch have been against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7), Oakland Raiders (0-7) and Chicago Bears (3-5). Those are bad teams the Dolphins must beat if they want to be considered playoff contenders, and to their credit they took care of business.

The Dolphins are 1-3 against teams with winning records. That is why this game against San Diego is such a good measuring stick of where the Dolphins stand. Miami's next four opponents have a combined record of 22-9 (.709 winning percentage), so we are going to find out quickly whether the Dolphins are contenders or pretenders.

San Diego was banged up before its previous game against the Broncos. Where are the Chargers injury-wise heading into Sunday's game?

Williams: The Chargers should be in a better place health-wise. Four weeks ago against Jacksonville, the Chargers barely had enough healthy bodies to fill 46 spots on the active roster. Along with Mathews, cornerback Brandon Flowers and running back Donald Brown are possibilities to return from concussions. Pass rushers Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) and Cordarro Law (ankle) also should have a chance to make it back on the field on Sunday. Offensive linemen D.J. Fluker (ankle) and Rich Ohrnberger (back) have been playing with injuries, so the extra time should work in their favor as well.

The Dolphins are No. 3 in passing defense, holding teams to just 212 passing yards a game. How does the front seven set the tone?

Walker: Miami's front four are the strength of the entire team. The Dolphins have waves of good players, starting with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and defensive tackles Jared Odrick, Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks. Miami also is getting contributions off the bench from Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Dion Jordan, who recorded a couple of tackles in his first game off suspension. This group sets the tone for the defense. The Dolphins' linebackers have been inconsistent with the exception of Jelani Jenkins, who leads Miami in tackles (53) by a wide margin.

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

October, 28, 2014
10/28/14
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The Miami Dolphins improved to 4-3 with a 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) on Sunday.

Here is a look at whose stock is up and down this week in Miami:

Rising

Delmas
1. Louis Delmas, safety: Delmas’ season had been fairly nondescript during the first six games. But he made he made a major impact against the Jaguars. Delmas returned an interception 81 yards for a touchdown of Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and also recovered a fumble. Delmas said he read Bortles' eyes on the pick and took advantage of the rookie. Miami’s defense can use more big plays from Delmas in the second half of the season.

2. Brent Grimes, cornerback: Miami’s Pro Bowl cornerback also found the end zone with a pick-six of his own off Bortles in the third quarter. Grimes returned his 22 yards and scored a touchdown for the second time in his eight-year career. Grimes leads the Dolphins with two interceptions this season.

3. Dolphins on the road: Miami has issues at Sun Life Stadium. But the team has been steady on the road this year. The Dolphins are 3-1 on the road, which includes consecutive road victories against the Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears and Jaguars. The Oakland win could have an asterisk because the Dolphins were designated the road team in London. However, the Dolphins have found ways to win outside of Miami.

Falling

1. Pass protection: After a solid start, Miami’s pass protection is starting to show flashes of its 2013 form – and that’s not good news for the Dolphins. Miami has allowed seven sacks in the past two games, which included three sacks in Sunday's victory. The Dolphins are having their most trouble up the middle between the guard and center. Veterans Daryn Colledge and Mike Pouncey are having some issues picking up middle rushers. This recent trend hasn’t cost Miami any of the past two games, but it’s certainly a concern heading into a tough November schedule.

2. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: The offense, as a whole, underachieved. Tannehill, as the leader, gets most of the blame for Miami’s slow start and underwhelming performance on offense. Miami had just 56 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half. The Dolphins’ defense (14 points) scored more than their offense (13). Tannehill said after the game that it was an “unacceptable” performance and the offense needs to make corrections. After lighting up the Bears in Week 7, Tannehill threw for just 196 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Jaguars.

3. Brian Hartline, receiver: He is off to a slow start. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor hasn’t done enough to get Hartline involved in the offense early, and on Sunday he appeared out of rhythm. He had just one reception for 19 yards and also had at least two drops. Miami’s coaching staff and Hartline must do a better job of getting more involved.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Although it hasn't been publicized much on a national level, Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins has quietly been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL during the past three weeks.

Tannehill has been lights out in 10 of his past 12 quarters, with the exception being the first half in a Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Tannehill
The Dolphins are 2-1 in that stretch and 3-3 overall heading into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6). Tannehill appears to be finding his groove at the right time. This is an important part of the season where we will find out if Miami is a contender or pretender this season.

“It’s a natural progression, right?” Tannehill said this week. “As a play-caller, as an offense, as you get in the flow of things, you figure out the things that your team is good at, that your players are good at, and you try to highlight those things. You can’t only do those things because you have to be balanced. But I think [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] has done a great job of game-planning, and then when the games come around, calling great games.”

Tannehill’s numbers are up across the board during his three-game run. He is completing 72.3 percent of his passes in that stretch and making fewer mistakes. Tannehill also is using his legs more and produced runs of 40 and 30 yards in his past two games.

Tannehill’s recent play has fueled newfound optimism that he could potentially develop into Miami’s long-term solution at quarterback. Just before this three-game run, there was speculation that Tannehill was in danger of being benched.

Miami head coach Joe Philbin refused to name a starting quarterback before the Week 4 game against the Oakland Raiders. That fueled questions of whether Tannehill needed to play better quickly or risk being benched. From that point, Tannehill has played some of the best football of his career.

“I’m just glad we’re playing good football, myself and the team,” a happy Tannehill said. “You want to improve every week, and you know I think we’ve done that. Sometimes it’s been obvious, sometimes not so obvious. But I think we’re improving consistently, and that’s what you want is guys getting more comfortable on the field, myself included and things start clicking.”

The next step for Tannehill is to prove his hot streak isn't just a short-term solution. It is easier for NFL quarterbacks to get hot, but franchise quarterbacks are able to consistently stay hot.

Tannehill has 10 more games to get the Dolphins in the postseason and prove he is Miami's long-term answer under center. A good game against the lowly Jaguars Sunday would be another step in the right direction for Tannehill's development.

DAVIE, Fla. -- The day after the Miami Dolphins blew a fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers, much of the heat was on Miami’s coaching staff.

Philbin
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin had a chance to study the tape and accepted blame for the loss. He had several questionable decisions that didn’t work, and that led to one of the toughest losses for Miami in several seasons.

“I have to do a better job, first and foremost,” Philbin said. “I’m the head coach. We had a lead with four minutes to go. Like I said often, you win as a team and you lose as a team. We could have done better in all three phases, coaching as well.”

Philbin stepped to the podium willing to discuss any questionable call. The bad thing was there were several to discuss from one game, which is a bad sign.

Among the questionable coaching decisions were conservative play calling late in the fourth quarter. Philbin admitted he “got a little queasy” and overruled offensive coordinator Bill Lazor by calling a run play on third-and-9. Philbin also called a fourth-down timeout on defense and allowed Green Bay a chance to regroup, just to name a few.

“Obviously that’s what I get paid to do,” Philbin said of his in-game decisions. “Some of them, I wished they worked out better.”

There will be a lot of second-guessing and outside distractions for the Dolphins after this kind of tough loss. Miami will have five of its next seven games on the road, including this Sunday’s contest at the Chicago Bears.

The Dolphins will have to refocus for this tough stretch in order to keep it together.

“Hopefully as a staff, as a team, players, everyone, what matters most is what we do and say in this building and on this practice field and trust each other,” Lazor said. “That’s my goal.”

Dolphins vs. Raiders preview

September, 26, 2014
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Two struggling teams, the Miami Dolphins (1-2) and Oakland Raiders (0-3), traveled across the Atlantic Ocean for Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium in London. This is the first of three NFL games in London this season.

Both the Dolphins and Raiders are searching for answers and an identity. But only one can get on track in this Week 4 matchup.

Who will prevail? ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson discuss.

Walker: Bill, Oakland has played its best football on the road so far this season. How do you explain that coming from a rebuilding team?

Williamson: Really, James, the Raiders have been competitive only once this season and it was Sunday at New England. The 19-14 loss at the New York Jets in Week 1 was not nearly as close as the score indicated. At New England, the Raiders were more competitive on defense than on offense. Still, the team did have a chance to win this game late and there is a sense of confidence with Oakland. We will see if that translates into being competitive against Miami.

James, do you think the Dolphins, who have been struggling as well, have confidence going into this game?

Walker: The Dolphins have a lot of issues, Bill. It would be much easier if the team could say, "Let's fix this one problem and turn it around." But I can name at least a half-dozen issues that hurt the Dolphins the past two weeks. I wouldn't say their confidence is shot. That's probably going too far. But for the first time this season doubt is starting to creep in -- and it's only Week 4. It's questionable whether Miami is good enough to fix all its issues quickly to win enough games. The Dolphins need a win to erase some doubt internally.

I'm intrigued by Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Williamson: His strengths are his leadership and poise. He is very comfortable in his role at the age of 23. Carr has not been great, but the Raiders are not 0-3 because of him and the job does not look to be too big for him. He has been solid on third down and has handled pressure well at times. But the issues are typical of a rookie. His accuracy hasn't been great, defenses stifle him sometimes and execution at times stalls. But I think Carr will get better as he gets more experience and more talent around him.

What have been Ryan Tannehill's biggest problems?

Walker: Similar to the team, leaks in Tannehill's game are springing up in several areas. That's why there are major questions if he can get everything fixed in time to save his job long term. If I had to pick two issues, I would say his lack of accuracy and the fact he doesn't make quick enough decisions in Bill Lazor's offense. Tannehill's footwork has been off and his ball placement isn't consistent.

Miami has a long trip to London, but Oakland has an even longer journey. What are the Raiders doing to make it work?

Williamson: I don't think this long trip will be an issue for Oakland, as the Raiders have been in England all week. They flew directly to London on Sunday night after the New England game. They have time to rest and adjust their body clocks Monday and Tuesday. They practiced (using their same time routine) during the week. I think the Raiders will be rested come game time.

What are the Dolphins' travel plans and how will it affect them?

Walker: The Dolphins took a different approach. Head coach Joe Philbin wants this game to feel as close to their normal routine as possible. They are considered the "road team," so that offered more flexibility and fewer media obligations in London. The Dolphins didn't leave South Florida until Thursday night. Therefore, they had practices at their own training facility Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Miami will have a light walk-through in London on Friday and meetings in the hotel Saturday, just like a normal game. The time change could be a factor traveling so late in the week. But we will find out on Sunday.

Offensive malaise continues for Miami

September, 21, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- There was a lot of hype and hoopla surrounding the Miami Dolphins' new-look offense this offseason.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who came from the Chip Kelly school of offense, was expected to bring an innovative style to Miami that was up-tempo and able to quickly put points on the board. Even Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said in training camp that he viewed 25 points per game -- or 400 points in a season -- as a successful bar for his team.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeProtecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was again an issue for Miami in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.
But after three games, the Dolphins’ new offense is mostly firing blanks. As a result, Miami (1-2) suffered a 34-15 blowout loss at home to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs (1-2).

The Dolphins have averaged just 12.5 points per game in the past two weeks. The "new look" is showing some of the same old mistakes that were made previously under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

Many people in Miami have their jobs on the line this season, and the Dolphins can't win many games with the offense unable to consistently move the football.

Why is the offense struggling? There are myriad reasons. Here are a few worth noting:

  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not making the proper strides in Year 3. Lazor is asking a lot of Tannehill, and so far he’s proving to be unable to carry the team. Tannehill currently has a career-low completion percentage of 56.5 percent in three games. His passer rating of 74.1 also is a career low. The Dolphins can only go as far as Tannehill can lead them, and so far it’s not looking promising. "It's still early in the season, so I have confidence that we can get this thing turned around," Tannehill said. "But it has to happen now. I said that last week and we didn't get it done."
  • There have been questionable play calling by Lazor and poor clock management by Philbin. On Sunday, the Dolphins called passes on second-and-1 and third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, which resulted in an incomplete deep pass to Mike Wallace and a quarterback sack. Miami had the running game going -- Lamar Miller rushed for 108 yards -- and went away from it at a curious time. The game went downhill from there.
  • The offense has been unable to sustain scoring drives. The Dolphins' longest touchdown drive was for 19 yards, which followed a Chiefs turnover. In fact, 12 of Miami's 15 points were set up by the defense and special teams. Defensive tackle Jared Odrick forced a fumble on Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith to set up a short touchdown. Miami's defense also got a safety and rookie Jarvis Landry returned a kick 75 yards to set up a field goal.
  • The Dolphins had three drops in the first quarter, which killed any momentum in the first half.
  • Pass protection, which was the offense's biggest issue last season, remains a problem. The Dolphins allowed four quarterback sacks for the second week in a row. Tannehill has been sacked nine times in three games.

There are no easy fixes. Leaks are springing up in various areas and Philbin said "everything" is on the table in terms of making improvements.

The good news is Miami will play another winless team, the Oakland Raiders. The game will be played in London, where the Dolphins hope to find their identity.

"We have to determine what we're going to do," Philbin said. "We have to go back to work. We gotta go across the Atlantic Ocean and we have to play better."

Ryan Tannehill: 'I have to do better'

September, 17, 2014
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is trying to put on the best face possible after his slow start to the regular season.

"It’s better to struggle in September than December," Tannehill deadpanned following Wednesday’s practice.

Tannehill
Tannehill is fully aware that he’s not meeting expectations at the start of an important third season. Miami drafted Tannehill No. 8 overall in 2012 and expected him to be the engine that drives the offense at this stage in his career. Instead, three seasons later, Tannehill is having some of the same struggles with accuracy and inconsistency he had in Year 1 and Year 2.

The Dolphins' passing game is ranked 24th in the NFL, and Tannehill is averaging just 209.5 passing yards per game. He also has a passer rating of 76.1. Miami was fortunate enough to split the first two games with its starting quarterback playing mediocre in that span.

Tannehill knows he must be more consistent as Dolphins (1-1) host the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

“I haven’t been playing up to my standards and up to my standards as a team,” Tannehill said. “I just have to do better. ... Obviously, I want it to change. I’m not sitting here happy with the way I played.”

Miami’s coaches remain behind Tannehill. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said the struggles on offense aren't on one person, and Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor also said Tannehill has shown encouraging signs in practice.

But so far not much has translated into the games as Tannehill tries to adjust to a new offense. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Tannehill was 0-of-6 on throws of 15 yards or more downfield in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Miami’s passing game hasn’t been much of a threat through two weeks of the season. Much of that falls on the starting quarterback.

Tannehill has received strong support from Dolphins fans in South Florida. But some of that is starting to change. According to an ESPN.com poll this week, nearly half (49 percent) of Dolphins fans are now convinced Tannehill is not the long-term solution in Miami. About 22 percent believe Tannehill will be the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback and 29 percent remain undecided.

The only way Tannehill can silence the doubters is with consistent play. He has 14 games remaining to have a strong third season.

“Obviously, I don’t want to struggle at all,” Tannehill said. “But there’s a lot of football ahead of us and I’m excited about the opportunity we have.”

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