- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Miami Dolphins are preparing for an important 2014 season. The Dolphins have playoff expectations in their third season under head coach Joe Philbin, who is 15-17.
But for the Dolphins to reach their potential, they must answer several questions that will be explored this week. Let's take a look at Miami’s starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Biggest reasons for concern: Deep ball, pocket presence
Like Philbin, Tannehill is 15-17 as a starter in two seasons. We’ve seen well-defined weaknesses from Miami's quarterback in that span. The two that stand out most are Tannehill's lack of a deep ball and pocket presence. With the addition of speedy No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace, we discovered last year that Tannehill struggles throwing deep. Often his throws were too short when Wallace had the cornerback beat. In those cases, Wallace had to wait and fight for the ball. A few times Tannehill overthrew Wallace and didn’t have good accuracy. It’s possible this throw just isn’t in his arsenal. If that’s the case, it could be a component that prevents Tannehill from truly becoming a franchise quarterback. Tannehill must also improve his pocket presence and play speed. Miami’s offensive line was porous last year (we will get to that next). But a portion of Tannehill’s franchise-record 59 quarterback sacks were due to Tannehill’s indecision and holding the football too long. New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor says he’s working on improving Tannehill’s play speed, which should get faster with experience.
Biggest reason for hope: Improved offensive line
Tannehill played with the worst offensive line in franchise history last season. The Dolphins set a team record for sacks allowed, were 26th in rushing and had a bullying scandal that took away two starters. These factors made it difficult to fully judge Tannehill as a starter. First-year general manager Dennis Hickey made a point this offseason to improve the offensive line. First, Hickey signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and starting guard Shelley Smith in free agency. Then, Hickey drafted starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and potential starting guard Billy Turner in the third round. Miami could have four new starters on the offensive line this year, with Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey being the only holdover from last season. On paper, this group should be much better than last year’s offensive line. Tannehill has two Pro Bowlers at center and left tackle, which are the most important positions on the offensive line. The Dolphins hope young players like James, Turner and possibly second-year guard Dallas Thomas can develop quickly into quality starters. Tannehill can certainly use the extra time in the pocket this year in order to reach his potential.