Miami Dolphins: Matt Moore
Next up is Nos. 17-20.
No. 20: Randy Starks
Position: Defensive tackle
2014 stats: 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks
Analysis: Starks, 31, has been arguably Miami’s most consistent defensive tackle over the past several years. However, he finally showed his age as he wore down toward the end of last season. Miami’s run defense completely fell apart, and Starks played a role in that issue. He is owed $6 million next season and could be a salary-cap casualty.
No. 19: Matt Moore
2014 stats: 21 passing yards, zero touchdowns
Analysis: Moore hasn’t played much in the past three seasons. He is Ryan Tannehill’s backup, which is not the job you want based on Tannehill’s incredible durability. Tannehill has started 48 straight games. But Moore remains one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL. He throws a beautiful deep ball and is solid as a part-time starter. Moore is an unrestricted free agent and will be wise to shop around if he wants a chance to compete for a starting job.
No. 18: John Denney
Position: Long snapper
2014 stats: 16 games, two tackles, one fumble recovery
Analysis: I’m sure this will be a controversial selection. But consider this: When was the last time the Dolphins had an errant snap? Few players on the Dolphins are as good at their jobs as Denney. That's why he is the longest-tenured player in Miami. Bad snaps are costly and can change games. The Dolphins do not have that issue.
No. 17: Brian Hartline
2014 stats: 39 receptions, 474 yards, two touchdowns
Analysis: Hartline is another hard player to rank. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013. Then, his production completely took a dive in 2014 under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Hartline didn’t suddenly become a bad player. He’s simply not a fit in Miami’s current offense. The Dolphins have a decision to make with Hartline and his $5.95 million salary next season. It may be best for both parties to go their separate ways.
ESPN.com’s Dolphins page will examine pending free agents and their chances of returning. On Tuesday, we take a look at Miami’s backup quarterback.
Player: QB Matt Moore
2014 stats: 2-of-4 passing, 21 yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions
Analysis: Moore, who is a former starter for the Dolphins, had an uneventful past three seasons backing up quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami's starting quarterback is very durable and has made 48 consecutive starts for the Dolphins. That’s left Moore with little game action. In talking with Moore, I get the sense he wants to explore his options. He’s one of the top backup quarterbacks in the entire NFL, but Moore wants a chance to compete for a starting job, which he hasn’t had the opportunity to do in Miami for the past two seasons. The Dolphins paid Moore $4 million last year, which is an example of how much they value their No. 2 quarterback. But with tight cap room and bigger needs on the roster, Miami could seek a more affordable backup via the draft or free agency.
Chances of returning: 35 percent
This is a huge scouting opportunity for all 32 teams to see some of the best prospects in this year's NFL draft. I will be there this week to check out every practice, and interview incoming rookies.
Here is a preview of things I am looking for throughout the week as it pertains to the Miami Dolphins:
- Danny Shelton. He could be a target for the Dolphins at No. 14 overall. Miami's run defense was ranked No. 24 in the NFL, and the team could lose starter Jared Odrick in free agency. Defensive help: It’s no secret the Dolphins need help on defense. This is a group that absolutely collapsed in the final six weeks under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami could use help at all three levels, including defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. One big name I’m keeping a close eye on is Washington defensive tackle
- Local flavor: Seemingly every couple of seasons you hear of a big NFL talent that was discovered in South Florida who got away from the Dolphins. Recent examples include New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham and Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, who played at nearby colleges but were overlooked by Miami. This year’s local talent includes four players from the University of Miami: tight end Clive Walford, linebacker Denzel Perryman, receiver Philip Dorsett, and cornerback Ladarius Gunter. The Hurricanes (6-7) underachieved this past season, but had good talent. The Dolphins should know these local players as good or better than any other team.
- Quarterbacks: The Dolphins do not have a backup quarterback under contract. Veteran Matt Moore, who made $4 million last season, is a pending free agent in March, and Miami doesn’t have a legitimate prospect behind starter Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins could look to the draft to find their No. 2 quarterback. It wouldn’t be a high selection. But several middle- or late-round quarterbacks are in this game, including Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oregon State’s Shane Mannion, and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. These are not big names, but the Dolphins will be in the market this year for quarterback insurance.
Remember to keep it locked on ESPN.com’s Dolphins page throughout Senior Bowl week as we bring you all the latest from Mobile via articles, video reports, and more.
Also, feel free to check out my first mock draft for Miami this offseason and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s pick for the Dolphins in his first mock draft.
But who will back up Tannehill in 2015? It's an important question the Dolphins must address this offseason.
I talked to Moore a couple of weeks ago and he was unsure of his return.
"If the situation is right, that will happen," Moore said. "If there's a situation elsewhere that is intriguing, it might also happen. ...I'm going to kind of feel my way through it."
Translation: If Moore gets an opportunity elsewhere to compete for a starting job and with a higher salary, he's most likely leaving Miami.
The Dolphins will explore cheaper alternatives at backup quarterback, especially now that Tannehill is a proven starter. The easiest route would be to draft an affordable, developmental quarterback in the middle or later rounds. They also could look for a veteran in free agency if they are willing to spend more.
Tannehill's durability has been stellar. He started 48 consecutive games since Miami drafted him No. 8 overall in 2012. But a backup quarterback is always one play away.
The Dolphins must find a decent player behind Tannehill who also fits within their budget.
Here’s a list of the Dolphins’ restricted and unrestricted free agents:
Charles Clay, tight end
Jared Odrick, defensive tackle
Matt Moore, quarterback
Knowshon Moreno, running back
Daniel Thomas, running back
Daryn Colledge, guard
Samson Satele, center
Jason Fox, offensive tackle
Jason Trusnik, linebacker
Kelvin Sheppard, linebacker
Jimmy Wilson, safety
Louis Delmas, safety
Derrick Shelby, defensive end
LaMichael James, running back
Jonathan Freeny, linebacker
RJ Stanford, cornerback
With that in mind, let’s open the Dolphins mailbag and see what’s on the minds of Miami fans.
James Walker: I like the idea, Mjhogan. Although it's very early, Melvin Gordon currently is on my short list of targets for Miami. But I'm not convinced the Dolphins are ready to make that kind of move at this stage. Gordon was the best running back I watched last year in college football. I think he's going to be a good pro and worthy of a first-round pick. He's also a good fit for what Miami does offensively. However, Miami is happy with the improvements of Lamar Miller, who had his first 1,000-yard season. The Dolphins will look for a power back or a "bell cow" to complement Miller. But I don't expect it to be in the first round. The team has more pressing needs than another running back.
@JamesWalkerNFL would they think of taking Melvin Gordon in the 1st rd to pair with Miller? Or will they go linebacker? I'm fine with either- Mike Hogan (@mjhogan29) January 2, 2015
Walker: A surprise, Boom? By that you're asking me to reach a little on something that is not certain. Most people expect potential cuts such as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, etc. But looking deeper into the roster, a possible surprise could be guard Shelley Smith. He signed a two-year contract last offseason but was the not the player the Dolphins had hoped. He failed to solidify the guard position and is due $2.75 million next season. That's fairly high for a backup. Miami might cut ties after one season. But, again, this would be a bit of a surprise and definitely not as certain as other names I mentioned.
@JamesWalkerNFL - Who might be a surprise cap causality this offseason?- Jason Harris (@BoomHarris) January 2, 2015
Walker: There are some Dolphins observers in South Florida who have said for years that ownership was the issue in Miami. I was in a wait-and-see mode until Ross at least had the chance to hire one, his own head coach; and two, a general manager. The 2014 season was the first year in Ross' tenure that he had both in place with Joe Philbin and Dennis Hickey. Ross inherited former head coach Tony Sparano and former general manager Jeff Ireland when he took over as majority owner in 2009. Philbin and Hickey are 8-8 together and that's not good enough. I don't fault Ross for his patience. Too often in the NFL, owners do the opposite. But only time will soon tell if Ross hired the right people to begin with. The 2015 season will definitely be a proving ground.
@JamesWalkerNFL is Steven Ross the problem for this team not succeeding?— Larry Rios (@RiosLarry) January 2, 2015
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- There are reasons to be disappointed in a once-promising 2014 season for the Miami Dolphins, who lost 37-24 to the lowly New York Jets on Sunday and finished 8-8 for a second straight year.
The Dolphins have holes to fill on the offense line, a No. 1 receiver who isn't happy and a defense that essentially disappeared in the second half of the season. And despite Joe Philbin's vote of confidence from ownership, questions still remain if Miami has the long-term solution at head coach.
Despite all the uncertainty, there is hope at quarterback, where Ryan Tannehill at least provides hope Miami can turn it around. It's clear that the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them in 2015 and beyond.
Tannehill had a decent, but not spectacular, game on Sunday. He threw for 259 yards and one touchdown and had an 87.4 passer rating to wrap up a career season. But he wasn't in a festive mood.
"Does it feel good to lose?" Tannehill said. "No, I hate losing. I put [in] a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
Tannehill eventually will be able to see his progress and individual success once he studies the big picture. By all accounts, 2014 was a good year for the former first-round pick.
Here are some key statistics about Tannehill:
- He eclipsed 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, becoming the first Dolphins quarterback since Hall of Famer Dan Marino to reach that single-season total. Tannehill also set a new franchise record for completions in a season (392), also passing Marino.
- He set career-highs with 27 touchdown passes and a 92.8 passer rating. Miami's scoring also improved from 19.8 points per game in 2013 to 24.25 points per game this season.
- He has never missed a start in three seasons, despite being sacked 139 times. "I can't even express how tough this kid is and what he goes through," Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore said. "Mentally, physical, it's impressive to watch him go out Sunday, play, get banged around and regroup during the week. ... I don't know if I've met anyone tougher."
Tannehill entered his third season with several questions, and he answered most of them. He learned a new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor and improved within the system as the season went on. Tannehill also improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio and his play speed. A second year in Miami's offense should only make him better.
One weakness continues to be Tannehill's inconsistency throwing the deep ball. That limited the offense to some degree. But Miami cannot expect a perfect quarterback. If I were Tannehill, I would put a major offseason focus on deep balls in an effort to at least become average in that area next season.
The Dolphins have an interesting decision to make, in regards to Tannehill's contract. He has one year remaining on his rookie deal. However, the team has a option this spring that will cost approximately $15 million to keep Tannehill in 2016.
At the very least, the Dolphins should ensure that Tannehill is Miami's quarterback for the next two seasons. Otherwise, they could enter talks for a long-term contract with Tannehill at a time when even up-and-down quarterbacks such as Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton receive huge extensions. That route would be more risky for Miami.
But Tannehill's arrow is pointing up and, therefore, so is the Dolphins'. Continued progress from Tannehill in Year 4 makes Miami a playoff contender to watch for next season.
Moore will become an unrestricted free agent in March. His final game under contract will be Sunday when the Dolphins (8-7) host the New York Jets (3-12) at Sun Life Stadium.
“I’ve enjoyed everything about my time here,” Moore said Friday. “I’m not sure if that’s going to end or if there’s a new chapter. I don’t know yet. When that time comes, I will figure it out then.”
Moore said he "absolutely" plans to play in 2015. He's just not sure of his destination. Moore, who made $4 million this season, is considered one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
But there could be several factors working against Moore returning to Miami. For starters, the Dolphins do not have a lot of cap space going into next season. That will make it challenging to re-sign key free agents such as Moore, starting defensive tackle Jared Odrick and starting tight end Charles Clay.
Miami also is further convinced Tannehill is the answer at quarterback than the team was two years ago when it last signed Moore as an insurance policy. The Dolphins may not want to spend a high amount again on a backup quarterback next season. Tannehill will have started all 16 games for the third straight season, while Moore has completed just 2 of 4 passes for 21 yards this year.
Moore said he understands the business and is “aware of possible change” with the Dolphins next season.
“If the situation is right, that will happen,” Moore said of coming back. “If there's a situation elsewhere that is intriguing, it might also happen. ... I’m going to kind of feel my way through it.”
Lastly, the Dolphins announced their team awards for 2014. Tannehill won the Dan Marino Award for the team’s MVP in 2014. Defensive end Cameron Wake earned the Don Shula Award for leadership and Jason Fox won the Nat Moore Community Service Award.
“It’s a huge honor for me and the guys around me,” Tannehill said of the award. “In order for the quarterback to play well, the guys around me have to be playing well also. I think it’s huge honor, and I love that I got it. But at the same time, you have to give a lot of credit to the guys around me.”
With that said, it's time to begin the process of looking ahead to the 2015 offseason. Here is a preview of upcoming, unrestricted free agents for the Dolphins on offense:
- TE Charles Clay
- G Daryn Colledge
- C Samson Satele
- QB Matt Moore
- RB Knowshon Moreno
- RB Daniel Thomas
- OT Jason Fox
CHICAGO -- So this is what Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like at his absolute best.
Miami's 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday finally showed what a consistent, dominant Tannehill looks like under center. Better yet for the Dolphins, it happened over four full quarters -- not the usual one good half or quarter Tannehill has provided this season.
How locked in was the third-year quarterback? On his second touchdown pass of the day, the Bears took away his first and second options. So Tannehill went to his third progression -- which he rarely does successfully -- to complete a 10-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.
Wallace said after the game that the Dolphins (3-3) couldn't even hit that play in practice. But with Tannehill in the zone, they made it look easy when it mattered most, giving Miami a lead it never relinquished.
"I was the last read on the play," Wallace said. "On that play in practice, I've been working that [route] probably since I was in Pittsburgh and never got the ball, not one time, on that play. That was the first time.
There have been games when Tannehill was good, but never the best player on the field. That changed in Chicago. Afterward, backup quarterback Matt Moore got a chuckle out of Tannehill by telling him, "You inspire me."
Tannehill's day started with 14 straight completions, and he finished with 277 yards and two touchdown passes. He posted a career-high 123.6 passer rating and didn't have his first incompletion until 54 seconds left in the first half.
First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is getting a better grasp of his quarterback's capabilities. The Dolphins used a well-devised game plan that highlighted Tannehill's strengths: throwing short and intermediate passes. His longest completion was for 26 yards to backup tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill also used his athleticism by rolling out of the pocket on passing plays, rushing for 48 yards on six carries.
Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill's confidence was at an all-time high, especially after getting hot early.
"It's hard to pinpoint, but it was just something about him," said Clay, who had four receptions and caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass. "It gave me confidence, and I'm sure it gave everybody else in the huddle confidence."
Tannehill said he has never completed 14 straight passes to start a game at any level. He did complete 14 straight between the second and third quarters this season against the Oakland Raiders, but this performance was from the start and more dominant.
On this day, if you were open, Tannehill easily identified it and made the right decisions. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, and eight Dolphins players had at least two receptions.
"Everyone was getting open," Tannehill said. "It's fun to be able to spread the ball around like that."
Was this a one-game performance or a potential career turning point? That remains to be seen.
One of the biggest critiques of Tannehill is he rarely strings together strong games in back-to-back weeks. This season alone he has struggled from half to half. That is one of the major reasons Tannehill is just 18-20 as a starter and still trying to prove he is Miami's long-term solution.
But Sunday's lights-out performance at least provided a one-game snapshot that Tannehill is capable of dominating a game. He has good athleticism and can make most of the throws needed to thrive in the NFL, with the exception of a consistent deep ball.
After six games, it's clear the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them this season.
"We're definitely playoff-caliber, and if he's playing like [Sunday], we could be Super Bowl-caliber, honestly," Wallace said. "But we got to put in the work every day. We know it's not going to just come to us. We have to keep grinding and stay focused."
LONDON -- Quarterback Ryan Tannehill stood on the sideline without his helmet while the Miami Dolphins' offense was on the field with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
With backup Matt Moore leading Miami's offense, Tannehill was screaming words of encouragement toward his teammates. But the late quarterback change wasn't what many expected.
After a rocky week, Tannehill was pulled from Sunday's game about halfway through the fourth quarter -- but it was because he had turned in one of the strongest performances of his career. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns in Miami's 38-14 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders in London.
Perhaps motivated by recent questions about his status as Miami's starter, Tannehill was essentially lights-out for one of the few times in his career. At one point, he completed a career-high 14 straight passes to help the Dolphins (2-2) take a 17-point lead at intermission that they never relinquished.
The irony of Tannehill sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter because of a blowout -- not a benching -- wasn't lost on Miami's backup quarterback.
"It was kind of funny, you know," Moore said. "I'm so proud of Ryan with the way he played. I'm proud of the whole team. But Ryan, being my guy in the quarterback room, I thought he came out and played well.
"There shouldn't have been any questions. But if there was, he answered them. He played great."
Even Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, who created last week's controversy with his non-endorsement of Tannehill, was able to joke about pulling Tannehill about midway through the fourth quarter.
"You guys predicted it," Philbin deadpanned with a sly grin to the media.
Intentionally or not, Philbin motivated and challenged Tannehill this week in ways the quarterback never experienced. Miami's starter admitted this was the toughest week of his two-plus seasons in the NFL.
The perception Philbin created -- at least publicly -- was that the kid gloves were off; Tannehill could lose his job at any second with another poor performance. He was 1-4 in his previous five starts dating to last season, and that created a sense of urgency and focus. Tannehill was locked in from the beginning on Sunday and completed 17 of his first 19 passes. That sparked Miami's offense to score a season-high 38 points.
"As the week went on and everything, all the distractions, to finally leave the country, have a long flight and come over here and get ready for the game, I think I was more excited for this game than I've been for a game in a long time," Tannehill said.
Perhaps Tannehill's biggest asset is his physical toughness -- he's proved it on a weekly basis. Tannehill has been the NFL's most-sacked quarterback since 2012, and he has never complained or missed a start.
But Tannehill showed a different side of himself to coaches and teammates Sunday with his mental toughness. The pressure on Tannehill had never been higher, and Tannehill answered the call. Overcoming adversity is a major plus for any starting quarterback.
There will be no debating Tannehill's status as the Dolphins enter their bye week.
"I'm excited about the step that I took and that the offense took this week," Tannehill said. "But we have to build off of it. It's just a step."
Moore said the two quarterbacks understood the situation the entire week and they did their best to block the outside distractions. The results showed Sunday.
"I think the sky is the limit," Moore said when asked how good the Dolphins can be this season if Tannehill plays up to his potential. "It is Week 4. We've had some mishaps early in the season. But I think this proves when we're clicking, we can do some big things. I think this game gives guys some positive vibes."
And no one needed more positive vibes than Tannehill.
- Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes the Dolphins are heading to London for a business trip.
- Sid Saraf of Fox Sports Florida wonders if the Dolphins are cursed.
- Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that Dolphins coaches are considering a quarterback change to backup Matt Moore this week.
- Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post writes Tannehill deserves another shot.
- Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel writes Dolphins coach Joe Philbin needs a quick fix.
- Alain Poupart of the Dolphins team site writes the team is determined to turn things around.
In all likelihood, Ryan Tannehill will be the starting quarterback this weekend when the Dolphins take the field in London against the Oakland Raiders. Miami is 1-2 and has a chance to get back to .500, which would put it back in the mix entering its bye week. Making a quarterback change to Matt Moore in Week 4 would be drastic and knee-jerk. It also should be noted that Philbin rarely answers questions about his starting lineups.
"We’re going to get our 46 best players in the game, and we’re going to utilize them the best way possible," Philbin said.
But what if this is a prelude to something? What if Tannehill, who is 16-19 as a starter, is rapidly running out of time? In many ways he has regressed in his first three games this season. Tannehill’s statistics are on pace for career lows in completion percentage (56.5) and passer rating (74.1).
The Dolphins might not pull the plug on Tannehill this week. But if he struggles for the fourth straight game and the Dolphins cannot beat the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3) in London, anything and everything should be on the table, especially entering the bye week.
Philbin is entering a must-win Year 3 in Miami. Tannehill has been pretty much untouchable in his first two seasons as a former first-round draft pick. But Philbin cannot afford to stick to that approach this season if Tannehill can’t turn things around.
The kid gloves are off. It's now or never for Tannehill.
MIAMI – If something happens this season to Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins have reason to feel secure in their backup quarterback. Eight-year veteran Matt Moore capped a strong preseason Thursday in a 14-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Moore was 5-of-8 passing (62.5 percent) for 38 yards in just one quarter of play. But most importantly Moore finished the exhibition season 30-of-46 passing (65.2 percent) for 368 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in three games.
Tannehill and many other starters did not play Thursday as they rest for Miami’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 against the New England Patriots. Tannehill is durable and started all 32 games his first two seasons. But Moore also showed this preseason that he’s capable and ready this year if called upon.
Here are some other thoughts on the Dolphins' final preseason game:
- Thursday was a huge game for Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas. The former second-round pick is on the roster bubble after suffering a hamstring injury, and other rookie running backs (Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa) have shown flashes. Thomas rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown against St. Louis' backups. The Dolphins will have an interesting decision to make on whether Thomas did enough to make Miami’s 53-man roster. The Dolphins have to make their final cuts by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
- Dolphins kick returner and receiver Marcus Thigpen was another player who was injured this preseason and needed a good showing while on the roster bubble. He produced a mixed bag. First, Thigpen had an awful bobbled punt in the second quarter; he fumbled it twice and nearly turned over the ball. Then, Thigpen had a nice 32-yard punt return in the second half. Backup receivers Jarvis Landry and Damian Williams are both capable of splitting the return duties, which will make the roster decision with Thigpen interesting.
- Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan started his first preseason game, one that marked his final game action until October following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Jordan recorded two tackles against the Rams. Rookie linebacker Chris McCain registered two sacks and should make the 53-man roster after a strong preseason and training camp.
- Injuries are always a concern in this final preseason game. Miami rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp, who has been a bright spot in training camp, suffered a chest injury in the first quarter. He was taken to the locker room with trainers and did not return to the field. Other than that, the Dolphins exited the game in good health.