While the Dolphins are expected to finish with a losing record in 2012, Ryan Tannehill could still have a successful season even if that holds true.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton proved that by lighting up scoreboards as he led the Panthers on their way to a 6-10 record. Many expect Newton to be one of the league's best quarterbacks this year.
No one will expect Tannehill to be Newton, but if he can find similar success, there could be the kind of expectations on him in his second year as there are on Newton in 2012.
Setting the statistical bar for Tannehill would be an exercise in futility, but if Tannehill succeeds in these stats, we will likely be considering his rookie season a success overall.
Accuracy was one of the first things Joe Philbin talked about when asked what he wanted to see out of his quarterback in the team's preseason game against the Falcons.
''He has to do what good quarterbacks do,'' Philbin said (per Yahoo). ''They make great decisions. They throw the ball accurately. They make plays when they have to. They get you out of bad plays and they manage the game well.''
The Dolphins aim to run 90 or more plays per game, according to Izzy Gould of the Sun-Sentinel. To put that in perspective, Gould points out that the Dolphins averaged 61.8 plays per game in 2011, meaning the team would need to increase their offensive play count by nearly 50 percent. The Dolphins can't afford a high percentage of incompletions if they want to get 90 plays off in 60 minutes.
Completing a high percentage of passes will be a necessity if the Dolphins want to achieve that number.
Sack Percentage/Interception Percentage
With all that I just said about completion percentage, sometimes an incompletion can be a good play.
It's much better than a sack or an interception.
But as is the case with completion percentage, negative plays in the passing game are the easiest way to kill an offense's momentum—and with it any hope of achieving that magic number of 90 plays per game.
Some of this will be on the offensive line, a unit that gave up 52 sacks in 2011, the third-most in the league. The Dolphins have turned over several positions, including moving on from the biggest culprit, right tackle Marc Colombo. It will be up to the new-look unit to keep Tannehill clean.
That being said, whether the offensive line is doing its job or not, Tannehill must be getting the ball out quickly. That means making good pre-snap reads and sensing when the pressure is coming. This also means adjusting to the NFL game, where defenses are quicker, windows are smaller and schemes are more complicated than many he saw in college.
Yards After Catch
In the West Coast offense, there are very few stats more important than yards after catch.
Yes, this stat is more reflective of a receiver's ability to create yards after the catch. It also indicates a quarterback's ability to find an open man and put the ball in a place where he can create those extra yards.
The easier Tannehill makes it on his receivers—the more he leads them into it, the less they have to stop for the ball; the more he puts it in their chest, the less he puts it in the air—the better the receivers' chances of creating yards after the catch.
Davone Bess has regularly been solid in that regard, although he had a bit of a down year last year, as is to be expected with what was primarily subpar play at the quarterback position in 2012. Brian Hartline has excelled in that regard in the past, though last year was not a great year for him as he was used primarily as a downfield threat in the seam.
It will be interesting to see who the Dolphins' YAC leaders are this year, but in order for there to be a battle, Tannehill has to put the ball in spots that allow his receivers to make it happen in the open field.
Third-Down Conversion Percentage
If the Dolphins want to be successful in the aforementioned goal to run 90 or more plays per game, they'll have to be successful in sustaining drives and converting third downs.
The Dolphins ranked 26th in the NFL last year in converting just one-third of their third-downs on the season.
With the fast-paced offensive mentality comes the risk of putting the defense back onto the field on short rest if the offense goes three-and-out or fails to pick up an early third down. Tannehill will have to instill confidence that he can keep drives going and build momentum for the offense if we're going to buy into him as the answer for the Dolphins at quarterback.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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