Dolphins vs. Texans: What Does Ryan Tannehill's Performance Mean Going Forward?
The Miami Dolphins don't have many offensive weapons. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a rookie. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is a seasoned mastermind. The Houston Texans defense is loaded with talent.
Not hard to see why not many were surprised by the end result in the Dolphins' loss to the Texans.
Tannehill's stat line isn't surprising: 20-for-36 passing (55.56 percent), 219 yards, three interceptions.
So now that the 30-10 bloodbath is over and now that Tannehill has officially gotten his first poor performance out of the way, what's next?
More important than the stat line is how he looked.
This was not entirely on Tannehill; not only does Houston have one of the best defenses in the league, but they were in peak form today, with defensive end J.J. Watt putting on a clinic, with three tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and three passes batted down, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Tannehill had some flashes on the first two drives, both of which stalled out and only one of which resulted in points, but after stalling out in five plays on the next drive, everything came unraveled.
There were a lot of passes batted at the line of scrimmage, and Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post pointed out that all three of Tannehill's interceptions were on batted passes:
Oh look: Another tipped pass, and another INT for Tannehill. That's three this half. #Texans take over inside the 20— Ben Volin (@BenVolinPBP) September 9, 2012
But after the game, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin cleared up what went wrong on those batted passes (via Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):
Coach Joe Philbin said the batted down balls were a problem causes by O-linemen not knocking hands down, & Tannehill not stepping in lanes— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 9, 2012
Ryan Tannehill can't do it by himself, but it's about more than just his lack of options in the passing game. His offensive line has to do its job, but Tannehill must also do his. He needs to get off his first reads and find the openings in pass protection that will allow him to complete uncontested passes.
The Dolphins started out doing exactly what they want to do on offense: run a lot of plays at a high tempo. They ran eight plays for 31 yards on their first drive in three minutes and 20 seconds on the game clock and ran eight plays for 37 yards in 3:58 on their second.
The problem with that style of offense, though, is that when it doesn't work, it opens the door for what happened on Sunday: a lopsided outcome on the time-of-possession clock, which ultimately results in an exhausted defense.
It's less likely to work when there are no explosive plays to be had; the Dolphins moved the ball at a clip of just 4.25 yards per play. But of course, the Texans defense is among the best in the NFL, so Miami's struggles came as no surprise.
Those same struggles, though, can be built on.
The Dolphins learned a few things today: They need to find ways to clean things up in front of Tannehill, perhaps by moving him outside the pocket and taking advantage of his athleticism. Tannehill needs to get off his first read more quickly. The offensive line needs to keep defenders engaged at the arms.
In short, there's a lot of work to do for a lot of people, but that's about the standard after a beating as bad as the one the Dolphins were handed on Sunday.
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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