Tommy Kelly and the Oakland defensive front need to perform in Miami.
Ryan Tannehill, the rookie quarterback that was the first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins, had a horrible debut. He fumbled, was sacked three times, had four passes batted at the line of scrimmage and threw three interceptions.
Two of the interceptions came off of batted passes, the other when he locked onto his No. 1 read long enough for the cornerback, Kareem Jackson, to step in front of the wide receiver.
There are elements of Tannehill’s game that could look better against the Oakland Raiders. After all, the Texans were the third-ranked pass defense in the NFL last year; the Raiders were 27th.
The Raiders are also dealing with the loss of No. 1 cornerback Ron Bartell, so Tannehill could find some of his receivers open.
Still, Tannehill might not need to throw three interceptions against the Raiders to look even worse than he did in Week 1. Tannehill could be sacked more, have more passes batted down and have a lower completion percentage.
The biggest problem for Tannehill was the batted passes, and the Raiders have one of the tallest defensive lines in football. The second problem was his protection; he had to get the ball out of his hand quickly to avoid taking hits.
The life of a rookie quarterback is difficult, but it’s even harder starting immediately on a team with a talent-depleted offense. Tannehill’s weapons include two veteran receivers that have been backups for the majority of their careers and a New Orleans Saints castoff at running back.
The right side of the offensive line is new, with rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard John Jerry. There just isn’t a lot of firepower for Tannehill to work with, and the offensive line can’t give him all day to go through his progressions in hopes of finding a receiver that manages to get open.
The Dolphins decided it was best to give Tannehill quick reads on offense so he could get rid of the ball and not have to deal with pressure.
On the quick plays, the pressure and the blitz didn’t have time to get to him. When Tannehill held the ball past his first read, the Texans swarmed him, and he ended up tossing it short to Reggie Bush.
Expect more of that against the Raiders.
The Texans also quickly adjusted to the short passes by giving the cornerbacks over the top help and having them charge hard on underneath routes. The result was a bunch of really short completions and little more.
The biggest thing for Tannehill was the batted passes on the quick passes, and he isn’t going to get a reprieve against Oakland’s defensive front.
The Raiders also have a really tall defensive line, and the main rotation includes Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour (6’6”) and Matt Shaughnessy, Desmond Bryant and Christo Bilukidi (6’5”).
The only two players shorter are defensive ends Lamarr Houston (6’3”) and Dave Tollefson (6’4”).
If Tannehill has issues with batted passes, there’s reason to believe it will continue against the Raiders.
The Raiders will also try to put pressure on Tannehill. They will be hungry after only sacking Philip Rivers once in Week 1.
Seymour and Kelly are considered two of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in football, and they will challenge the interior of the Dolphins offensive line.
To stop the hard-charging Raiders, the Dolphins will try to run the ball. Reggie Bush had 100 yards and one touchdown against the Raiders last season, but that was against a very different front seven.
The Raiders boast very good run-stopping defensive ends in Shaughnessy and Houston, and they should be to keep Bush bottled up inside.
Houston graded out as the fourth-best defensive end against the run in 2011, and Shaughnessy graded out as the sixth-best defensive end against the run in 2010 (he missed most of 2011), according to ProFootballFocus.
If the Dolphins are going to win, Tannehill is going to have to get good protection, go through all of his reads, find the open receiver (if there is one) and throw over a tall defensive line. It’s a tough task for any rookie quarterback.
Tannehill’s best chance to do well will be if he doesn’t turn the ball over, the defense keeps the game close and Bush has success on the ground. Then, Tannehill will be able to keep the defense honest and will have a chance to improve on his debut.
Unfortunately for Tannehill, the deck is stacked against him.