Breaking Down Ryan Tannehill's Improvement from Week 1 to Week 2

Erik FrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 17, 2012

Not getting his passes batted at the line is a good start, but where else did Tannehill improve?
Not getting his passes batted at the line is a good start, but where else did Tannehill improve?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It was an ugly debut for Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill against the Houston Texans, but he bounced back with an incredibly efficient performance against the Oakland Raiders at home.

Tannehill had help in the form of a running game that picked up 44 yards and a touchdown on eight carries during the opening drive, with Tannehill rushing twice for 15 yards along the way.

But that running game was effective far beyond the opening drive. Dolphins running back Reggie Bush helped Tannehill out throughout the game with one big run after another, providing an explosive complement to the passing game. With the defense forced to respect the running game, the passing lanes were opened up with man coverage on the outside.

The running game helped, to be sure, but Tannehill did his share of improving by delivering accurate balls, finding the open windows at the line of scrimmage and not allowing his passes to get tipped, which became such a big problem last week.

In that regard, the coaching staff also should get a pat on the back for putting Tannehill in position to avoid that becoming a problem by taking advantage of his athleticism.

Every single one of these aspects—the running game, Tannehill's accuracy and the coaching changes—all came into play on a 1st-and-10 in the second quarter.

It shows up on the stat sheet as just a nine-yard completion to wide receiver Brian Hartline, but it was so much more than that.

The Dolphins lined up in a running formation with 21 personnel—two running backs, one tight end, two receivers. That grouping was a recurring theme from Sunday's win, as the Dolphins were able to run and pass out of those formations successfully.

The play-action fake to Bush drew the defense to the offense's left side, while Tannehill ran to the right. Not only does this take advantage of his athleticism; the field is wide open in front of him, completely eliminating the chance of a tipped pass while also simplifying his reads.

This makes Tannehill's job easier by opening up the reads in front of him and reducing the reads to just half the field. At this point, though, it's up to him to make the accurate throw against man coverage.

That's exactly what he does, and Hartline pulls it in just a yard short of the first-down marker. Ideally, this play would move the chains, but a 2nd-and-1 is far from a situation to complain about.

They ran almost an identical play late in the game, trusting Tannehill to keep the ball moving and maintain possession with an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Tannehill rolled to his left, and delivered an incredibly accurate pass to Davone Bess down the left sideline.

Bess rewarded the throw—put in a spot where only the receiver can get it—with a nice catch on the sideline.

On the day, the Dolphins' ability to pass the ball out of running formations was huge.On a total of 31 designed drop-backs (not including penalties), they were in the 21 personnel grouping 11 times, as well as the 11 personnel grouping (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) another 11 times.

Going forward, the run-heavy looks should be a prevalent part of the Dolphins offensive attack; if they are able to force defenses to respect it, they can give Tannehill the benefit of a loaded box to help make life a little easier for him through the air.

The Dolphins will probably be striking that perfect balance of passing and running the ball. They just may find that the balance isn't quite what many expected it would be when head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman took over.


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.