Miami Dolphins: Drawing Up a Game Plan for Ryan Tannehill vs. New York Jets
His baptism of fire started off against the ultra-aggressive Houston Texans, who pounded Tannehill and made his life in the pocket a living hell by tipping passes at the line. Three of those passes were picked off.
His second week went much better. While the Oakland Raiders' defensive line wasn't nearly as aggressive as Houston's, Tannehill still had to face a steady barrage of pressure thanks to Matt Shaughnessy. However, despite one sack, Tannehill managed to weather the storm and not throw a single interception while going 18 of 30 for 200 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a passer rating of 91.0. To add to that, Tannehill used his legs three times to rush for 14 yards and a touchdown.
But in Week 3, Tannehill faces an opponent that promises to be more aggressive than the Texans—the New York Jets, with Rex Ryan's aggressive blitz schemes and Darrelle Revis. Revis is expected to cover Brian Hartline for most of the game.
That is, of course, if Revis actually plays, as Sports Illustrated is reporting that Revis "hasn't been cleared for contact" as of Wednesday.
So what should Tannehill do to counter the Jets' blitz schemes? Before we get into the plan, let's see some of what the Jets defense has to offer.
You'll see here in the first play of the game that the Jets have 10 of their defenders in the box I drew here. The plan is obviously to blitz. For this play they're going to blitz towards the right side of the offensive line, which is relevant to the Dolphins since that's the weakest side of their line.
Pittsburgh beat this play by having Antonio Brown go in motion towards where the blitz was going. Right after the snap, Roethlisberger was under pressure, but got the ball out to Brown behind the line of scrimmage. Brown was able to run it eight yards before getting knocked out of bounds.
Considering that this was likely a run blitz, this was a smart play on the offensive end for Pittsburgh. Miami will need to use receivers and backs in motion in order to confuse the Jets' D as to what direction they plan on running the play to. Also key for Tannehill is getting the ball out of his hands as quick as humanly possible.
Another option for a play like this would be a toss towards the opposite side of the field that the blitz will be going to.
On this play in the same series, you will see the Jets have now stuffed eight men in the box while single-covering Pittsburgh's wide-outs. Notice how Antonio Cromartie up top of the picture is pressing on Mike Wallace. Without Revis, Cromartie becomes the Jets' top cornerback covering Miami's top receivers and, despite his speed, is someone that Hartline and Bess have both had success against in the past.
How did the play go from Pittsburgh's end? Roethlisberger threw the ball behind Wallace, who was covered well by Cromartie. Wallace had to go back to the football, which created enough separation for him to make the catch. First down Pittsburgh as they were en route to a field goal.
Now the main thing the Dolphins coaching staff is going to have to do is continue to get Tannehill out of the pocket as much as possible. Bootlegs and roll-outs are effective, as would using him in play-action.
Playing Tannehill from the shotgun would help give him more time to look around the field and find the open receiver. Here's a look at one example where this worked during the Week 2 game against the Raiders.
What did this play lead to? A touchdown pass to a wide-open Anthony Fasano, who actually caught the ball where I drew the circle on that picture and was able to run it into the end zone (as illustrated by the aqua-colored line from that circle).
Tannehill's feet could also be a weapon. On this play the Raiders blitz the the Dolphins quarterback on 2nd-and-11.
Based off of the picture, it doesn't look too good. However, Tannehill was able to run for the first down through the hole caused by the blitz that I circled and drew a line through in aqua. He might have to do this more than once against the Jets.
While Tannehill's play-action throwing abilities are superb, another great idea would be the use of draw plays. As the blitz gets into the Miami backfield, holes will open up that can be easily exploited by Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas (who the Sun-Sentinel reported came back to practice on Wednesday) and, if activated, Lamar Miller (Miami must activate him for Sunday's game, with or without Thomas).
In fact, the best way to game-plan for the Jets with Tannehill is to run the ball. Last week the Steelers rushed for a paltry 66 yards against this Jets defense, averaging only 2.3 yards per carry. This might suggest that the Jets can stop the run, but compare that to the previous week, when the Jets allowed Buffalo to rush for 195 yards on 26 carries. C.J. Spiller alone had 169 yards and a touchdown, averaging 12 yards per carry on 14 carries.
But this also shows that the Dolphins can run against the Jets, and it is something that they must do. Miami does have a better running game than Pittsburgh, and this should be exploited, regardless of how many men the Jets decide to put in the box, and regardless of their blitz packages.
I know this might offend some, but Miami's best chance at beating the Jets is a game plan consisting of running the ball to set up the pass. If Miami's offense is successful doing that (whether the Jets have Revis or not), then they should have a great chance of leaving Sun Life Stadium with a victory, as the Dolphins defense will likely be able to contain Mark Sanchez and the at-times-anemic Jets' attack; especially without Shone Green.
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