In an effort to keep things fresh around these parts, we thought of this NEW AND EXCITING feature here at FN where resident beer holster owner / draft guru / chicken wing fan / overall 5-star FN commenter, CK Parrot, will break down each week’s game via the NFL’s recent rule change regarding ‘All-22‘ film action. Warning: if you haven’t gotten your coffee and breakfast yet, you might want to do that now so you can just sit back, read and enjoy. THIS WEEK IS EVEN MUTHAFUCKIN’ LONGER, BITCHES! Take it away, CK!
Ryan Tannehill’s Day – A Leisurely Drive
I thought Ryan Tannehill had a really good day throwing the football. What you have to understand is from looking at the way they played him, the Raiders thought Tannehill would throw the game away by making mistakes in his reads and making bad decisions under pressure. He had just thrown three interceptions the week before and he is a rookie, after all.
The first thing that stands out about what the Raiders did is how often they disguised their coverage prior to the snap, as well as the volume of different looks they gave Ryan Tannehill to decipher. Clearly they wanted to challenge Ryan’s ability to read NFL coverage after the snap and make the right decision. The defense did not necessarily tend toward one kind of coverage. They often started from a two deep look and ran the safety up at the snap to take the underneath while secondary engaged in a rotation. They also started off from a three deep look and ran the safety back into a cover two. At times they did this and it morphed into quarter-quarter-halves. They also played some man free, and mixed in a lot of fire zones.
Tannehill made surprisingly few mistakes against so much disguised coverage. I saw two instances where it looked like the disguised coverage actually fooled him. I also saw two other instances where I believe he may have been fooled by the fact that the Raiders did not change their coverage at the snap, interestingly enough. I thought the latter showed that for the most part, Ryan was well prepared and keyed into the Raiders’ tendency to disguise their coverage.
The problem for the Raiders was that even when Ryan was fooled by a coverage, he did not make the big mistake. On one play he threw to Hartline on the sidelines into the teeth of a two man double team, rather than stepping up in the pocket and hitting Davone Bess as he crossed the middle in man coverage. Yet the ball he threw was intentionally high and as far to the perimeter as possible where the only man to have a remote chance at it was Hartline. Other plays where he was confused only resulted in unnecessary check downs. The biggest mistake he made from a decision making standpoint in the entire game was his uncalled intentional grounding as he rolled to the right sideline. It was a brainless act and he got lucky it did not become a negative play.
Those instances of poor decision making were few and far between, though. Unfortunately one such incident happened immediately on Ryan’s first play of the game.
If Ryan Tannehill had noticed the blitz coming from the linebackers he would have realized that the flats, particularly Jorvorskie Lane’s route, would have been uncovered until the safety could get there. But the corners were also playing so far off that Brian Hartline’s speed cut to the outside was open. Tannehill decides to attack with a curl/flat concept and with the pressure on, and he didn’t notice the openings in the defense.
On the other hand with the defense destined to morph into a soft three deep zone on the following pass, Tannehill saw an opportunity to take advantage of Pat Lee’s inside leverage zone technique and hit Brian Hartline on the out pattern.
The key on the play is that Ryan used his eyes to make sure he did not give away his target, and then Hartline came back nicely to the ball to make sure he was between the ball and the defender.
When the defense gave him a man free look with the safety too wide to help on Hartline deep, Ryan Tannehill first made an adjustment at the line to get his players into the right routes, and then he threw the back shoulder to Hartline knowing the defender’s man technique would leave his back turned and therefore unlikely to adjust to the football.
From there, it was up to Ryan Tannehill to throw a good ball and for Brian Hartline to adjust and make the play. Both did very well.
One play I liked near the goal line saw the Raiders dropping eight players back into zones from the 5 yard line. That means they only rushed 3 players.
When you have 8 guys drop back on you like this, especially in such a condensed area as the tight red zone, your reads are really unlikely to be there for you. You often just have to make something happen with your own athletic ability. Ryan does exactly that by rolling to his right side and creating a new angle which he can use to get the ball out more safely to the perimeter near the front pylon. The new angle not only creates a passing lane for his self so that the ball won’t be tipped, it also allows the zone defender less opportunity to step into the passing lane. Notice the defender would not have to jump as far to reach any point in the green line stemming from the original, planned launch point.
The final play on this touchdown drive was a great design as well as great execution on the part of multiple players. The Dolphins utilized a backfield with a tailback and two up backs with a bias to the right side. The beauty of this play was the multiplicity of threats combined with the alignment’s dictating tendencies to certain players in the defense.
The key on the play is Matt Shaughnessy whom I’ve put in red on the first slide. With the numbers advantage given to the strong side of the alignment by virtue of the full house backfield, the defense has to be thinking to jam and contain the play side while allowing players from the back side to take advantage of the hesitation, knife in and catch the player behind the line of scrimmage. The formation dictated that Shaughnessy might be a little more vulnerable to biting too hard to the inside, rather than staying disciplined and immediately pressuring Tannehill as he comes off the play fake into the boot action. Even though Anthony Fasano made a great on the fly decision (which I’ll talk about in a minute), the reality is that the alignment combined with Shaughnessy’s hard bite to the inside ensured that Ryan Tannehill would have been able to use his 4.6 speed to reach the corner of the end zone whether Fasano threw a good block or not.
The reason I like the play is because it had multiple threats and contingencies. Even if Shaughnessy had predicted the boot and been on Tannehill like white on rice, there is a chance Tannehill could have immediately opened his shoulders and throttled Anthony Fasano to the inside for a score. If Shaughnessy had only bit slightly on the fake to the inside and played the boot well enough to pursue Tannehill and ensure he couldn’t run in on his own, then Ryan still could have used his speed until he had the right angle to hit Brian Hartline as he crossed the end zone. Either way, the play was nice, and the execution was nicer, because there was very little hesitation. Tannehill was decisive about what he was doing, and Anthony Fasano made the kind of on the fly adjustment that might have put a tear in Tight Ends Coach Dan Campbell’s eye by giving up his route and switching into a cutoff block to ensure Tannehill had a clear path.
Ryan Tannehill made other great plays on the day that I won’t necessarily screen cap.
On a 3rd & 9 against cover zero he once again made the read and threw a rocket on the out to Hartline that fans could hear pop the mitt.
Facing 2nd & 8 and an initial man free look from the defense that molded into a two man look, Ryan read the widening safeties and hit Davone Bess in the seam against man coverage for a big play.
On 1st & 10 and facing an initial shell look which morphed into three deep with the corners maintaining inside leverage, Tannehill once again manipulated his angles by rolling right off the play fake and then hit Brian Hartline on the outer most perimeter where only he could get the football.
On a 1st & 10 and facing what morphed into an exotic look one corner and one safety playing two deep and one corner and one safety playing underneath, Tannehill took the easy out route to Hartline against a safety playing deep over top and to the inside of him.
On a 2nd & 7 facing another three deep look with soft corner coverage, Tannehill audibled Hartline to a quick hitch and threw the ball in rhythm to get into a makeable 3rd down.
On a 3rd & 5 with the defense morphing into cover one with man technique underneath, Tannehill used pre-snap motion to determine the defense, immediately rolled to his right after the snap to create a passing lane, and hit Brian Hartline on the out against man coverage.
With the defense once again in a three deep zone and corners like Joselio Hanson and Pat Lee proven unable to cover Brian Hartline on the out from that look, Tannehill once again takes the easy 3rd & 6 conversion to Hartline.
On a 1st & 10 facing a quarters look, Tannehill rolled to his left and hit Davone Bess on the comeback against single coverage.
On 1st & 10 from the 14 yard line the defense gave what looked like a Tampa Two look with the safeties widened and the Mike forced to drop deep . Tannehill read it very quickly and got the ball decisively to Anthony Fasano who was able to catch and run with the ball before Rolando McClain could transition from his deep drop into engagement on Fasano in coverage.
With another cover one look Tannehill booted out from the play fake and very quickly dumped the ball to Reggie Bush who had the opportunity to use his speed to beat linebackers and come underneath a corner playing man technique with his back turned, thereby making the corner unable to react to Reggie and limit the gain.
The bottom line on Ryan Tannehill’s performance is that he is far ahead from a defensive recognition standpoint than you would imagine him being as a rookie in the NFL. It floors me to watch a Miami Dolphins quarterback see things as quickly as he does post-snap and make decisions accordingly. He also showed the ability to improve this week, because his sharp reduction in tipped passes was hardly coincidental. Tannehill several times manipulated his passing lane by sprinting out. He also did a fantastic and consistent job not leading the defense to his target with his eyes. Lastly, the play calling helped him out on that front by changing his launch points and making it more difficult for the defense to plan on tipping his passes.
The Rest of the Offense
Last week on this here All 22 Review of the Houston Texans game, you heard me say the following:
The Dolphins need to feature their backfield more. This offense has a potential identity, but I don’t know if the staff realizes it or has the will to make it so. Reggie Bush is by far the best player on the offense, as of right now. I never thought I would see the day that he plays as a true tailback the way he has played. I have no problem admitting I was very wrong about him. There is not a single Miami Dolphin on offense playing as good football as Reggie Bush, and that includes Jake Long. His combination of speed, vision, cutting ability, ability in the passing game, and even ability after contact, make him legitimately one of the better tailbacks in the NFL today. The team needs to feature him and lean on him.
I am not arrogant enough to accuse the coaching staff of having heard me, but clearly if they had, they would have agreed that I was onto something. In this game the Dolphins featured Reggie Bush like no other team, no other set of coaches, since his college days. He rewarded them nicely by breaking big runs in the 3rd quarter and putting the team on top for good. I have heard it said that Reggie danced a little too much in the first half and did not hit the right holes. I rarely felt this to actually be true, based on the backfield camera views in the All 22 tape. I thought Reggie did a great job bouncing the ball when he needed to, and pressing the hole when that was called for.
One thing you have to understand is that the offensive line did not necessarily play their strongest game in run blocking. I felt John Jerry had a weak game, overall. Jonathan Martin was not particularly good. When Reggie broke off his 23 yard touchdown run which gave the team the lead, it was one gigantic hero effort on his part that got him those results, not necessarily highways paved by the offensive line.
Anthony Fasano overall had a great day. I can forgive the 3rd & 8 where he could only marginally beat someone as athletic as Rolando McClain in man coverage, and therefore fell a yard or two shy of the first down. I can forgive it because in the red zone, he broke McClain’s ankles and ran in for the score. His blocking was sound and his improvisation on Ryan Tannehill’s touchdown run was phenomenal.
Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, if you read my All 22 Review and Comments a week ago where I said, “Charles Clay’s lead blocking was fucking awful all in all. So I would look for Jorvorskie to get used more heavily against the Raiders. Big dose. Carries as well as lead blocking and catches.”), Charles Clay did not play much in this game. Clay is clearly an arrow-down player at the moment, because his lead blocking is not cutting the mustard, and he is having trouble thinking quickly on the fly the way this offense asks its players to do.
In his place, Jorvorskie Lane took a much bigger work load, and did extremely well with it. His lead blocking was a joy to watch at times, and even though he did not get opportunities in the passing game, he looked lively and continues to look like an under-utilized weapon in that regard. And I would note with interest that at the end of the game, instead of victory formations, the Dolphins chose to work on some live reps of Jorvorskie carrying the ball. Perhaps this was in preparation for future use? You be the judge.
Last week I noted Hartline’s inadequacy on plays such as a play-action deep post in single coverage with a legitimate corner like Jonathan Joseph covering him one on one. My exact words:
Brian Hartline’s role should not see him threatening the deep middle. He is a threat with his agility, body control and kinesthetic sense on the perimeter where you ask him to catch the ball over his outside shoulder, adjust to the back shoulder throw, or run the out, comeback or slant.
Again, the coaches may not be listening, and they certainly don’t care what I think, but they sure did seem to at the very least agree. It was impossible to talk extensively about Ryan Tannehill’s day without mentioning Brian Hartline about a hundred times. He did a phenomenal job when called upon to beat coverage from the likes of Joselio Hanson and Pat Lee. The caveat is that they played him with a lot of soft zones because of the way their defense likes to disguise coverage and bring pressure to bear on the quarterback. But then, there were several instances where they played man technique on Hartline and he still got the separation and made the play on the football. He has always had a knack for creating separation on underneath routes, and his treatment of the ball in the air is top notch as he consistently adjusts to the football and comes back to it to prevent the defender getting involved. The things that prevent him becoming a legitimate primary receiver in the NFL are his inability to create big plays in exactly the situation I outlined last week on the deep post one on one with Jonathan Joseph, and his inability to keep his feet and run after the catch with power and explosiveness. However, that should not keep him from being a decent second receiver in the NFL.
Last week I mentioned that Daniel Thomas seemed to be an arrow-down football player at this point. He simultaneously fumbled and took a concussion on a play where he cut into the teeth of a blitzing safety (no vision) and left himself defenseless and flat footed. I note with interest that the coaching staff held him out against the Raiders even though reports of his concussion tests came back positive. Perhaps the coaches were being cautious, or perhaps they wanted to see Lamar Miller. They saw him. He should be the team’s unquestioned second tailback on the depth chart from here on out. He is a much more instinctive and patient runner than Daniel Thomas, and this showed on the backfield view of the All 22 tape. He showed consistent instincts that just are not present in Daniel Thomas’ game. Additionally, Miller showed in preseason that you can line him up in the slot as a receiver from empty backfields and he can make big plays that way.
Everyone’s favorite whipping boy Legedu Naanee did nothing to help himself this week. I will take the time to remind you of a gripe I had about him last week:
We like to pick on Legedu Naanee but he was only on the field for 12 pass plays. The rest of the time he was on the field to block. Yet, if that is your role, you need to be good at it. … But on multiple plays, including this one, Legedu completely whiffed on his block. If Legedu is there essentially as just a blocker, a role decided by the fact that he’s motioning tighter to the formation pre-snap, BE GOOD AT IT. He completely whiffed on several of his blocks in this role, and it adversely affected the play results.
Well unfortunately, here we go again.
On the left you can see a screen developing very nicely as three offensive linemen swing out to the left side of the field to pave a highway for Reggie Bush to possibly get all the way to the end zone. The key in orange is for Legedu Naanee to hold his block on Shawntae Spencer on the outside. If Naanee holds the block, there is a possibility Reggie goes all the way to the house. Unfortunately as you may be able to tell from the frownie face on the right slide, there is Legedu Naanee staring at the back of the jersey of the man he was supposed to block, as that man travels en route to tackle Reggie Bush for a loss on the play. Gotta love them acorns.
The defense certainly showed up to play against the Raiders. There was some griping about the defense’s giving up too many passing yards, which is understandable. However, the thing to keep in mind is that without that 64 yard touchdown off a screen pass, Carson Palmer passes for 309 yards on a highly unimpressive 6.6 yards per attempt, with no touchdowns and an interception. Meanwhile the defense gave up 1.3 yards per carry to the combination of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson.
The Dolphins have a give and take going on right now with Koa Misi at strong side linebacker and Jared Odrick at defensive end. Odrick was part of the reason the Dolphins were able to so thoroughly stymie the Raiders’ ground attack. Koa Misi was arguably an even bigger reason. Misi’s viciousness at the point of attack and in the hole is something to behold for those who can appreciate it. He sticks his head in there, stones fullbacks in the hole, and still makes the tackle on the ball carrier for very little gain. And meanwhile Odrick is very difficult to move and deal with in the running game.
However, the flip side to that is Odrick is getting almost absolute zero pressure on the passer, and that could be something that bites the Dolphins in the ass when they play better teams than the Raiders. Odrick ends up slogging through the mud on his pass rush reps from the end position, and I believe his time there is even affecting his effectiveness rushing from inside at defensive tackle (which he used to be good at). If you are getting practically nothing from a man on 30 pass rush opportunities a game, that is a problem. With the run defense playing so extremely well, one does wonder if they can sacrifice a small piece of it in order to make a larger impact on the pass rush.
But how do you do that? With whom? That is where roster inadequacy comes heavily into play. By now we all know that Olivier Vernon gives you even less in pass rush than Jared Odrick, which is saying something. Koa Misi was moved to a full time linebacker spot specifically because the coaches thought he would never make a good pass rusher, yet he’s in the running for second best outside pass rusher on the team. The guy I would like to see get more opportunities is undrafted free agent Derrick Shelby out of Utah, who beat the odds by not only making the team, but reaching all the way to second string on the depth chart. He has only had 16 pass rush snaps in the first two games combined, yet he has accounted for 4 quarterback pressures, and he is a good all-around player that can affect the run.
As I mentioned, Koa Misi presents his own conundrum. The player is about as aggressive and sound against the run as I have seen a Sam linebacker be in this style of defense. Yet in this game more so than against the Texans, he also got victimized in the passing game. The biggest example of this was the screen play to Mike Goodson for a touchdown. When I saw this play unfold, I could swear I had déjà vu. That was because the Houston Texans ran almost the exact same play (albeit from a slightly different alignment) and got the same look and tendencies from Koa Misi, and came very close to enjoying the same result if not for Arian Foster flat out dropping the ball.
The above is a video I quickly slapped together of the two plays I am talking about. You’ll see Koa follow his receiving assignment to the inside with his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, then attempt to retrace out to the screen pass and get beat by the cutoff block. He got beat even worse by the cutoff block in the Texans game than he did in the Raiders game. At least in the Raiders game his main problem was engaging the blocker too directly with the idea of defeating him with his hands and strength, then pursuing the ball. He needed to sprint to the outside and force Goodson to cut back to the inside where Karlos Dansby could help. I have seen Dansby killed for his role on this play but in reality when your teammates don’t do their job in contain, it makes the inner most players look bad.
Unfortunately, Koa Misi was not the only player that screwed up on the play against the Raiders, nor is Karlos Dansby the only guy that is getting unfairly killed in the court of public opinion on the play. There were screwups at all three levels of the defense. The vertical view of the play shows Nolan Carroll deciding to fight through his block and pursue the ball carrier from the inside shoulder of the receiver he had been covering. His job is to seal the sideline, containing the outermost gap and forcing the ball one gap inward so that other players could get more involved on the play. I have heard it claimed that Chris Clemons took an atrocious angle on the play, but in reality if Nolan Carroll had done his job in containment on the outside, Clemons slots right into where he’s supposed to be and brings the ball carrier down. Don’t get me wrong, Chris Clemons has plenty of gaffes and last week as a last line of defense player, I equated him to a nuclear weapon because he’s mainly a deterrent and god help you if you ever need to actually use him, but this play was not his cross to bear.
Perhaps most concerning of all though is something you see in both plays back to back, which is zero awareness from the defensive line as to the screen that is developing. Cameron Wake is a phenomenal pass rusher, but on these plays he did not act like a phenomenal total football player. He needs to be more of a heads up football player, literally. In the play against the Raiders he literally sticks his head down during his pass rush and that makes him unable to really see anything developing. The other players on the defensive line did not do well recognizing the screen either, but Wake was closest to the screen’s development in both cases.
The defensive section will seem a bit short this week but that is just because a lot of what you saw on your first viewing of the game is exactly what I saw on All 22 tape. The defensive line and linebackers were extremely stout against the run. Karlos Dansby and the linebackers were questionable in coverage. Sean Smith had great moments and frustrating moments. Nolan Carroll did as well. All of this is pretty well known.
But I would like to share with you one last play which is both phenomenal and frustrating at the same time.
This is the interception that Reshad Jones had. The play is absolutely amazing, something us Miami fans are not used to seeing in recent history from a safety. The defense is in two man coverage, yet Reshad Jones recognizes the underneath route against man coverage from the slot coming from the opposite side of the field, quickly and decisively breaking on the football for a highly impressive interception.
But this play frustrated me as much as it enticed me. The reason is because there were only 3 minutes remaining in a 35-13 ball game. Of course Reshad Jones would choose then to trust his instincts and pull the trigger on what he is seeing on the field. What does he have to lose? But he will not be considered a good player unless he starts pulling the trigger like that during moments of the game that matter, moments where everything is on the line.
This week the Dolphins looked like a well coached, intelligent football team with a stout front line defense, going up against a team that was not ready to play well coached, intelligent football. The schemes were actually sound on both sides, as the disguises, blitzes and variations in coverage by the Raiders defense all seemed like great ideas in theory. However, in practice, the players on the Raiders defense don’t seem to understand their roles or execute their technique in these complicated schemes. The Raiders did not really force the Dolphins to beat them by being more talented than them. They allowed the Dolphins to beat them because they were better coached and more execution oriented. Teams that are executing better, could prove more of a challenge, as we saw against Houston.