Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill connected on just six deep passes last season


(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Miami Dolphins hired Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator to replace Mike Sherman, who was fired after two seasons, and it is reason for optimism. Lazor, a member of Coach Chip Kelly’s first coaching staff in Philadelphia, helped improve an Eagles’ offense which ranked 29th in points and 15th in yards to the fourth and second best unit in the NFL, respectively, last season.

Lazor was also instrumental in nurturing Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles into the starter who went 8-2 with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Foles also led the league in passer rating (119.2).

“I see Ryan [Tannehill]’s excited about it,” Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “He’s called me about eight, nine times.”

Miami could use the help. They were 27th in total offense and 26th in scoring at 19.8 points per game this past season, however, it will take more than a change of offensive coordinator to improve what Wallace refers to as “Big-play offense.”

According to Pro Football Focus, of the 36 “deep passes” (at least 20 yards) Tannehill threw to Wallace, only six of the eight “catchable” throws were successful — the worst percentage of 22 receivers ranked by PFF.

Wallace caught 73 of the 137 passes intended for him (59.6 percent) last season, so it would appear that Tannehill will need to reverse the step back he took on his deep-ball completion percentage. During his rookie season he was 20 for 51 on passes over 20 yards, including three touchdowns and just one interception. Last season he was 16 for 64 with three touchdowns but six interceptions. Perhaps Lazor can help.

In Philadelphia under his system, Foles completed 45.5 percent of his deep passes for 803 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception. The receivers helped out, though, especially DeSean Jackson, who had a 48.5 percent catch rate on deep passes to go along with eight touchdowns. In fact, the Eagles had two wide receivers in the top 12 (Riley Cooper, 43.8 percent) among those targeted at least 25 percent of the time with deep throws. Only New Orleans had more than one receiver in the top 15.

“It’s a process,” said Coach Joe Philbin. “We feel like we’re going to see greater dividends this year.”

Looks like that depends as much on Tannehill and Wallace as it does Lazor.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg | April 23