When Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill lines up behind the center he looks across the line of scrimmage and scans the defense. The ball is centered and the play is run. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. An argument can be made that more often than not, it doesn’t. Such is the way of things for the Dolphins with Tannehill not being able to audible at the line of scrimmage.
If you ask the coaching staff they won’t give a direct answer to the question. The Dolphins will call a play into the huddle and Tannehill will have one or at the most two choices to opt out of the play with. In other words, its like playing Madden without the option to change the play at the line of scrimmage. I know, the NFL isn’t Madden but what the Dolphins’ Bill Lazor is doing is similar.
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Consider that Lazor doesn’t know what formation the defense is going to come out in. He is predicting their formation and schemes based on down and distance, the score of the game, and what has been working and what hasn’t been working. He calls in the plays but if he guesses wrong, the Dolphins are stuck with running the play or the one or two options afforded the quarterback.
Few quarterbacks in the league are not allowed to audible from the plays called in but most of those other players are younger inexperienced QB’s. Tannehill is in his 4th season and isn’t allowed to change the plays. At some point Dolphins coaches need to take the shackles off their quarterback and let him make decisions.
There are a lot of knocks on Tannehill. He holds the ball too long a lot of the times. He has little or no pocket awareness. His decision-making comes into question as well when he throws passes to receivers that he should be checking down from instead. Then of course there is the deep ball. One thing Tannehill is however is smart. Tannehill is a very cerebral quarterback, perhaps too cerebral. He has in the past over thought plays and situations on the field. Yet he is still being coddled by a system and coach that needs to let him free.
Much of the problems with the Dolphins offense is on the line where the myriad of problems have put the Dolphins in precarious positions. While Tannehill may not have great or at times even good pocket awareness, evidenced by last week third consecutive game safety, pressure comes at Tannehill almost every play and no one is being hit more often than Tannehill over the last four seasons.
The ability to audible at the line will not erase poor line play. It won’t eliminate loss of yard running plays, or sacks for that matter. It doesn’t get DeVante Parker on the field any sooner and won’t change Tannehill’s deep passing ability. It will however change the dynamics of the offense.
If the Dolphins come out of the huddle to find the defense lined up to support a running play and Tannehill has no options to deviate from that, the play fails before it gets started. The Dolphins are hoping that the players can execute the plays flawlessly and thus allow the play to work despite the defensive front. If the Dolphins are running a deep route with underneath crosses and the defense lines up off the line, Tannehill should be able to audible to a more successful rushing play that takes advantage of the defensive weaknesses.
Why Tannehill is not allowed to audible more often isn’t known. Is it Bill Lazor? Perhaps but under Mike Sherman Tannehill didn’t have that ability either. Is he not prepared for it? That’s a possibility. If the Dolphins don’t practice Tannehill using audibles they can’t expect him to jump into a game and do it. Maybe the do practice him calling audibles and realize that he isn’t very good at it. It’s possible that if that were the case, he isn’t going to be allowed to use them in a game.
Regardless of the reason the one certainty is that Miami’s offense is at times predictable. If fans on our weekly live game chat can predict the play when the team comes out of the huddle it’s a safe bet that the defense can as well. Miami needs to be more open offensively. This includes getting Tannehill out of the pocket where he can run. Out of the pocket where he can rollout and pass. Something that his exceptionally accurate at. They need to give their quarterback the option to change the play based upon what he sees in front of him.
Until the Dolphins can let their quarterback play with more control, the Dolphins offense will continue to be inconsistent. Sometimes it’s not about what the down and distance are calling for but what the quarterback can read and react to in a few seconds time. Tannehill isn’t allowed to do that. It’s a problem but the root of the problem will remain a mystery.