In many circles, much is expected from Ryan Tannehill in his sophomore season at the NFL level. Many fans and analysts are anticipating steps forward — big ones, too — from the No. 8 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Personally, I was underwhelmed with Tannehill’s rookie campaign and off the top of my head, can think of several aspects of his game that require big improvements. Let’s look at one of those aspects — his play on the road.
As a rookie, Tannehill passed for 1,707 yards on the road in seven games — he left the game at the New York Jets four minutes in, so we surely will not count that game — which is more than the 1,587 he put up in eight home games. Interesting, but the difference is at home Tannehill authored 10 touchdowns — eight passing and two rushing — against five interceptions, but on the road, he had just four touchdown tosses vs. eight picks. His high game for road TDs was a four-way tie with one. Yikes!
Time will tell how the offensive line will perform for Tannehill this season, but the skill positions surrounding him got much better this offseason. The wide receivers, tight ends and running backs should all contribute to improving the passing game, so there are built-in reasons to anticipate Tannehill’s game going to next level, even away from home. I mention the o-line because, as a rookie, Tannehill was sacked just a dozen times in eight games at Sun Life Stadium last season, compared to a whopping 23 times in seven road games. Tannehill will face defenses like the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, all of whom did not generate very good pass rushes at home last season.
2013 Miami opponents averaged a ranking of No.18 for opponents QB percent, No.16 for creating interceptions, and No.19 for passing touchdowns allowed in 2012. Let’s hope that sort of mediocrity continues. Only four teams scored less points away from home last season than the Tannehill-led Dolphins, significantly more will be required this season to reach the lofty bar this team has set for the second-year quarterback. A one-to-two road ratio of TD/INT clearly will not cut it, and I think the AFC East is going to be more competitive than perhaps many think, so even a one-to-one will not suffice; it’s got to be better. To get Miami back to relevance — playoffs — Tannehill will not only have to be very productive, but he will likely have to steal a road game or two late in the fourth quarter. You know, “Dan Marino” some fools.
Three of Miami’s first four games this season are road games, including Week 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts; same team and building where Tannehill had one of his best road games as a rookie going 22-for-38 for 290 yards with a touchdown. Only a 92.3 QB rating at the Cincinnati Bengals was better than the 90.9 Tannehill earned in the 23-20 loss to fellow rookie Andrew Luck.
Tannehill will battle fellow NFL sophomores Brandon Weeden and Luck to open the road schedule, then he faces Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Looks like the offense will be called on to score a lot of points, early too, so we are going to see Tannehill under pressure to produce right away. Should be very interesting indeed.