Out with the old and in with the new. The Miami Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to replace ex-Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. With the hiring of Lazor, the Dolphins hope that their new offensive coordinator can develop franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill the way he developed Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in 2013.
Foles’ transformation from afterthought to top quarterback in the NFL was one of the more surprising developments of the 2013 season. He began the season as Michael Vick‘s backup, before an injury sidelined Vick for several weeks, paving the way for Foles to demonstrate his passing ability. From Week 9 onward, Foles became the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
Under Lazor’s tutelage, Foles led the NFL in TD-INT ratio and passer rating. By comparison, Tannehill ranked 24th in the NFL in passer rating with an 81.7.
Tannehill’s struggles at various points throughout last season were due to various factors not within his control. The lack of stability along the offensive line and the below-average performance of the running game were key reasons for why Miami’s offense ranked just 26th in the NFL in points per game. These are key parts of the offense that the organization will need to address in the offseason through the draft and free agency.
Assuming the Dolphins are at least able to bring some stability in the trenches and in the running game, Lazor will have the pieces needed to bring out the best element of Tannehill’s game — his ability to throw outside of the pocket.
In 2012, Tannehill’s rookie season, the young quarterback led all AFC East quarterbacks in completion percentage (58 percent), touchdowns (three) and passer rating (83.0) when outside of the pocket. Due to the constant shuffling of offensive lineman in the starting lineup and the fact that Miami’s starting running back Lamar Miller gained just 44 yards on the ground per game in 2013, the Dolphins were not able to utilize Tannehill too often on designed out-of–pocket passing plays.
If the Dolphins have the offensive personnel in 2014, Lazor will be able to run plays with Tannehill outside of the pocket — designed bootlegs and play-action fakes, for example. In order to pull off such plays however, a running game will need to be developed and the offensive line will need to give Tannehill the time to roll out and throw the football, two traits that the 2013 Dolphins’ offense did not have at all.
If the franchise wishes to maximize its chances of being an AFC contender, it would be wise to take advantage of Tannehill’s athleticism and ability to make plays on the run. It can be the difference between being a sub-.500 team and one that is an annual playoff contender.