A poor Offensive Line is a given with the Miami Dolphins now a days. It is as entrenched in South Florida as the 305, South Beach, Dan Marino and the 1972 Undefeated Season. Despite attempting to address the situation every offseason, the same result always ensues: The Miami Dolphins are awful upfront. There are a lot of Ryan Tannehill haters out there as he remains a polarizing figure, however, the fact remains that since entering the League in 2012 he has been the most sacked Quarterback (201 sacks). The next 4 are Russell Wilson (173), Philip Rivers (166), Alex Smith (166) and Cam Newton (163). Many had high hopes entering the season as the team had two Pro-Bowlers (LT Branden Albert, C Mike Pouncey) as well as two recent 1st round picks in RT Ja’Waun James and rookie LG Laremy Tunsil with plenty of OK Linemen competing for the open RG spot. However, injuries have impacted this Miami Offensive Line and entering week 5, Ryan Tannehill had been sacked 11 times through 4 weeks and apart from week 1 against Seattle, was under duress for most of the following three games.
Sunday October 9th, 2016: The Miami Dolphins played at home against the Tennessee Titans. The Dolphins starting O-Line was LT Billy Turner (LG who has not played Tackle since College); LG Dallas Thomas (One of the worst O-Line in football the past 3 years); C Mike Pouncey (Consistent Pro-Bowler); RG Jermon Bushrod (Normally a Tackle now playing Guard who is 32 years old); RT Ja’Waun James (Dolphins 1st round selection in 2014 who gave up a strip sack in each of the past two games). It is fair to say; we all knew it was going to be a long day for Tannehill and the Dolphins Offense.
General Comments vs. Titans
After giving up 5 sacks in their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday, the Miami Dolphins were hoping for a bounce back performance against the Titans as Adam Gase used play calling to elevate the glaring deficiency of Miami’s poor pass-blocking as he regularly dialled up short screens, wheels and swings out of the backfield. However, this proved to be simply a band aid as the Dolphins were unable to move the ball in the run game and gave up six sacks on the day as the Titans pass rush repeatedly bludgeoned Miami’s Offensive Line and Ryan Tannehill.
The Tennessee Titans had six sacks in their first four games combined. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was under pressure 66.7% of his drop backs with half of these resulting from Left Tackle Billy Turner’s poor play alone. On plays where Tannehill experienced no pressure and had a clean pocket to work with, he went 7 completions off 8 attempts (87.5%) with a Quarterback rating of 118.8. Left Tackle Billy Turner is ProFootballFocus’ (PFF) 2nd worst Tackle in the NFL (worst in terms of pass-blocking) as he conceded 3 sacks, 2 hits and 4 hurries on only 27 pass-blocking snaps (conceded pressure on 33% of his pass-blocking snaps). Left Guard Dallas Thomas is PFF’s worst Guard with a ridiculous grade of 36.5 (sadly this is about his average for the last three years in the League), whole Center Mike Pouncey had a steady game as he returned from injury. Right Guard Jermon Bushrod ranks 56th out of 69 according to PFF while Ja’Waun James conceded a strip sack in each of his last two games and had another horrible performance against the Titans as the Dolphins will most likely look to move beyond their 2014 1st round selection soon. This Dolphins O-Line missed Albert at LT and Laremy Tunsil at LG as Tannehill was under pressure all game long and the following film study will look at the Offensive Line’s performance throughout the game.
The Titans first sack came on a 2nd and 5 from Miami’s own 33 (not an obvious passing situation), The sack came following an audible at the line and was the result of a total breakdown in communication and blocking assignments (a common theme for the day). Titans OLB Derrick Morgan (yellow) comes unblocked through the B gap as James looks outside at the C gap and presumes the Guard inside is picking up B gap and the Blitzer.
Running Back Jay Ajayi was also in a position to make a block as the Dolphins call play aciton, however, both he and James fail to pick up their assignments and allow an unmarked blitzer to barrel into Tannehill.
The very next play Tannehill gets lit up on a stunt where the Tackle and End switch gaps which is failed to be picked up by the Left Side of the Dolphins Offensive. Here you can see no.99 and no.97 for the Titans initiate contact with Miami’s linemen before 97 (red line) will disengage and roll behind no.99 and get a clean hit on Tannehill as he releases the football downfield.
Jay Ajayi’s 4-yard rushing touchdown made the game 14-14 and came off good initial run blocking, however, again mis-ques meant that Ajayi had to good blocking at the start, required Ajayi to power through a dive over a free Linebacker to make the score.
The play starts with good blocking as LT Billy Turner seals the edge while LG Dallas Thomas double teams DE Karl Klug with Mike Pouncey. After this initial double team Thomas should then look left and block the line backer who is coming unblocked towards Ajayi to make the goal line stop. Dallas Thomas yet again misses this read and thanks to Ajayi power and athleticism manages to make the tackler miss and get in the end zone. It was a play that would perfectly at the start but could have ended disastrously due to miscommunication and a breakdown in blocking assignments. In the picture below you can see that Thomas actually turns back towards the line of scrimmage, as he is so fixated with Klug who if you watch in real-time was too far away to make a tackle rather than block the incoming Linebacker.
The second sack comes on a simple 4 man rush, however, the Titans use a Stunt where the Tackle and End swap lanes and once again confuse the Left side of the Dolphins O-Line. Below you will see how the play is drawn up and although LT Billy Turner does a nice job initially blocking End Jurrell Casey, he is eventually beaten by the Bull rush and the play ends in a sack. Left Guard Dallas Thomas is helping Thomas with a double team, however, he leaves Casey to block the incoming blitzer which leaves Thomas out on a island against a more physically and technically sound corner who quickly shakes off Turner’s grip and gets to the QB.
Ryan Tannehill’s first interception was due to an underthrown pass that allowed a defender to make a play on it as Parker failed to bring the ball in. The Dolphins had good protection upfront and kept the pocket clean while Tannehill tried to connect with Parker on a slant route.
When the Dolphins had a solid pocket again, Tannehill was able to exploit the one-on-one match up on the outside and connect with DeVante Parker on a deep ball for a 49 yard pick up. The pocket stays clean and allows Tannehill to step into his throw and find his big play threat down the field. A positive play for the Offensive Line.
The Dolphins third sack came simply from Ja’Waun James being beaten as he expected a speed rush and back pedalled very quickly (Notice how far back he is compared to the rest of the Linemen).
Derrick Morgan being an intelligent pass rusher capitalises on James’ mistake (who has significantly shrunk the pocket on the right hand side) and gains leverage on James before bull rushing and ripping James’ block free allowing him to sack Quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Tenneesee Titans 4th sack of the game came on 3rd and 10, the first sack that came on an obvious passing down. The 4th sack could be called a ‘coverage sack’ as it was the sticky coverage in the back end which gave the Titans pass rushers plenty of time to get home as none of Miami’s receivers could create separation or get open. Below you can see that the play starts out with good block and Miami’s Left Tackle Billy Turner is able to push End Jurrell Casey away from Tannehill.
However, the play lasts too long and eventually Casey is able to get home for his 2nd sack of the day. On this play the Titans only rushed 3 linemen and left a Linebacker as a spy in case Tannehill decided to tuck and run. Casey is able to close in on Tannehill who is forced to step to his left as the pocket shrinks on the right and into the arms of Casey.
The Titans next sack came on a 1st and 10 and the entire series was a disaster for Left Tackle Billy Turner as he gave up 2 sacks and 1 hurry in just 3 pass-blocking snaps. The Titans brought a simple 4 man rush, however, Turner is out on an island in a one-on-one match up against OLB Brian Orakpo. The play was always going to end disastrously for Turner as he is unable to set his feet and is caught on his heels as he turns to prevent Orakpo from flying past him, however, his heels are never set and he is not able to lower himself and get under Orakpo’s pads (LG Dallas Thomas was also caught on his Heels, while C Mike Pouncey is showing you how you should prepare to block. Orakpo was too much for Billy Turner as he uses leverage to get underneath Turner’s pads and managed to turn the corner while wheeling Miami’s LT away from him as he then releases his grip on Turner and hits Tannehill from the blindside.
The very next paly which is not pictured here, Turner again fails to deal with Orakpo and if Tannehill did not get the ball out so quickly would have been a certain sack. The play pictured below is a 3rd and 10 and is the Titans 6th Sack of the Day and Orakpo’s 2nd. After conceding pressure the last two snaps the Dolphins put Ajayi in the backfield on Tannehill’s left side as an extra blocker to help Turner who was beat on the last two plays. However, whether it is simply naivety or that Dallas Thomas at LG does not know who he is meant to block, below you can see that as the play develops, Thomas is shifting inside to help Pro-Bowl Center Mike Pouncey deal with Casey while leaving Turner out on an island again.
Yet the End drops back into coverage and it is at this point that Thomas should know that the two other potential pass rushers were off on the C and B gaps on the right hand-side and that Pouncey will turn to help out over there, while there is a lone blocker to his left who has repeatedly beaten LT Turner. Thomas gets caught napping and simply watches the End peel off into coverage and it is at this point pictured below that he should turn to help the LT.
A second and a half later and Thomas is late on his adjustment and Brian Orakpo for the third play in a row gets underneath Turner and again steers him around while he dips his shoulder and makes a B-Line for Ryan Tannehill, hitting the QB from his blindside. Late reads and a failure to adjust led to the Titans 6th sack of the game.
Miami’s second interception of the day came off another 4-man rush and yet again another stunt between the DE and OLB. Brian Orakpo peels inside while End Karl Klug eats up blocks in the middle and collapses the pocket. Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas are flustered and unsure whether to help out TE Dion Sims and pick up Orakpo, which caused confusion and allows Klug to hit Tannehill on release which results in a poor throw and an interception downfield.
Miami’s Offensive Line has struggled with injuries throughout the first five weeks of the season, however, it is clear that this unit which Miami consistently throws draft picks at needs a complete overhaul and the only two players in the current unit that deserve to keep their places next season are Center Mike Pouncey (Pro-Bowler) and Rookie Laremy Tunsil who has great potential. The Titans were able to consistently get it done as they used a mixture of stunts and OLB blitzes which exploited a unit who did not have the necessary reps together to communicate effectively and pass off blitzers inside or pick up gaps. The Dolphins were also unable to open up holes in the run game and for the fifth week in a row we saw Miami unable to sustain multiple drives and move the sticks at critical times. The fans in Miami were chanting for Backup Quarterback Matt Moore throughout the second half, however, it is clear that the same narrative continues in Miami. You cannot place the blame squarely on Ryan Tannehill's shoulders. Clearly the Dolphins need to start doing a better job upfront and Tannehill's toughness yet again is something that cannot be questioned as he continues to take a beating week-in week-out. Let me know what you though of the Titans @ Dolphins game @TomLikeFootball.