Dolphins position review: Quarterback not an area of concern
After losing three of their final four games to finish outside of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, the Miami Dolphins entered this offseason with questions at nearly every position.
Quarterback, however, isn’t one of them.
In what would eventually prove to be another season of heartbreak in Miami, third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill gave South Florida fans something to smile about as the passing game consistently put the team in a position to win nearly every week.
Under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Miami had its most touchdown passes since 1995 while relying heavily on the short and intermediate passing game rather than the deep ball — an area Tannehill had struggled with the previous two seasons.
"I certainly think Ryan (Tannehill) did a lot of good things and a lot of positive things," said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. "I think he’s headed in the right direction. I thought his performance was better. That’s always encouraging when your quarterback plays better from the previous year."
Confident in Tannehill’s progression, Miami only carried two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster for most of last season as veteran Matt Moore served as a safety net at the position.
Still, there’s always room for improvement.
Rarely testing opposing defenses down field, Tannehill’s longest completion of 50 yards ranked dead last in the NFL last season. If Lazor hopes establish Miami as an elite offensive unit, the passing game must add the deep ball to its repertoire.
Here’s a closer look at the Dolphins’ quarterback situation …
Ryan Tannehill — Even playing behind a battered and bruised offensive line for the majority of the second half, Tannehill still managed to set career highs in yards (4,045), touchdown passes (27) and passer rating (92.8). The first Dolphins quarterback since Hall of Famer Dan Marino to eclipse 4,000 passing yards in a season, Tannehill’s 392 completions surpassed Marino’s old team record of 385 in 1994. A dual threat, Tannehill’s 317 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NFL among starting quarterbacks. He has started 48 consecutive games since Miami drafted him No. 8 overall in 2012. Looking ahead, there’s a lot to be excited about with Tannehill as Miami is likely to ink the 26-year-old to a long-term deal either during or after the upcoming season.
Matt Moore — Moore has proven himself as a capable backup and part-time starter in his eight NFL seasons, which is why the 31-year-old will likely test free agency this offseason. Limited to just 29 snaps while holding a clipboard behind Tannehill over the past three seasons, Moore could likely find more playing time or even a potential starting job elsewhere. In 25 career NFL starts, he has thrown for 5,342 yards with 33 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson — Bethel-Thompson, who has played for four different NFL teams since 2011, rejoined Miami’s practice squad this past season. Undrafted out of Sacramento State in 2011, he has yet to throw a pass in the NFL and should not be viewed as a viable No. 2 on Miami’s depth chart. On Dec. 30, 2014, the Dolphins announced they had signed the 26-year-old to a reserve/future contract.
POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS
If Moore is on his way out, then Miami will certainly be in the market for another proven backup this offseason. Given their current cap situation, however, the team will likely be in search of cheaper alternatives at the position. A former first-round bust like Christian Ponder or Blaine Gabbert could fit the bill. If the team is looking for a little more experience, however, names like Colt McCoy or Matt Flynn could also be in the mix.
BEST DRAFT OPTIONS
With more pressing needs at other positions, the Dolphins aren’t likely to even consider selecting a quarterback until the later rounds of the draft. Still, adding some fresh blood at the position would be a good way to both maintain pressure on Tannehill while also potentially grooming a future backup. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson or South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge are two players that may be waiting for Miami on the third day of the draft.
For the first time since Marino hung up his cleats following the 1999 season, the Dolphins have stability at the quarterback position. Tannehill entered the 2014 season needing to prove himself as a viable starter and passed each test with flying colors. Now, it’s time for the team to build around their newfound franchise quarterback. Sacked a stagger 97 times over the past two seasons, Miami will need fortify their offensive line this season in order for Tannehill to continue on his current trajectory towards stardom.