Ryan Tannehill played 51 games (19 in college and 32 with the Dolphins) under the old Mike Sherman offense. It was so familiar to him that, as a rookie, he often helped veterans on the Dolphins learn the nuances of it. It was comfortable for him. It was home for him.
The new offense coordinator Bill Lazor is installing for the Dolphins leaves Tannehill just as unfamiliar with the scheme as any other player and perhaps less than some players more familiar with variances of it. Rookie Jarvis Landry, for example, says he ran the same Dolphins plays at Louisiana State under former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron, who is now the LSU offensive coordinator.
So Tannehill has work to do and, clearly, his abilities on the field and work ethic and ability to digest information off it will be tested in the run up to the regular season.
Can he get it all down and be proficient quickly after coasting in the knowledge of the old scheme the past few years?
“I think so," Tannehill said. "I think we already have a baseline of going through it just the beginning stages at this point. There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight. It’s going to take some time not just for me but for all of our guys. The receivers are running routes that they haven’t run before doing adjustments that we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be a learning curve but that’s what this time is for. This spring practice that we have, everyone here, it’s getting better when they have to be here because we’ll have a full camp here.
"t’s a learning process. We’re doing some different things in the backfield that we haven’t done before. We’ve been doing it on air but it’s completely different when you throw a lot of defense out there then you’re trying to process a lot more information so it’s the fun process. I’m exciting to get in and watch the tape and see the mistakes I made and how I can correct them. But that’s what this time is for and I’m just excited that we have this time, that we’re able to get everyone out here, have all the receivers out here that are healthy working and just start building that chemistry just a little bit so when the ball comes we are ready."
About those receiver running routes and making adjustments they haven't done before ...
One of the complaints I had about Sherman's offense last year was there was hardly any motion used to help receivers get free of coverages. Indeed, receivers often lined up in the same place play after play as a so-called strategy.
Not so with Miami's new offense. Receivers will be in motion a lot. There will be five players in the pass pattern a lot -- that coming in multiple combinations such as two WRs, two TEs and a RB or 3 WRs, a TE and a RB. And most of the time, receivers will have options on their routes.
This Dolphins offense places a premium on speed that the so-called West Coast offense of the past couple of years did not. Mike Wallace is happy about that. This offense requires a strong-armed QB and Tannehill fills that need well. The offense also relies a lot on timing. Tannehill will often be throwing to a spot and expect the WR to be there.
That can be good as it will get the ball out quickly. But that can also be problematic if the receiver and quarterback are not in synch, as sometimes happens when things are new.
The new scheme also requires Tannehill to fix the deep ball accuracy issue of the past because otherwise the long ball -- and the offense often looks long first and then works back -- is of no effect.
So the chemistry between Tannehill and Wallace is a bigger deal than last year.
“Well it’s big. It’s big time," Tannehill agreed. "I think that’s one thing you looked at from last year is just connecting more. Not only on deep balls but just connecting more on every run and he’s been here working in the offseason and putting forth a lot of effort and that’s exciting from a veteran guy like that who’s been in other organizations that maybe haven’t had the same offseason type program that we have. For him to come here and be working this year it’s exciting."
Much work needs done on this. During Tuesday's OTA session, Tannehill tried one deep pass to an open Wallace that I saw. He overthrew it. So the issue isn't exactly fixed yet.
Look for a lot of inside running out of the new Dolphins offense -- something that might give Daniel Thomas more of a shot at making the team than even I previously thought because he's the biggest back on the team. (Yeah, I'm still not convinced he's it. He's had three seasons and shown very little. I doubt suddenly he has an epiphany in Year Four and becomes John Riggins.)
The Dolphins' new offense places a big demand on the tight end. It was out of this kind of offense that Kellen Winslow Sr. and Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates gained prominence. Is Charles Clay, coming off a breakout season, ready to take another big and significant step in his development?
The Dolphins used a lot of double tight end formations at Tuesday's OTA so are Michael Egnew and Dion Sims ready to become factors? (Rookie Arthur Lynch is nursing some sort of injury that seems minor.)
The possiblities are grand. But the possibilities for a grand disappointment also exists. Remember that Cameron's version of this same offense didn't exactly lead to a great season in 2007.
"It’s fun. Just the way things turned out last year wasn’t what we were looking for," Tannehill said. "Personally, from a team standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, to come out, kind of have a fresh start, new identity, new offense with really talented players across the board. You know you look at our roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball, you see a stacked receiver room. Brought in Knowshon (Moreno) in the backfield. The guys up front that we brought in are really talented players and I’m just excited I get to play with them."