FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
A six-pack of postscripts from the Dolphins’ offseason program, which ended Thursday:
• You watch Ryan Tannehill make the handful of impressive, thread-the-needle throws that he delivered this week --- a dart to DeVante Parker, a missile to Jarvis Landry, a perfect spiral to Kenny Stills --- and it’s easy to envision him moving into the NFL’s top half of quarterbacks.
You can talk yourself into that belief (and the Dolphins have), seeing the strong arm, understanding the likelihood that Adam Gase should be very good for him, and taking into account the 51 touchdown, 24 interception ratio the past two seasons.
But then you watch the sometimes errant ball placement, the pass thrown behind the tight end or thrown too low -- and you wonder if Tannehill will ever be more than pretty good.
Tannehill had a good week, and nobody is perfect, but there are still areas where the accuracy could be better, situations when he throws behind a receiver or a running back or a tight end, forcing the player to contort himself to catch it and fall to the ground, instead of catching it in stride and running for significant yards after catch.
Tannehill’s completion percentage dropped from 66.4 in 2014 to 61.9 in 2015, which was 21st in the league. Accuracy has been an emphasis.
Is he where the Dolphins want with his accuracy?
“There have been a few throws where I would like to see the ball placement be a little better,” Gase said Thursday. “There have been a few times, too, where they haven’t been on the same page where [Tannehill] is going where he’s supposed to go and the receiver didn’t stem it vertical enough [and as a result] it looks like a poor throw. That’s the development of the offense. You’re not going to be perfect from the get go.”
During individual drills on Thursday, all five quarterbacks were asked to make a dozen throws, with the goal of getting the ball in a trash can in the corner of the end zone. Passes were launched from the 6, 20 and 30 yards lines. Tannehill didn’t get any balls in the trash can, hitting the side twice and missing every other time. Matt Moore dropped two in the can and Brandon Doughty did it once.
But there has been growth with Tannehill:
“The kid is constantly working,” Moore said. “Works harder than anybody. Just sitting with Gase, you can see his confidence is off the charts. The footwork stuff we’re doing is translating. Moving in the pocket, you mix that with accuracy. That’s sort of the key. Footwork, pocket movement and accuracy are really good right now.”
And say this for Tannehill: ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us Tannehill made bad decisions on just 0.7 percent of his throws in 2015, tied with Aaron Rodgers for third best in the league.
“If you’re below one percent, that’s elite,” said Joyner, who identifies bad decisions as mental errors leading to a turnover or potential turnover.
Incidentally, Chicago’s Jay Cutler went from 1.5 percent in 2014 to 1.0 percent in 2015, his one year under Gase.
• Though it’s easier for receivers to shine in May/June drills (without full pads), Leonte Carroo has made quite an impression.
Safety Michael Thomas “called me Anquan Boldin” this week, Carroo said. “He said, ‘You play like him – you’re big, you’re physical like him.’ I’ve heard that a lot. A faster Anquan Boldin.”
Carroo, incidentally, will spend most of the next five “vacation weeks” training with Jarvis Landry.
• Jay Ajayi has dropped a few out of the backfield, despite his success doing that at Boise State. He said that route running and working on his receiving skills will be a priority for him during the next month. I'm not overly concerned because he was a good receiver out of the backfield at Boise.
• Though the Dolphins have given Jordan Phillips every chance to beat out Earl Mitchell, Mitchell so far is holding his own. Mitchell said he expects that battle to continue into the season…. The Xavien Howard/Tony Lippett competition also remains very close. Howard had a pretty good week, with an interception and a pass breakup.
• Defensive ends Terrence Fede and Chris McCain – who face uphill climbs to make the roster – had good moments this week, and here’s the good news: The NFL said this week that now four (instead of two) of the 10 players on the practice squad can have up to two years of NFL service time. McCain and Fede qualify.
• Bobby McCain has had a solid offseason, but considering the lack of proven depth at slot corner (McCain, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Tyler Patmon, seventh-rounder Jordan Lucas), it’s mystifying why Miami cut Brice McCain when doing so cleared just $2.5 million in space that it never used.
So is Gase comfortable having no proven veteran slot corner?
“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t veterans,” he said. “We’re young. That’s not going to be an excuse. Nobody is going to care when it comes September. Nobody cares. Just got to figure out a way to win.”
• For a lot more Dolphins nuggets from the final day of the offseason program, please click here.
• Mark Richt said Thursday he expects UM’s entire recruiting class to be enrolled by late June, with no academic non-qualifiers. Richt expects all three freshmen receivers will need to play this year: Ahmmon Richards (enrolled last month) and Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins (both set to arrive June 27). Richt quizzed Richards about the offense this week and Richt said he answered “90 percent” correctly.
“If they’re a quick study, they’ll get it figured out pretty quick,” Richt said of the last group of incoming freshmen.
Richt said Bruce will be able to catch up “because he will have veteran receivers who can help him,” as well as receivers coach Ron Dugans.
• UM players have been running drills on their own, but Richt said Thursday: “We’re allowed to have two hours of meetings a week, so we’ll meet with them and we’re basically re-installing everything we installed in the spring just little by little.
"We installed it in the spring, but we installed it again in the summer and then install it again when two-a-days begin and the five-day acclimation period begins. We’re just kind of going over the same thing over and over.... When they’re bored with it, they’ve got it. They’ll have it figured out. If there’s still a little bit of uncertainty, you’ve got a little more work to do.”
• UM says it's the only school in America this academic year whose football team played in a bowl game; men's and women's basketball teams made the NCAA Tournament; and baseball team made the College World Series. Neat.
• If you missed it yesterday, here's what Al Golden had to say this week in his first public comments since being fired by UM.
• Justin Nicolino has allowed 31 hits and 12 runs in his last 16 innings, but the Marlins might need to live with that because of alarming lack of starting pitching depth in their system. Jarred Cosart, in Triple A, has been out with a strained oblique and top prospect Austin Brice (2-6, 3.00) is coming off two poor starts.
That leaves Jose Urena and journeymen Dylan Axelrod, Paul Clemens, Chris Reed (pitching well) and Chris Narveson among options should the Marlins make a change in their rotation.
• If you missed it on Manny Navarro's Heat blog, Udonis Haslem said he will work out with Chris Bosh this summer and Haslem is operating under the assumption Bosh will play next season, though Bosh hasn't assured him of that.