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What Bill Lazor’s Hiring Means For The Dolphins

 

By Sal Conti (@SC2_DFW)
Senior Writer for Dynasty Football Warehouse

In yet another effort by an NFL team to re-vitalize its offense via the “zone-read” (as well as other Chip Kelly-ish schemes), the Miami Dolphins fired former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and replaced him with Bill Lazor, the Philadelphia Eagles’ QB-coach this past season.

Sherman’s offense was far too bland, stale, and unproductive to last in today’s game. He sparingly aligned his receivers (especially the No. 1 man on the depth chart, Mike Wallace), and orchestrated a run game that poorly correlated to the pass game; Miami failed to cover up tendencies based on personnel and alignment, which lead to many defensive advantages over the course of the season.

But instead of writing a thousand-plus words breaking down Sherman’s creativity and success (or lack thereof) during his stint with the Phins, I’d like to keep things on a positive upswing. Coach Lazor will emphasize the speed on that Dolphins offense and find favorable match-ups against their opponents. And as a die-hard fantasy football player, that’s news I’m excited to hear. If I’m Ryan Tannehill? Well then, in that case, I’m stoked.

Tanny goes into 2014 with an upgraded offensive line and a new toy to play with at wide receiver in Jarvis Landry. He’ll also get to play in the new, refreshing, and innovative offensive system pioneered by Lazor.

RYAN TANNEHILL OVERVIEW

First off, I’d like to say that Ryan Tannehill might be the most under-appreciated quarterback in the NFL, by a long shot. His 1.41:1 TD/INT ratio from 2013 may not suggest that, nor does his 52.0 passer rating on any pass thrown further than 20 yards. But, I insist you stick to watching the tape and really breaking down how bad the Phins’ surrounding cast was before you send Tanny to the fantasy football guillotine.

Tanny’s arm strength isn’t on a Colin Kaepernick level, but boy can this kid sling it. The ball flies right out of his hands. This, in addition to a lighting quick, over-the-top release, and an elite ability to change speeds with the football in any congested area of the defense shines brightly in my eyes. Plus, the kid can run!

Tannehill used to play wide receiver at Texas A&M, and it’s clear that he still has wheels. He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, a tenth-of-a-second faster than Johnny Manziel was timed at this year’s combine. But, hey, the reality is you can be as talented a quarterback as you please; if you have a poor offensive line in front of you though, you’ll be set-up for failure from the get-go. And such was the case for Ryan Tannehill last season.

Ryan Tannehill-Sacked.Panthers

Tannehill has been sacked 93-times over the past two seasons; most in the NFL during that span.

To put it lightly, Tannehill’s offensive line has been terrible. And until this offseason not much effort had been put forth to change that. The Phins ever-so permeable offensive line allowed the former Texas A&M Aggie to be sacked 93 times over the past two seasons, the most in the NFL during that span.

Thankfully, Miami finally made some serious strides to protect their franchise quarterback in the future. They inked Pro Bowl Offensive Tackle Brandon Albert to a five-year, $46 million contract in early March. Although Albert isn’t considered elite, he is probably the best perimeter offensive lineman that Miami has had in the past 3-4 years. Moreover, he has more than enough athletic ability to pull, reach, or set the edge on any run play Bill Lazor would like to run.

Fast forward to May 8th, where Miami made a first-round pick that actually made some sense (unlike the 2013 selection of Dion Jordan) by drafting former Tennessee Volunteer, Ja’Juan James.

At 6’6”, 311-pounds, and with 35” arms to boot, James enters the league with elite length and size for an NFL tackle. His agility and foot speed for a man of his size is outstanding. And, like the point I made with the Albert signing, he should make Bill Lazor’s outside run game very manageable to accomplish.

Now that Tannehill will have more than a blink’s worth of time to stand in the pocket and throw, we can actually analyze how Bill Lazor will influence Tanny’s fantasy output. I see Tannehill breaking out in a big way in 2014 on the ground thanks to Lazor’s Philadelphia background. In 2013 Eagles quarterbacks ran the ball 6 times per game, on average (Foles and Vick combined).

We saw Vick thrive with the ball in open space when he was healthy, as he averaged a staggering 8.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) as he compiled 306 rushing yards. Four of his runs were of 20-yards or more. He also scored 2 TDs via the ground. While Vick has a little bit more speed and much more lateral quickness in the open field, Tannehill still has elite mobility for a QB and a much more appropriate physique (6’4″, 222-pounds) to absorb the blow from any tackle. Not to mention, he’ll have favorable numbers on mostly every single (designed) run.

ON THE RUN

Ryan Tannehill-On the Run.1a.1What’s more dangerous than a 6’4” QB with sub 4.6-second speed on the run? I’ll tell you: a 6’4” QB with sub 4.6-second speed that has only one or two defenders between him and the end zone. That’s what this Chip Kelly run game does for the quarterback; it creates many backside opportunities to pick up an easy 5-10 yards every time.

I’m not going to crown Lamar Miller as the next coming of LeSean McCoy, but the former Miami Hurricane makes decisive cuts and has elite speed when rushing straight up-field. Once defenses begin to key-in on Miller’s outside or inside run, Tannehill will exercise his option to tuck-and-run with the ball outside.

If Nick Foles and his 5.14-second 40-yard dash timed speed can rack up 225 yards on 4.0 YPC, then the sky is the limit for Tanny. Only four quarterbacks (Newton, Pryor, Wilson, Kaepernick) reached 500-yards rushing last season, but with the change of scenery in Miami I wouldn’t be surprised if Tanny goes beyond that mark (I’m thinking 550-yards or so). He will be a legit threat to take off on any given play.

PASS OPTION

The beauty of this offense is the packaged plays and how many combinations can be entailed in one base formation. Take a look at a scenario the Eagles ran into vs. Washington last season.

Bill Lazor.Play Example1

The call was an outside zone play to the left. Mike Vick had the option to hand the ball off to “Slim Shady” McCoy on the left perimeter, dive the ball himself into the A-gap, or hit the tight end on the right ride on a “pop” pass (pay close attention, Charles Clay; you’ll make your money here).

Let’s say Miami is running this play on offense. If Tanny sees #59 blitz, after keeping the ball, his tight end (Clay) should be WIDE open for an easy 5-yards (with room to run after the catch). Clay is a sneaky good athlete, as he even lined up at the RB/FB position during close-yardage snaps last season.

The “pop” route is a slow route that is dictated on the movement of the middle-linebacker. If he’s hauling after the quarterback at 100 miles per hour, then the tight end better get his rear in gear and find an open crease in the seam.

Another route option for the TE is the broken arrow, or a simple “drag” route. This brings the TE over the middle, crossing over to the opposite sideline. While the defense is focused on Tannehill’s threat to run inside to the left, Charles Clay will be streaking across the middle of the field with the ball away from the strong-side and middle linebackers.

SPEED TO BURN

Mike Wallace was used in terrible fashion last season. He was glued to the sideline every play and utilized like a standard wide receiver instead of the lean, shifty downfield-burner that he really is. I expect Lazor will use Wallace during the upcoming season in a manner similar to that of how Desean Jackson functioned in 2013.

Jackson’s 18 catches behind the line of scrimmage went for an impressive 111 yards. An average of 6.3 yards-per-reception (YPR) on a bubble-like screen sounds perfectly fine for any QB or offensive coordinator. Although Wallace doesn’t have the side-to-side playmaking ability of D-Jack, he is just as fast in a straight line (if not faster).

Even in Mike Sherman’s predictable offense, Wallace racked up 261 yards on six catches for all passes thrown further than 20-yards downfield. I expect that mark to increase in 2014. Lazor’s new pass scheme will call for Wallace traveling downfield from a multitude of different alignments. He will be positioned all over the field; left sideline, right sideline, both slot positions, or even in the backfield.

OVERALL

If you couldn’t already tell, Bill Lazor’s offense really excites me. It will bring out the team athleticism possessed by the Phins’ offense, namely the straight-line speed of Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace. Look for Charles Clay to also build on his sound 2013 with a studly 2014. I look to see him bound for the “TE1” ranks in fantasy next season.

In addition, Ryan Tannehill will actually be able to stand in the pocket this season! What a relief it will be for him to do so without the constant concern of being planted by a 300-pound lineman every other time he drops back to make a pass! THANK YOU, BILL LAZOR!

Now, let’s see what this season holds for the desperate Dolphins.