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Watch out for Ryan Tannehill

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Miami is a last-second Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass from being on a 3-game winning streak, and Ryan Tannehill's improved play is a big reason for the October turnaround. Here are a few ways the Dolphins have adjusted the offense to improve their QB's chances.

David Banks

Ever since Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin kinda sorta threatened to bench him, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked like a new man. I don't know if Philbin's words truly inspired him to play better or not, but I can say for sure that a subtle new offensive direction has helped him tremendously. Now, Tannehill looks a lot more like Alex Smith than Aaron Rodgers but perhaps that is for the best, for all involved.

Throttle down on the deep-passing game

First off, it appears that the Dolphins have cut down on the passing plays meant to push the ball down the field in favor of more short route combinations, allowing Tannehill to get the ball out of his hand a lot quicker. In hindsight maybe the big free agent addition of Mike Wallace had the team trying to force the ball down the field even though Tannehill and Wallace never could seem to gain any chemistry together on those deeper throws.

It makes sense that the Dolphins would want to get their moneys-worth out of the speedy Wallace, but it turns out Wallace has pretty good route running ability and can get open just as easily on shorter routes as well. Quietly, he has already posted five touchdown receptions, including one in each of the last three games. That would equal his touchdown output from last season and is exactly half of his career high of 10 touchdowns back in 2010 with the Steelers.

Let Tannehill be an NFL rushing threat?

The Dolphins also seem to be featuring much more of the read option type of plays that you would see a team like the Chiefs or the Eagles run. It isn't just the running game, but also the passing game that has benefited from some of those schematic changes. Tannehill looks to be particularly adept at using the read option run fake to help set up quick "pop" passes up the seam.

Now that's good and all, but really the most noticeable change the last three weeks has been Tannehill's ability to pick up a lot more yards rushing the ball. He isn't pulling it on read option plays just to "keep them honest," he is looking to break off a big one every time.

Photo via Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Check out this contrast -- in the first three games, Tannehill ran eight times for a total of 18 yards ... combined. In the last three games, he has rushed for 35, 49 and 48 yards, while averaging over four carries per game. His 30-yard scamper on a 4th-and-1 late in the 3rd quarter put the Dolphins on the Bears 2-yard line, and lead to their third touchdown of the game two plays later. Tannehill is not just a gimmick in the running game, he is now a weapon.

★★★

I get the sense having watched Tannehill over these last three games that the changes on offense have helped him finally turn the corner and he actually has me believing in that team now. I keep saying this is the year some team in the AFC East might finally be able to knock the crown off of the Patriots' head. And if Tannehill can keep playing this well, that team just might end up being the Dolphins.

On another note, I wonder if Prisco still thinks this read option stuff is just a "fad."  LOLz