Ryan Tannehill, the third-year quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, has had his ups and downs this season. In a Week 3 home loss to the Chiefs, the quarterback completed just 21 of 43 passes, gaining 205 yards in the air. The following week, against Oakland in London, Tannehill had one of his best days as a pro, with a completion percentage of 74.2 percent while throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a big win.
The inconsistencies from its quarterback is one of the main reasons the Miami offense as a whole ranks in the middle of the NFL. The Dolphins ranks 16th in the league in total offense (331.6 yards per game) and 14th in points per game (24.0).
"(Ryan) is our quarterback, he's touching the ball every single play," Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline said Wednesday on a conference call with Chicago-area reporters. "It's up to him make things work, whether it be a run or pass. Selling different looks, getting safeties to move, completing footballs. It's also our responsibility to catch the ball for him."
Hartline is one of many receivers who share that responsibility. That Dolphins have five players with 15 or more receptions on the year, led by deep threat Mike Wallace, who has 25 catches.
The Dolphins also try to alleviate some pressure from Tannehills' right arm with an efficient running game. Miami has the NFL's sixth-ranked running game, thanks in large part to Lamar Miller. Projected at the start of the season to share time with free agent pickup Knownshon Moreno, Miller has shined in a full-time role with Moreno battling various injuries. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, with four runs of 20 yards or longer, matching his total from a year ago in more than 100 fewer attempts.
"He's done a good job. I think his vision has improved," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of Miller. "He's had a little bit more patience, so he's seeing some holes open up that early on in his career maybe he missed by being a little too impatient. I think his patience is better now.
"One thing that's evident, he's got some speed. He can get out in space. Once he gets out there, at times he can out run a linebacker or break a tackle and gain some additional yardage for you that's big. He's also demonstrated an ability to do some things out of the backfield catching the ball."
Hartline said the improved rushing attack has made the offense better, but hasn't solved all the team's problems. Miami has struggled inside its opponents' 20-yard line, scoring touchdowns just 54.3 percent of times it reaches the red zone. Defenses deserve some credit for that, but the receiver said it all comes back to the shaky play of the team's offense as a whole.
"Yeah, we obviously have a better running attack, so any time you do that, it gives you some consistency in your offense," the receiver said. "But, that being said, I feel like we've been very consistent. Our performances go pretty up and down and we are still trying to find the best way to stay a consistent football team. At this point, the running game is definitely a staple. But the consistency we do lack on offense, and that's something we are trying to work on."
Versus the Bears on Sunday, Tannehill and the Miami offense may not be at full strength. The quarterback is dealing with a sore ankle, suffered in the Week 6 loss to Green Bay, and was limited in practice on Wednesday. His blindside protector, left tackle Branden Albert, is also banged up with a sore elbow.
The injuries could make it tough versus a Chicago defense coming off its best game of the season a week ago. The Dolphins are looking for some level play from their offense and quarterback, but that still remains a goal instead of a reality.
"The inconsistency is on the offensive level, I wouldn't say anything about (Tannehill's) inconsistency or his play. All of us aren't playing at a high enough level to either pick up each other's slack or however you want to phrase it," Hartline said. "I think the offensive inconsistencies are what is frustrating.
"In the end, nobody is going to hold Ryan to a higher standard than himself, and I'm sure if you were to ask him that, he could give you all kinds of things that he's doing well and things that he was doing better on."