To attain a 9-7 record or better, the Dolphins offense has to become more consistent and explosive. Many factors will go into this goal, including better offensive line play and more consistent red-zone production from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But the most glaring weakness for the Miami Dolphins offense each week has actually come from the most accomplished Dolphin, Brian Hartline.
Hartline doesn't get open until after Tannehill is at the top of his drop.
Mike Wallace is by far the best receiver Miami has on the roster, and his ability to stretch the defense always draws the attention of the safety, leaving the other side of the field with one-on-one matchups. That’s where Hartline must win against coverage, and he has to be open at Tannehill’s progression point.
At most, three reads on a five-step drop can happen. For example, that would be Wallace, Clay and then Hartline. If Wallace and Clay are covered, Hartline has extra time to get to his spot on the field and must be in an advantageous position against the cornerback.
Take a look at the table below, which shows every route ran by Hartline through Week 8.
Brian Hartline's Route Productivity Route Ran No. of Times Open No. of Attemps Open Percentage
Quick In/Out (1) 4 11 36%
Slant (2) 8 16 50%
Comeback (3) 7 16 44%
Curl (4) 7 21 33%
Deep Out (5) 1 7 14%
Dig (6) 5 23 22%
Corner (7) 1 12 7%
Post (8) 1 11 9%
Go (9) 6 39 15%
Miami has worked hard to manufacture opportunities for Hartline to be open.
He’s been able to perform on comebacks, slants and crossing routes this year, but his inability to be a threat past 10 yards has hampered the offense’s ability to push the ball downfield. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Hartline is averaging .90 yards per route run, which ranks 85th out of 87 qualifying players in the NFL.
If Hartline were excellent after the catch, there’d be more credence to why he’s been on the field for 431 plays this season. His 61 yards after the catch rank 150th in the NFL, and he’s tied with Daniel Thomas, who has only been active four games for the Dolphins this year.
On film, Hartline is neutralized early and often at the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks are often lined up directly on Hartline, forcing him to either break press coverage or use his feet to get the cornerback to overcommit one direction. Hartline does not have the foot speed or lateral agility to be effective in this regard, and cornerbacks sit until he breaks downfield.
With Hartline having to waste steps to try to win at the line, valuable seconds are wasted, and he rarely is at the apex of his route when Tannehill is looking for his status. Although Tannehill could try to anticipate and lead Hartline open at times, those passes are extremely dangerous when a receiver has one speed and cannot make an athletic play on the ball.
The disappointing part of Hartline’s usage and performance has been how often Lazor has Hartline run deep. The vertical routes help clear out the safety and cornerback so that the slot receiver or tight end has a better chance to be open underneath. But, the receiver should occasionally win those go routes to keep the defense off balance, and Hartline has utterly failed to do so.
Surprisingly, Hartline has not been a good route-runner this season. He’s consistently not sharp in his cuts, instead rounding them off and allowing the cornerback to jump on the inside of his deep in routes across the middle of the field. It’s not fair to say this is a lazy tactic; rather it seems Hartline knows he needs to play faster than he physically can.
When Hartline wins off the line of scrimmage, he’s very good at staying open. But he is so poor at beating press coverage and outmuscling his opponent that he’s taken out of too many plays just as his route begins.
The epitome of why Hartline was an effective player in past seasons was undoubtedly his hands. He was more dangerous as a receiver and was targeted often because he rarely made a costly drop. Per PFF, his drop rate of 6.17 percent in 2013 was a respectable 19th in the league. 2014 has yielded much different results, as Hartline has four drops and the eighth-worst drop percentage with a 16.67 percent mark.
The official drops statistic is usually more forgiving than not, as Hartline had at least two drops in the Jacksonville Jaguars game alone, so the fact that Hartline has been so unreliable is worrisome. If a possession receiver cannot provide a steady presence, then that player is essentially wasting valuable snaps for an offense.
On the two passes Tannehill has targeted Hartline deep, Hartline dropped a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills and failed to make a play on an interception by Sam Shields of the Green Bay Packers. Hartline lacks the athleticism needed to make catches in tight coverage, especially on vertical routes, and it really hinders the offense useless on 3rd-and-long situations.
Hartline’s hands have never been in question like now, so it begs the question of whether these problems are occurring due to concentration issues or a lack of confidence. Either way, for Hartline to be a productive member of the offense, he needs to show that he deserves to be a bigger part of the game plan.
He’s not a legitimate decoy receiver like Wallace was in 2013 since he only requires one cornerback to smother his routes.
The point of this study certainly was not to scapegoat Hartline for the offensive inconsistency that Miami has had, but rather to figure out why his production has slipped so much. Saying that he is just not a fit in Lazor’s offense is somewhat correct, as he does not possess the speed needed to make defenses give him special attention.http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2247 ... n-hartline
At the crux of Hartline’s issues is that he is not a gifted enough athlete to be what the Dolphins so desperately need, which is an alpha-male wide receiver (like Dez Bryant). Hartline has a role on any roster when he’s running better routes and catching the ball, but the reality is that role should be the third- or fourth-best receiver on the team, not the No. 2.
Miami will have to improvise and rotate between other options at Hartline’s position. He’s deserving of some role and snaps, but as long as he continues to receive the majority of snaps as the X receiver, the Dolphins will struggle creating explosive plays.