ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **All the Dolphins' offense lacks is deep-threat consistency.
Ryan Tannehill has the control part of the game down pat. Using short passes to an array of targets interspersed with his own effective scrambles, the third-year quarterback is adept at taking what the defense concedes underneath and generating one first down after another. As a result, the Dolphins have the league's sixth-best of gaining first downs -- one every 3.23 plays -- even though their offense ranks 17th in total yardage and 20th in yardage per play.
But the Dolphins are one of just three teams without at least one pass of more than 50 yards (along with San Diego and Kansas City), and rank 28th in yardage per pass play (5.77 yards), and have just one completion of more than 40 yards.
With wide receiver Mike Wallace on the outside, they have a target who can get open and can get in position for the sort of defense-stretching deep shot that the Rams successfully executed twice in the first quarter last Sunday. But the question looms: will the Dolphins try this, and can they succeed?
One thing is certain: Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wants more explosive plays.
"I would take a little less time of possession if it meant we were getting more explosive plays," Lazor said this week.
The lack of deep shots has led to some dubbing Tannehill as a "game manager" in his first year working with Lazor.
"I don't really think about labels or anything. I think about wins," said Tannehill. "At the end of the day, you want to be a winner and that's what it comes down to. It doesn't really matter how you get it done, as long as you get it done and come out with a win."
In taking what's there, Tannehill improved his completion percentage -- from 60.4 last year to 65.4 this year -- and reduced his interception percentage, to a career-low 2.0.
"Those are positive things and he's making good decisions," said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. "His decision making has been good. I see development, I see progress and certainly there is still more room for growth, but we like the trend that we see right now."
Tannehill returns the Broncos to the realm of mobile quarterbacks, which they left in the last four weeks against San Diego's Philip Rivers, New England's Tom Brady, Oakland's Derek Carr and St. Louis' Shaun Hill.
"He's pretty good," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who faced Tannehill when the two were together in the Big 12. "He's more athletic probably than what people think, so he's a guy that we need to definitely get some pressure on him, but he's a guy that can run too."
And he might have to run if the Broncos' edge rushers have success against rookie Ja'Wuan James, who replaced veteran Branden Albert at left tackle. Albert succumbed to a torn anterior cruciate ligament at Detroit on Nov. 9, causing a serious of shifts that forced James into the blindside protection role.
GROUND AND POUND
The loss of former Bronco Knowshon Moreno to a torn anterior cruciate ligament derailed the Dolphins' initial plans for their running game, but the emergence of 2012 fourth-round pick Lamar Miller after two disappointing seasons softened the blow.
The status of Miller bears watching as Sunday approaches. He was limited in Friday's practice with shoulder and knee injuries and is listed as questionable. Rookie Damien Williams is listed as his backup, and has a 3.2-yards-per-carry average on 32 rushes to date.
No matter who runs, the occasional read-option looks with Tannehill as a run/pass threat ensure that the Broncos must be on guard to avoid being out of position.
"They have good design. They create some space and tempo issues that you've got to be able to handle," said Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio. "We have faced a number of quarterbacks that can run and that read-option element, so it's not brand new for us, which is good. But it's always a challenge."
MIAMI BY THE NUMBERS …**
- Yards per game: 348.4, 17th
- Yards per play: 5.32, 20th
- Giveaways: 16, T-18th
- First-down rate: One every 3.23 plays, 6th
- Third-down conversion rate: 40.8 percent, 17th
- Yards per game: 221.1, 22nd
- Yards per pass play: 5.77, 28th
- Sack rate: One per 15.32 pass plays, 18th
- Touchdown rate: One every 22.53 pass plays, 12th
- Quarterback hit rate: One per 7.66 pass plays, 18th
- First-down rate: One per 2.80 pass plays, 11th
- Drop rate (per STATS, Inc.):One per 12.65 opportunities, 25th
- Yards after catch per reception (per STATS, Inc.): 5.67, 12th
- Yards per game: 127.3, 6th
- Yards per rush: 4.68, 4th
- First-down rate: One every 4.12 carries, 6th
- Touchdown rate: One every 45.33 carries, 23rd