Miami Dolphins’ mid-season report card (courtesy of The Tape Don’t Lie)

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler is on the run. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

The Miami Dolphins defense, through the first eight games of this season, has generally exceeded expectations.

The Dolphins’ offense? Not so much. A huge disappointment, even with Jay Cutler replacing a re-injured Ryan Tannehill.

Miami’s inability to run the football has been jarring. The Dolphins’ inability to create any big offensive plays has been startling.

Last season, Miami was 4-4 at the break, just like this year. But last year felt different.

The Dolphins had won three in a row; this year, it’s two losses in a row.

Miami has been through so much adversity and turmoil (some of it self-inflicted). The Dolphins have put themselves in a tough spot.

In looking at current the Vegas Super Bowl odds (Miami has the fourth-worst odds in the NFL, according to Bovada), it would seem the Dolphins will be underdogs in six, or perhaps even seven, of their final eight games.

Would a 6-10  or 7-9 record be disastrous? Probably not. Miami would be in decent draft position. And there would be plenty of rebound hope with the returns of players like Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan, along with a chance to restructure along the offensive line and at tight end.

Who knows. Maybe Miami will stun the world, as they did last season.

It is a pleasure to break down the coaches’ film each and every week for The Tape Don’t Lie, and these grades are based largely on what we saw there. With that said, here are our first-half Miami Dolphins grades:

Quarterback: C-

Jay Cutler is 18th in the NFL in passer rating, which is actually ahead of quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. While Cutler is 8th in the NFL in completion percentage, Miami’s offense has centered on a high-percentage, short passing game. Thus, Cutler is 30th in average gain. Cutler has actually been quite good in four of the games he’s played in (Chargers, Falcons, Jets and Raiders) and not good in three (Jets, Saints, Titans). There are encouraging signs as Cutler has seven touchdowns in his last eight quarters played. But Miami’s passing offense is ranked 29th and total offense is 31st, and Cutler is the head of this snake.

Running Back: C-

Miami’s rushing offense is ranked 30th in the NFL, which is stunning considering the team success on the ground last season. That Jay Ajayi would average 3.4 yards per carry and be dumped for a fourth-rounder is something that would not have been foreseen before the season. Yes, Miami’s offensive line has underperformed. But so too, did Ajayi. Kenyan Drake shows explosive promise as a runner. Damien Williams is a versatile weapon and dangerous receiver. But 29th in the NFL in yards per carry is shocking mid-season production.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry jumps over a New York Jet at Hard Rock Stadium. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Wide Receiver: C-

Jarvis Landry is second in the NFL with 56 receptions, but for a shockingly-low 7.7 yard per catch. Landry is on pace for a career-high eight touchdowns. Kenny Stills has 726 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, and is on pace for 682 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. But Stills’ yards-per-catch is down from 17.3 to 12.2, a revealing decline. Neither Jakeem Grant nor Leonte Carroo emerged when replacing injured DeVante Parker, who is the most dynamic player in the group. Overall, Miami’s receivers have dropped too many passes and not provided enough big plays.

Tight End: D

Julius Thomas is averaging 31.5 yards per game, which seems terrible, except it’s about what he produced in his previous three NFL seasons. Thomas is on pace for only two touchdowns, however, which would is nowhere close to what he produced with Adam Gase and Peyton Manning in Denver (24 in two seasons). Thomas tries to block, but isn’t very good. Anthony Fasano has been one of Miami’s best overall blockers. MarQuies Gray doesn’t have a catch.

Offensive Line: D

The Dolphins offensive line features three first-rounders (Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey and Ja’Wuan James) but overall, the group has disappointed. Jay Cutler was sacked 9 times in the first 3 games, but only 4 in the last 4 games. Still, there have been too many pressures allowed and too many penalties. It’s surprising that Tunsil has not been more immediately comfortable in his transition back to tackle. Guards Anthony Steen, Jesse Davis and Jermon Bushrod have not performed well overall. And Pouncey has not seemed as dominant as in the past. The Dolphins offensive line also takes its share of the burden for a failed rushing attack. Hard to say how or if the departure of Miami’s offensive line coach has impacted the unit.

Defensive Line: B+

Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake celebrates against the New York Jets. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

The addition of William Hayes has really made an impact on Miami’s ability to be 7th in the NFL in rush defense. Rookie defensive end Charles Harris shows potential. Cameron Wake has not regressed. Ndamukong Suh has been impactful. Andre Branch has been steady. And rookie Davon Godchaux has exceeded expectations. The Dolphins are 18th in the NFL in sacks per play, which should be a bit higher. But overall, Miami’s defensive line has been quite good.

Linebackers: B

The additions of Lawrence Timmons (despite his brief AWOL situation) and Rey Maualuga have added toughness, aggressiveness and an ability to stop the run with generally sound tackling. Despite being exposed at times in pass coverage, Kiko Alonso has been solid in the first year of his contract extension. It would be been interesting to see how injured Raekwon McMillan would have done. But Miami’s linebacker have shown dramatic improvement from last season to this season.

Secondary: C

Miami has only three interceptions, which ranks 29th in the NFL. Xavien Howard has not yet taken the giant leap forward that many expected to see in his sophomore season. Cordrea Tankersley, who did not seem likely to so quickly supplant jettisoned Byron Maxwell, shows potential. Reshad Jones had made a few big plays and made a few bad ones, too. Nate Allen’s tenure was unforgettable but Miami believes strongly that T.J. McDonald will make a great impact. Miami is 22nd in the NFL in passing yards per play allowed. Miami is only 31st in the NFL in red zone defense. The overall pass coverage must be tighter in the second half of this season.

Special Teams: C

According to a formula by Football Outsiders, Miami is 19th in the NFL in special teams, and about average overall. Miami has been good at covering punts and kickoffs this season. But the Dolphins haven’t been very good at punt returns. Jupiter’s Cody Parkey has made 9-of-10 field goals, including three game-winners, but missed three extra points. Miami has forced six missed opponent field goals, including one block. Punter Matt Haack currently 21st and 19th in the NFL in gross and net averages.

Adam Gase is trying to figure out how to get the most out of his players. (AP)

Coaching: C

Gase has established a culture of accountability and as head coach and play-caller, he openly takes his share of the blame for Miami’s offense, which is last in the league in points per game and second-to-last in yards per game. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke had a really dominant first five games and must adjust as opposing offenses adjust to Miami’s play-calling. It’s was also Gase’s decision to move on from Ajayi, and that bold choice will be analyzed for years to come. The Dolphins are 4-4 and if they manage to finish 9-7 or better, this rating figures to go up; 7-9 or worse and the rating figures to go down.

 

 

The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins vs. Oakland Raiders, a review

RELATED COLUMN: Miami Dolphins appear headed in one direction, and it’s not the playoffs

5 Miami Dolphins Snap Conclusions from loss to Oakland

Reshad Jones and Miami Dolphins D yield 295 passing yards

Miami Dolphins K Cody Parkey: ‘I put our team in a bad spot.’

Have you visited The Daily Dolphin Facebook Page? It’s really, really good

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments