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Passing Game: C

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had flashes where he has looked above average. His long ball has developed very nicely. He can make any throw, and has shown improvement in recent weeks with regards to his pocket presence and awareness. However, he struggles with consistency. He hasn’t been helped by his receivers much, and he took a real beating during the first 5 games due to some horrible offensive line play.

Jarvis Landry has been the only receiver that has been reliable. Kenny Stills, aside from his notorious drop in the Seattle game, has actually been a help to the offense, but disappears for stretches. Devante Parker, for all his talent, has been a huge disappointment. He can’t seem to shake the nagging injuries, and his questionable dedication to maintaining his body is holding him back. He should be dominating, but he’s barely noticeable many times. With Jordan Cameron on IR and Dion Simms still coming back from his concussion, the onus has fallen on little known backups Marqueis Gray and Dominique Jones to carry the load at tight end, and they have performed better than expected, both in the running game and as receivers. Dion Simms’ return should help even more.

Bottom line, this unit was supposed to be the strength of the offense in terms of depth and talent, and so far they have not lived up to the billing, with the exception of Landry, and even he has hurt his case with some bone-headed personal foul penalties.

Running Game: B

If I were only grading the last 3 games, it would be an A, but that’s not what this is. The running game was BAD, BAD, BAD for the first 5 games. It was an afterthought and the coaches clearly had no confidence in it. The poor line play undermined any effort to develop confidence in it. BUT then, the starting offensive line finally got on the field at the same time, and lo and behold an identity was formed. Jay Ajayi started the season in the doghouse after pouting about being second-string to Arian Foster. Now, Foster is retired and Ajayi is the talk of the league after putting up over 500 yards in the past three games. He is running angry. He shows good burst through the hole, is decisive and powerful. He is showing that he deserves to be considered a cornerstone for this offense for years to come, if he can keep this up over the second half of the season and stay healthy. Damien Williams has been decent if not special as a role player. Kenyan Drake has had moments, most notably in the return game this past week as he scored the winning touchdown on a 96 yard kickoff return.

Passing Defense: B

Miami’s pass D is hard to rate. They’ve given up 10 touchdowns over 8 games. That’s not bad at all. They have yet to allow a QB to throw for 300 yards (though Andy Dalton put up 296.) They are among the best in the league on 3rd down. Once they inserted Cam Wake and Andre Branch into the starting lineup, the pass rush became much more consistent. Ndamukong Suh has been very effective. The team has 19 sacks on the season, led by Wake (5) and Suh (4.5). The defense has 5 interceptions so far, led by Isa Abdul-Quddus (2). Interestingly, no starting CB has a pick yet, with the only CB having made an interception so far being Bobby McCain, this past week against the Jets. Yes, that means that DT Jordan Phillips has more picks than any of our starting CBs. That needs to change.

Run Defense: D

This is the bugaboo for Miami’s D. After fine showings against the Bills and Steelers, it seemed like the team had finally figured things out. Then this past week they were gashed by Matt Forte for close to 100 yards. The Dolphins have given up 100 yard days to LaGarrett Blount (week one) and DeMarco Murray (week five), and have surrendered 4.6 yards per carry to opposing backs so far on the year, which is clearly unacceptable. If they are going to be successful in the second half against teams like San Diego, Arizona and Los Angeles, as well as all their division opponents, they must improve this aspect of their game.

Special Teams: B

Matt Darr has had a pro-bowl caliber season. Until Jay Ajayi’s sudden explosion onto the scene, he was probably the team MVP (a sad statement in itself.) Andrew Franks has been fairly reliable, though he has had some kicks blocked. Hopefully he has worked out the problems he had with that. His kickoffs have been consistently deep. As for the return game, Jakeem Grant has shown the speed and open field vision that made him a draft target this past spring. He has already returned one punt for a touchdown, and he and Jarvis Landry both are averaging about 11 yards per return. On kick returns, Grant is averaging 25 yards per return, and has shown a willingness to bring the ball out of the end zone when it might be smarter to just take a knee, but there is no denying his explosiveness. And of course, Kenyan Drake took one to the house this past weekend, so it seems we have speed and explosiveness in the return game that we haven’t had in a long time.

Coaching: B+

Adam Gase seems to be learning the job of the head coach pretty quickly. He had some pretty awful game plans early on, as did defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. But give credit where it’s due. They adjusted, they grew, they listened to their players and they have improved. Gase has shown strong leadership and a willingness to make tough calls, like benching or cutting underperforming players and adjusting his philosophy on the fly to fit what is actually working well. I like Gase. I am hopeful that he is one of my “building blocks” I wrote about in a previous blog.

Overall:B

The team is 4 and 4, which is not surprising when you look at the rough schedule at the start of the season. But, it’s trending in a good direction, having won three in a row and finding an identity as a bruising, physical running team on offense and an increasingly physical defense, especially in the passing game. My opinion is that this team will go as far as their starting offensive line takes them, especially if they can continue to show progress in their run defense. Going 5 – 3 in the second half of their season is not unrealistic if their offensive line holds up. If they are able to steal a win from either Arizona, San Diego or New England (my projected losses in the second half) then 10 – 6 may even earn them a wild card birth. However, I could just as easily see them losing some winnable games down the stretch to Baltimore, New York, Buffalo… really, anybody. It all depends on how successful Gase has really been in turning the culture around. It will be interesting to see. Go Dolphins!

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