Winning Dirty in DC: Grades & Analysis from Miami’s 17-10 Win Over Washington

The Miami Dolphins opened up their season on Sunday afternoon in an ugly game with the Redskins. Most thought entering this matchup that Miami would make quick work of the Redskins, but that proved to hardly be the case. The team was unable to stop Washington or score points of their own in the first half. Luckily, Miami dominated in the second-half (relatively speaking), scoring 17 unanswered points from the two-minute warning in the second quarter to the end of the fourth. The team was lucky to escape from DC with a win, and here are our grades from the Dolphins’ season-opening victory over the Redskins.

Ryan Tannehill: B+

Evan Vicci/AP

(Evan Vucci/AP)

In the first half, Tannehill was not really given a chance to succeed. He missed two throws, and looked like he needed time to settle down. He seemed to have done that by the time he got the ball in the two-minute drill, driving the offense down the field and eventually hitting Rishard Matthews for a game-saving touchdown. 10-7 is a much better halftime score than a 10-0 shutout (thanks Captain Obvious).

Tannehill found a rhythm in the second half. He dropped a perfect pass in to Jordan Cameron, and completed multiple plays on third down to keep drives alive. Despite one or two missed opportunities and a bad decision to throw the ball for a loss to Jarvis Landry on the goal line, Tannehill played well. The quarterback position is especially susceptible to game day nerves, so it will be important to see if Tannehill is calmer and more poised next Sunday against Jacksonville.

Running Backs: B+

Top Player: Lamar Miller

In the first half Miami was unable to generate anything on the ground. They couldn’t control the clock, and were beaten down in time of possession. The runners did not look decisive enough, and were not showing the quickness needed to make plays in Bill Lazor’s offense.

The second half was another story. Whenever the Dolphins needed a play on the ground, Miller was there. Damien Williams and the backups provided no help for the offense, but when it was time to seal the game, Lamar Miller helped Miami lock up the win. Hopefully the Dolphins show him more carries as the season wears on, as I felt he was underutilized today against Washington.

Wide Receivers: A-

Top Players: Jarvis Landry & Jordan Cameron

(Evan Vucci/AP)

(Evan Vucci/AP)

The Dolphins’ pass catchers carried their weight today. Jordan Cameron, Jarvis Landry, and Rishard Matthews all carried their weight and helped Ryan Tannehill produce enough in the second half to come out with a win. Jarvis Landry was especially dominant, with a crucial third-quarter play in which he fought for a first down, then later in the game returned a punt for a touchdown. Rishard Matthews also played well, and had a positive outing despite one crucial drop on second down.

Jordan Cameron also had a strong afternoon, and was on the receiving end of Tannehill’s best pass of the day. He dropped the ball into coverage on a wheel route, and Cameron laid out for the catch. With Dion Sims’ injury and the number of targets he got in week one, look for Cameron to be a favorite weapon of Tannehill this season.

Offensive Line: B-

Top Players: Mike Pouncey & Branden Albert

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For the most part, the offensive line did a good job keeping Ryan Tannehill upright. I have no major complaints about the way they played this afternoon considering we entered the season with the belief that they would be Miami’s biggest issue.

Dallas Thomas was himself at times, allowing defenders to blow by him for sacks and tackles for loss. But he actually was able to hold his own, as was rookie right guard Jamil Douglas. Despite a brief injury scare, Branden Albert returned to the game and played fairly well for Miami coming off of an ACL tear.

Defensive Line: B

Top Players; Terrence Fede and Cameron Wake

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We were expecting an explosion. We were expecting earth-shattering results. And what we got was far from what we paid for with Ndamukong Suh.

It is far too early to panic, and the Dolphins’ fan base has to give the unit time to gel. It is worth waiting before we hit the big red button. Give these players time to work together and to establish teamwork and rhythm. Cameron Wake was able to heat up late in the game, and Ndamukong Suh did his job and occupied serious blocking resources.

Terrence Fede and Jordan Phillips both played very well. Fede came in for the injured Olivier Vernon and didn’t miss a beat. Phillips was rotated in and recorded a sack early in the first quarter blowing by Washington’s entire offensive line for a clear shot at Cousins. The unit did underperform based on expectations, but it is still week one. We saw flashes of what this unit can do, so hopefully next week they have ironed out some of the kinks against Jacksonville.

Linebackers: C

Top Player: Koa Misi

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We know this would be a problem, and the team’s linebackers actually could have cost them this win. Once Alfred Morris got past the line, there was no resistance in the next level. Kelvin Sheppard was rotated in with Zach Vigil, which isnt a good look for the veteran. Vigil did at times show his ability, but it was not a pretty game for the Dolphins’ linebacking corps.

The line positive for this group was Koa Misi. He didn’t look great, but appeared to be playing with more energy than the otherwise lethargic group. He was flying around and making tackles, and proved that he deserves his starting job this year. It’s hard to not be somewhat impressed by his play against Washington.

One head scratcher coming into this game was Chris McCain’s inactive status on the pregame list. Most expected him to at least play a rotational role. Instead, Miami went with a series of young, unproven players. Granted McCain hasn’t really proven himself either, but it will be interesting to see if he is suited up next week.

Overall this is the unit that raises the biggest red flag for Miami. They seemed to just assume that the defensive line would make plays for them, and were not able to generate any help for the big guys up front. If Miami wants to win games in a more decisive fashion, the linebackers will have to do some serious work to improve their play down the stretch.

Defensive Backs: A-

Top Players: Reshad Jones & Brent Grimes

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The first half was a mixed bag for the defensive backs, but when the second portion of the game rolled around, they turned it on. The cornerbacks were wrestling balls away from receivers, and the safeties were both dropping back and stopping runners with efficiency. The Dolphins have to be very pleased with what they saw from this unit.

Reshad Jones was the defensive player of the day. He was constantly in on tackles, and seemed to know where the ball was going to be before it was even snapped. He has excellent speed and agility to compliment his tackling ability. Overall the afternoon has to be considered a great success for Jones, who could be the breakout candidate for this season. Brent Grimes also had a strong outing, and showed Dolphins’ fans that he hasn’t let father time catch up to him just yet.

Brice McCain and Jamar Taylor also played well in the second half. Taylor made some stellar tackles coming up out of the back half of the defense, and McCain helped seal the game with a late interception of Pierre Garcon.

As a whole this unit shined for Miami, from the young unproven safeties and corners to the veteran options. The Dolphins defensive backs have to be happy with their performance on Sunday.

Special Teams: B+

Top Players: Jarvis Landry & God Denney (no I did stutter)

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This grade would have been an A if not for LaMike James’ fumble (which will likely cost him his job). The Dolphins were able to pin the Redskins deep, and managed to tackle well in the all-important third phase of the game. Matt Darr and Andrew Franks both played well in their limited action, and showed that Miami could be able to squeeze by with their all-rookie group of specialists.

Jarvis Landry had the play of the game with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. His effect on this Dolphins team is invaluable, and it cannot be stated how much of a boost he provides for this group. That play shifted the tides in this game, and Miami was able to squeeze out the close win.

And yes, John Denney long-snapped to perfection. What a stud.

Overall: B-

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U-G-L-Y. And they have absolutely no alibi.

The Dolphins needed to win in a more decisive fashion than they did against Washington, but a victory is a victory no matter what. The Dolphins came out jittery in this game and only settled into themselves late in the second-quarter. Ryan Tannehill eventually found a rhythm and was able to exploit the Redskins defense, while our defenders made just enough plays to get by.

The team is lucky that they have an easy stretch early in the season. It appears that they will take some time to gel and develop chemistry, especially on the defensive line. Everyone has off days, and unfortunately it seemed like the pass rushers couldn’t produce against Washington. Luckily it didn’t cost us early in the season.

Yes Dolfans, we are victorious. It was ugly, sloppy, and hard to watch, but it was a win. Next week the Miami Dolphins face the Jacksonville Jaguars, and will have to hope that they can find more consistency with the pass rush, linebackers, and offensive play.

Nothing feels better than an opening-day win, and no matter how ugly it was Dolphins’ fans have to be pleased to see their team fly back to South Florida with the W. Fins Up, Miami- we’ll see you in Jacksonville.

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