Glass Half-Empty: Grades From the Dolphins’ 30-24 Win Over the Browns
Well it was a must-win game for the Miami Dolphins, and win they did, but it was truly an embarrassing effort. Facing the Cleveland Browns and third-string rookie quarterback Cody Kessler, the Dolphins needed the help of three missed field goals by Cody Parkey to pull out a 30-24 overtime win in their home opener.
Nevertheless, Miami will be 1-2 as they head into their matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite the arrow seemingly pointing up through the first two weeks, expectations for the rest of 2016 came crashing down after their latest uninspired effort.
Ryan Tannehill: F
Tannehill seemed frustrated and disorganized for the entirety of the game. He started the game on a terrible note, attempting to force the ball to Kenny Stills on a quick slant, resulting in an interception. He rebounded quickly for a 26-yard touchdown to DeVante Parker but was a mess for the rest of the first half.
He made a shocking amount of bad decisions, one of which came on this pick six.
He simply didn’t look like he was in control of the offense. He threw two interceptions, fumbled and was called for a key intentional grounding penalty. He played well for a brief stretch in the third and fourth quarters, tossing touchdown passes to Jarvis Landry and Damien Williams, but instantly came back down to Earth as the offense stalled late in the final moments of regulation.
Cleveland had a chance to win with a field goal as time expired due to the aforementioned fumble by Tannehill as well. They missed the kick, bailing Tannehill out and sending the game to overtime. Tannehill continues to show that he can make practically any throw Gase asks of him, but his decision-making, awareness and consistency simply aren’t up to par at this point. Miami needs more from him if they want any success in 2016.
Running Backs: B-
Kenyan Drake, Jay Ajayi, Isaiah Pead and Damien Williams did all they could in this game despite an abysmal run-blocking performance by Miami’s offensive line. They picked up any yards they could find and ended up churning out 97 yards on 23 carries as a group.
Drake and Williams once again acted as a security blanket for Tannehill, with Williams notching a ten-yard touchdown on this perfectly executed route out of the backfield:
Ajayi scored an 11-yard touchdown run around the edge in overtime, winning the game for Miami. It was his longest run of the game and couldn’t have come at a better time.
Arian Foster is typically the starter but was inactive for this one. Gase has plenty of running talent at his disposal; he simply needs the offensive line to do a better job blocking for them.
Wide Receivers: A
The Dolphins’ wide receiver group single handedly kept their team in this game. Parker got the action started with a beautiful post route for a 26-yard touchdown:
He finally looks healthy and could be a difference maker for this offense.
Landry looked as shifty as ever, getting open seemingly at will and consistently making defenders miss after the catch. Landry accumulated 120 yards and a touchdown over seven catches. He continues to be this team’s best offensive player, and if you still have your doubts just watch this play:
Kenny Stills had a rough start to 2016 but seems like he put it behind him. He totaled five catches for 76 yards, but more importantly continued to show some chemistry with Tannehill and picked up multiple first downs for Miami against Cleveland.
Unlike in Week 1, the Dolphins’ receiver corps looked sure-handed and explosive in this one, and thus had absolutely nothing to do with Tannehill’s horrendous day.
Tight End: B
Jordan Cameron left this game early with a concussion, and Dion Sims was the beneficiary. He was the safety blanket that Gase looks for out of his tight ends, getting open in a multiple key situations. His final stats won’t blow anyone away (4 catches for 46 yards) but he was reliable and that was all Miami needed him to be.
Perhaps his most important contribution of the game was on Ajayi’s touchdown, as he set the block that sprung his running back around the edge and to the end zone.
Offensive Line: D+
While Tannehill’s decision-making stands out as a major negative, his linemen surely didn’t do him any favors. He was under pressure for nearly the entire game, which played a major part in rattling the veteran quarterback. Although they only surrendered one sack, Cleveland consistently wreaked havoc and shrunk the pocket.
Tannehill was hit in the chest as he released the throw on the pick-six and fumbled after a hit from his blindside. Brandon Albert was also called for a false start that forced Miami into a third and long situation in the second quarter.
As I said earlier, the offensive line continues to fail to create running lanes as well. Gase’s offense works best when it is balanced and unpredictable, but he just hasn’t had that luxury so far in 2016 due to the offensive line play.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line was once again one of the few bright spots for Miami. Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Andre Branch combined for 3.5 sacks, including this critical strip sack by Wake that set up Miami’s first touchdown:
It was great to see Wake make an impact in this game, as he had a rather slow start to the season while adjusting to his rotational role. Mario Williams also completed a tackle for a loss, and the group as a whole laid hit after hit on Kessler.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph wanted to implement an attacking defense and that starts with a great pass rush. Unfortunately, the emphasis on the pass rush has hurt their run defense, although that is mostly on the linebackers. Overall, the defensive line did exactly what they are paid to do: make life rough on the opposing quarterback.
As I just hinted at, the linebackers did an absolutely terrible job at clogging the holes created by Cleveland’s offensive line. By employing the Wide-Nine defense, there are automatically holes for the offense to exploit in the run game. It is the linebackers’ responsibility to fill these holes and ensure that the running back does not break off a big run. They never seemed to be in the right position, getting to plays late and whiffing on multiple attempted tackles in the box.
On Pryor’s fourth quarter touchdown, Kiko Alonso failed to contain on the edge, allowing Cleveland’s quarterback/wide receiver to waltz into the end zone:
They failed in pass coverage as well. Gary Barnidge was left wide open far too many times, and that was the case from the onset. Barnidge victimized recent signee Donald Butler on one occasion in the third quarter, for example. To make matters worse, Terrelle Pryor’s biggest play of the game, a 40-yard gain to set up Cleveland’s fourth quarter field goal, was completed in the zone of Jelani Jenkins.
This performance was an all-too-familiar sight. Miami’s linebackers had the same struggles last season due to a lack of discipline, and they aren’t off to a much better start this season despite the addition of Alonso.
This was the secondary’s best performance of the season, which isn’t really saying much considering the competition. Byron Maxwell finally had a semi-decent performance, making multiple key pass breakups and at least limiting the amount of big gains that opposing wide receivers had against him. Xavien Howard showed some much needed physicality and defended two passes as well.
Despite those positives, the position group still played a factor in allowing Pryor to go off for 144 receiving yards. Howard also dropped what was possibly the easiest interception of his life and slipped on a single second quarter play allowing an easy reception for Pryor.
Isa Abdul-Quddus additionally surrendered a two-point conversion to Barnidge.
There may have been some slight improvement in the defensive backfield, but it doesn’t mean much considering they were facing off against rookie quarterback making his first career start. They didn’t intercept any passes and aren’t taking full advantage of the pressure being created by the defensive line.
Reshad Jones: A
Safety Reshad Jones can’t be included with the rest of the secondary at this point: he was a menace once again on Sunday, leading the team in tackles and notching half a sack and three tackles for a loss. His aggressiveness and tackling ability make him perfectly suited for the safety-linebacker hybrid role that the Dolphins continue to play him in. He gets into the backfield as well as any defensive back in the league, and continuously succeeds as the last line of defense when Miami does play him deep. Jones is forced to bear a ton of responsibility to mask the deficiencies of the linebackers and cornerbacks, but game in and game out he proves he is up to the task.
Special Teams: A
There isn’t much to say here. Kicker Andrew Franks was perfect on the day, going 1/1 on field goals and 3/3 on PAT’s. They were solid in both punt and kick return coverage. Landry and Grant didn’t have many returns, but looked good in their limited opportunities.
Gase and Joseph were thoroughly out-coached by Hue Jackson. They simply didn’t prepare for the huge role Pryor ended up playing as a passer, runner and receiver, which ultimately kept Cleveland in this game.
They didn’t have an answer for Jackson’s creative play calling, and Miami looked uninspired. For a team that was playing in their home opener in a new stadium, the Dolphins should have come out with a little bit of fire in their stomachs. Instead it was Cleveland that looked like the hungrier team, and that’s ultimately on the coaching staff.
After remaining close with the Seahawks and short-handed Patriots, Miami should have blown out the short-handed Browns. Just a horrific effort, no matter what the end result was.
Sure the Dolphins won, but anyone that is excited about this performance is unbelievably misguided. Gase showed no joy, even when Parkey missed the would-be game winning field goal, and rightfully so. Let’s not forget that Corey Coleman was absent from this game as well.
The Dolphins will now face off against the Bengals on Thursday. Considering their performance in this one, expectations should be extremely low against Joseph’s old team. If Miami wasn’t prepared to execute against an undermanned Cleveland squad, I don’t see how they’d be able to beat Cincinnati on a short week. Try to erase this performance from your memory Dolphins’ fans, because it was an ugly one.