I will apologize up front for the length, but I wanted to present an in-depth look at the entire Miami Dolphins team for the first four games of the 2012 season. My goal is to take a look at every position on a quarterly basis to analyze our performance and look for areas of success as well as spots where we need improvement. If you like Miami Dolphins football as much as I do you will probably love the analysis, but if it's not your cup of tea, feel free to do nothing more than critique my grades and grade the performance yourself, in the poll below.
So without further ado, your Quarter 1 Review:
It’s very easy to "live in the moment" in the NFL considering it is a short season; games happen very quickly and emotions change on a weekly basis. Before I continue, let me regress and sum up the last 6 months as briefly as possible and how they relate to QB Ryan Tannehill and this Miami Dolphins football team. Hopefully this will put things in perspective and allow us to look at the big picture, not just his most recent record-setting performance.
Tannehill was drafted number 8 by Miami in April’s draft. Many draft experts labeled Ryan as a "reach" and a "bust waiting to happen" Tannehill remained the stepchild of the draft behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Despite this, the most of us fans did realize that this was a pick that NEEDED to happen for this franchise, even though many (myself included) never really got that warm and fuzzy feeling from the get go. Tannehill joined the team as the third QB on our depth chart, and started OTA’s looking like the rookie who just did just recently switch positions in college. It wasn't until David Garrard got injured and Matt Moore struggled in preseason games, that the reigns were handed to Tannehill to start for Miami.
Tannehill, who was criticized by the masses from the time he was drafted, chastised that he would need "plenty" of time to progress, received less than 4 quarters of preseason play as this team’s starting QB before the season opener. His first task? Oh, just a dominating defense on the road which currently belongs to the most complete team in the NFL.
Now let that sink in.
Tannehill on the year has played great, though his numbers don’t tell half of the story. The rookie has completed 80/143 attempts (55.9%) for 1046 yards with 3 TD’s (2 passing, 1 rushing) and 6 INT’s. The truth is that Ryan is still a rookie, and we ALL knew we should prepare for some rookie mistakes. The 1:3 ratio of passing touchdowns to interceptions NEVER looks good. However, looking at Tannehill’s interceptions, if you go back to each and every one of them, you could say that 5 of them were not on Tannehill’s shoulders, with the one exception being the pick-6 against the Jets, which was a rookie mistake.
The good? Well, for a player with THAT stat line, Tannehill looks has exceeded expectations thus far, playing against three solid defenses and looking calm and composed for the most part. Tannehill absolutely shredded the impressive (and undefeated) Arizona defense, for 431 yards, a defense that had flustered veterans including Brady & Vick this year. On the year, he is one of three rookies in NFL history to pass for over 1,000 yards in his first four games. He looks calm and collected and has developed a repertoire with a group of receivers (well actually, just two) that have gotten blasted for being the league’s least talented starters. Tannehill also gives us the mobility from a quarterback that we have never seen here in Miami, and seems to throw even better on the run.
Sure, Tannehill has a long way to go, but for a rookie, "project" QB, who was supposed to be on the bench at this time, he sure has exceeded most everyone’s expectations. Tannehill may end up being a main reason why 2012 could end up being the best QB draft in NFL history when it’s all said and done and all in all, the kid is just getting started.
|Ryan Tannehill, QB||80||143||55.9||1,046||7.32||80||2||6||8||66.4||262|
QB Quarter 1 Grade: B-
Perhaps the most consistently great thing about our team has been our running back committee who have been outright dominating. Reggie Bush sparked criticism this offseason for proclaiming his goal to lead the NFL in rushing. In week 2, Reggie completely torched the Raiders on the ground for 172 yards and 2 TD's. Despite Bush missing half the game versus the Jets with a knee injury, and not being at 100% last week against a dominant Arizona rush defense, Reggie is still currently 6th in the NFL in rushing yards.
Second year back Daniel Thomas has been a disappointment. He shows flashes of a mixture of strength and agility and has made some nice plays in the passing game, but he also has shown very poor awareness and lapses in pass protection, despite being the largest tailback on roster. He has 2 fumbles on the year and needs to pick better running lanes to prevent continuing to getting lit up by linebackers.
Lamar Miller has been one of the surprises to this team, and I have been excited watching this rookie since we made the decision to trade up and draft him. Miller has limited touches on the year (23) and has only been activated the last 3 games, however, he does show that spark that gives Miami fans the feeling that he could be something special. However, he needs to work on his awareness and pass blocking as well.
Dolphins fan favorite, Javorskie Lane, has been another highlight of this team. Javorskie is a wrecking ball; he has been great in pass blocking, short-yardage conversions, and has even caught the ball well out of the back field. Javorskie has done everything the coaches have asked out him despite being out of the game of football for over a year and being brought in as an undrafted free agent. Lane has been one of the best stories of this team. Viva butterball!
|Reggie Bush, RB||67||369||5.5||65||3||2||92.3||1||15|
|Daniel Thomas, RB||26||84||3.2||9||0||1||28||2||3|
|Lamar Miller, RB||23||126||5.5||22||1||1||42||0||6|
|Jorvorskie Lane, FB||9||18||2||4||0||2||4.5||0||5|
RB Quarter 1 Grade: A-
Has any team done more with less than Miami at the receiver position? Brian Hartline remains the surprise of the offense so far, and is proving to step up in a big way for a team that desperately needed it. Hartline leads the entire NFL with 455 yards receiving after his record-breaking, 253-yard performance against the Cardinals.
Let’s stop the argument of "Is Brian Hartline a legitimate number 1?" here, right now. Truth is, the guy has been playing his heart out after being kept out the entire preseason after an appendectomy. Right now this team NEEDS more players like Brian Hartline! Nobody here thinks he possesses ELITE speed or strength that you’ll see in an Andre Johnson or Mike Wallace, but he is a crisp route runner, has some of the best hands in the league, and is a good fit for this west coast offense. Plus, Tannehill is starting to rely on him as his go-to receiver. We can’t ask him to be Brandon Marshall, but look at the stats, his production is better than we could have asked for. Brian Hartline’s best fit is probably here in Miami, and the team could use him as long as he continues to play at this level. Hopefully he will be re-signed soon, and when we get more help at the receiver position next year this whole "#1 receiver" argument will fade.
Davone Bess has impressed as well, collecting 297 yards thus far on the year, putting him 21st of all receivers. Pro Football Focus ranks him as our top receiver, and the 10th best in the league! Despite Bess and Hartline stepping up, Miami’s main lack of success is mostly in part to the fact that nobody besides these two have been able to contribute when needed. Anthony Armstrong was brought in, and has yet to catch on, as well as struggling with drops.
I will make a claim for Legedu Nannee to come forward to be nominated as the WORST MIAMI DOLPHIN WIDE RECEIVER in history. I vote for him to surpass Chris Carter who had one catch and one fumble with his stint on the Dolphins late in his career. Nannee, who was thankfully released this week, had one catch on five targets for 19 yards, but was somewhat responsible for 2 interceptions and a fumble, all of which significantly changed the pace of the game at the time. It is with this, that Tannehill would have fared better than to drop back and throw the ball directly into the stands then attempt to hit Nannee. Farewell #19, hopefully you will be the last to wear this cursed number.
I will move on from Nannee before I get my blood boiling, and introduce the newest Dolphin, Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney may very well be a huge acquisition for this team, and at worse, he will be an upgrade from Legedoodoo. Gaffney, is supposedly healthy for the first time all year and will be looking to assist Hartline and Bess, to finally give Miami an additional target. I think Gaffney will have a huge opportunity here in Miami, and it will be up to him and his health to see how much success he will have. Gaffney will likely play the role that Chad Johnson was supposed to play before he was released.
To round out the remaining guys, Marlon Moore has been productive primarily on special teams while Rishard Mathews has been patiently awaiting his time, but has yet to dress for a game.
Look for Hartline and Bess continue to keep their pace and judging by if Gaffney and Armstrong can pick it up, this grade has a large potential to raise in 4 weeks.
|Brian Hartline, WR||25||47||455||18.2||1||80||6||113.8||0||20||15|
|Davone Bess, WR||20||32||297||14.9||0||23||5||74.3||0||38||15|
|Anthony Fasano, TE||15||23||115||7.7||1||17||0||28.8||0||24||7|
|Legedu Naanee, WR||1||5||19||19||0||19||0||4.8||1||0||0|
|Anthony Armstrong, WR||3||9||12||4||0||9||0||4||0||4||0|
WR Quarter 1 Grade: B
Anthony Fasano continues to play his usual role as solid but unspectacular TE with an emphasis on blocking, which he has always been good at. Outside of Fasano, however, tight ends have probably been the most disappointing offensive position. Michael Egnew has struggled from the day he got drafted and has yet to dress all year. The front office was trying to get an Aaron Hernandez type player, but instead, Egnew is looking like this front office’s biggest bust in years. Charles Clay carried a large bandwagon with him this offseason, as the hybrid FB/TE played a huge spark in our passing game last year. However, Clay has been extremely disappointing so far in 2012; he has been virtually replaced by Lane in the FB spot, and has looked lethargic in the passing game.
I’d like to see Egnew and Clay get some opportunities to improve throughout the year, but so far both have shown nothing. It would also be nice to get more out of Fasano, who is our only TE option; although he has been a good blanket for the rookie QB, he has also had a few drops.
TE Quarter One Grade: C-
Overall, the offensive line has played well, despite a few lapses. The starting five: Long, Incognito, Pouncey, Jerry & Martin, have played virtually EVERY snap and I admit, it is nice to see some consistency from this position in contrast to Sparano’s "musical chairs" method. The group has fared much better in run blocking then pass protection, as Reggie Bush has had quite a few holes to explode through in his first four games. Hopefully the pass protection will improve as the group gets more comfortable with each other and as they start to get a better feel for Tannehill’s pocket presence.
Jake Long, is apparently having a "down year" but luckily for us, a down year for Long still puts him as a top 5 tackle in the league. It will be interesting to watch him play throughout the season though, if he doesn't improve I wonder how this will affect his contract situation at the year’s end?
Richie Incognito continues to be one of the better moves of the Sparano-era. Big Rich gained some criticism in the headlines for a "dirty play" against the Texans, but the fact remains that he is a solid guard and has easily earned his money here in Miami. Just like the rest of the line, Richie is much stronger in the run game than the passing game.
Mike Pouncey has quite possibly been the best player on the line and will probably hush EVERY critic (including me) who face-palmed when Miami selected a center at pick 15. Pouncey has been an all-pro since year one, and is currently Pro Football Focus’s top rated center. His unique skill set of strength, speed and agility is an unbelievable asset to this team, and will hopefully be a building block in Miami for the next decade.
I have got to give credit where credit is due, and I would like to offer a hat’s off to our starting right guard, John Jerry. Jerry came into camp fat and out of shape, and although he may not currently be skinny, Jerry has played every down this year. He may still be referred to as the "weak" link in our chain, but Jerry has held his own in both the run and pass game. Remember when we were blasting him before the year started and fans expected Artis Hicks and Eric Steinbach to be our savior(s) this year? Well Hicks ended up on IR and Steinbach retired, leaving Jerry the opportunity to step up and be our guy. So far, he has, and although he is far from perfect, I have been impressed on his overall improvement.
Rookie tackle Jonathan Martin has played well for the most part, although he has trouble with elite pass rushers. It is a tough spot for any rookie to start, especially one who is at an entirely new position. Martin has proved to be decent, but look for him to only get better as he gets stronger and more comfortable at right tackle.
Offensive Line Quarter 1 Grade: B
The defensive line has been the strength of this team, providing elite talent and solid depth at pretty much every position. They are the core of the league’s TOP-RATED rush defense and haven’t allowed
Defensive ends Jared Odrick and Cameron Wake have flustered every team they have faced. Wake has provided pressure in every match-up, however he had yet to register a sack in his first three games. That all changed Week 4 in Arizona, as Wake exploded, completely tossing aside RT Bobby Massie and the rest of the Cardinals line, registering 4.5 sacks on the day. He continues to be priority #1 for opposing offensive coordinators and his performance has rated him as the top 4-3 defensive end in the league, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Odrick has been a bit inconsistent only this year registering 1.5 sack on the year. Miami will need more pressure from Odrick, as well as reserves Derrick Shelby and Olivier Vernon, to prevent teams from double teaming Cameron Wake as the weeks progress.
The 4-3 really is a good fit for Miami considering they have two of the best defensive tackles in their conference. Paul Soliai continues to be a poor man’s Haloti Ngata (but let me be clear, there is only one Haloti Ngata) by being a great force in the run game and giving opposing centers hell each and every week. Randy Starks, (who would be my vote for defensive unsung hero) consistently performs not only in the run game, but in the pass rush as well; Starks is second on the team with 3.0 sacks. These two guys continue to be the anchor of our defensive line and the main reason that opposing teams cannot find any room to run. Tony McDaniel and Kheeston Randall have not been needed to do much due to the fantastic performances by Starks and Soliai.
Overall, our line is the strength of this defense, and has been the league’s best against the run. The only thing I would like to see is more pressure in the passing game to assist Cameron Wake, who is having an MVP year already.
Defensive Line Quarter 1 Grade: A
Miami has been solid at the LB position through the first 4 games, with the strength also being against the run as well. Closing gaps and tackling have been superb, though we still continue to struggle in coverage, specifically against tight ends. The linebackers aren't getting any help from our safeties though, and this would be the area for these guys to improve on during the next 12 games.
Koa Misi might be the leading nominee for most improved player on the defensive side of the ball. Misi had a fantastic week 1 against Houston, flying all over the field. Since then, he’s been second on the team with 21 tackles, and has collected 1.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble. Misi has proved to be the best in coverage from what I've seen, however he needs to continue to improve in pass rushing during blitzes and providing pressure.
Karlos Dansby, the captain of our squad, continues to talk the talk, but he does in fact, walk the walk (I have confirmed this, don't worry). Dansby is a fantastic MLB against the run and one of the main reasons why opposing running backs have not been able to even make to our secondary. Dansby is adequate in pass coverage, but for a group of young guys that are still looking for their identity, Dansby will need to be the physical and mental anchor of this defense. So far, Karlos continues to be one of the better inside linebackers in the league, being ranked 2nd according to Pro Football Focus.
Kevin Burnett has been the weaker of the three in the passing game, yet continues to fare well against the run. Burnett has been exploited by tight ends and is the only starting linebacker yet to register a sack. However, he plays smart and is a sound tackler; his play has rated him the 9th best OLB by PFF.
Linebacker Quarter 1 Grade: B
I’ll try to keep this as optimistic as possible, but the truth is that our secondary has been the weakest part of our team thus far and a main reason why we stand 1-3 instead of 3-1. While we tout the #1 rush defense, we also unfortunately have the 30th ranked pass defense. Teams have figured the best way to beat us is via the air, and it hasn't helped that we have been battling injuries in our secondary all year and we are already razor thin in depth.
Our safety duo is young but has been performing adequately. Although he has his moments, I do like what I see from Rashad Jones at FS, and PFF agrees, ranking him currently the second best safety in the league. Jones continues to be a risk-taker in the backfield, but he has made a few plays and will probably hit you as hard as Karlos Dansby if you happen to meet him in the open field.
I haven’t been as happy with Chris Clemons over at strong safety. Ranked at a respectable 14th best safety according to PFF, Clemons has made a few good plays (including a great INT against the Jets in the end zone), however he has taken awful angles and needs to desperately improve in using his stellar speed to close on passes.
Sean Smith continues to be far and away the best player in the backfield, and although he hasn't shown to be elite by any nature, he has fared quite well against tough match-ups, including Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. He is extremely athletic and a great tackler, but needs to work on his fluidity; Smith needs to play confident and trust his speed to press more than often, despite his ability to get burned in the past. Smith has a bright future and the talent to be a good corner, and he even seems to have worked on his hands, snagging 2 fantastic picks last week and leading the team in that department.
After Sean however, the cornerbacks are a mess in Miami. Richard Marshall has played pretty well filling in at CB, however he has been battling injury and the team desperately needs him to improve. He will be out versus Cincinatti, and hopefully he can rebound for Week 6. Nolan Carroll has been asked to do way more than he can handle due to Miami’s lack of depth. He should be a situational nickel player, but he has had his hands full trying to cover team’s top receivers, visible during him getting totally scorched by Santonio Holmes. Carroll is a good depth player, but from what we've seen so far he has no business starting unless he can drastically improve his coverage skills. Jimmy Wilson has been a bit disappointing in coverage, but is still young and has a potential to be a starter in this league. He is a great tackler, and I still believe he fares well better at safety.
While the entire unit must improve as a whole, everyone not named Sean Smith or Rashad Jones has SERIOUS work to do. Fortunately, the only direction they can go is up. This unit will need to work together, and perhaps one of the reserves will get an opportunity to step up. It will come down to the the linemen and linebackers... if they can provide pressure, these guys are young and athletic enough to make plays and force turnovers. If we get no pressure, then our secondary is simply not prepared to match up with some of the league’s best aerial attacks.
Defensive Back Quarter 1 Grade: D-
Brandon Fields continues to be the special teams MVP year in and out by continuing to showcase his boot and pin opponents in their endzone. He has averaged over 50 yards per punt this year, and is currently the 3rd rated punter via PFF.
Dan Carpenter is having an awful year and is faces alot (although not solely responsible!) of the blame for the dolphins dropping 2 consecutive games in OT. The man once known as DC$ had a chance to win both games before literally, shanking both opportunities. The fact is, Carpenter has been a consistent rock for this team for the last few years, but he needs to get his act together; 5 of 8 attempts with 2 game winning misses is not going to cut it.
Both kick/punt returns and coverage on special teams has been great. Marcus Thigpen provided the only score for Miami in week 1 with a 72 yard punt return, but since then has seen little opportunities. Davone Bess has had some returns as well, but nothing worth noting. The most important aspect is the fact that Miami has covered both punts and kicks VERY well thus far, shutting down dangerous returners including Trindon Holliday and Patrick Peterson.
Overall, special teams have been great minus Dan Carpenter’s leg. If Carpenter can get his s#*! together, special teams may wrap up as one of the team’s greatest surprises this year.
Special Teams Quarter 1 Grade: B-
In conclusion, your Miami Dolphins have started 1-3 despite playing good football against quality opponents. There is much to improve upon, but a look at our schedule shows that it seems to get a bit easier as the weeks go on.
Your Miami Dolphins are 1-3. We are in last place in our division and have lost 2 games in a row. However, I have never felt better about this team's long term future for as long I can remember. If Tannehill keeps progressing the way he has, by the time 2013 rolls around and a few more pieces are added, this team will be poised to make a playoff run each and every year. Until then, I'll be here breaking down our progress every quarter!
Vote in the poll below & comment below to sound off on your analysis for 1st Quarter grade!
[Photograph Credits: Ryan Tannehill picture courtesy Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE 9/23/12; Reggie Bush picture courtesy Thomas Campbell - US PRESSWIRE 9/9/12; Brian Hartline picture courtesy Thomas Campbell - US PRESSWIRE 9/9/12; Anthony Fasano picture courtesy Kirby Lee - US PRESSWIRE 9/16/12; Mike Pouncey picture courtesy Matt Kartozian - US PRESSWIRE 9/30/12; Cameron Wake picture courtesy Steve Mitchell - US PRESSWIRE 9/23/12; Karlos Dansby picture courtesy Robert Mayer - US PRESSWIRE 9/16/12; Sean Smith picture courtesy Robert Mayer - US PRESSWIRE 9/23/12; Brandon Fields picture courtesy Thomas Campbell - US PRESSWIRE 9/9/12; Dan Carpenter picture courtesy Steve Mitchell - US PRESSWIRE 9/23/12; Joe Philbin picture courtesy Steve Mitchell - US PRESSWIRE 9/23/12]