Love 'em or hate 'em, the folks who vow to watch every snap of every game have released their grades of the Hall of Fame Game. Let's finish with the defense.
The website ProFootball Focus (PFF) has released their grades for the Hall of Fame pre-season game performances by the Dolphins and Cowboys. I'm posting the grades for most players, and I decided to offer my take on a few key performers, particularly those in position battles or otherwise in the spotlight. After covering the offense yesterday, I'll be discussing the defense for now.
Just as a quick primer - in pre-season, the performance of the team as a whole doesn't matter since the starters play so few snaps in most games, but individual performances contribute to whether or not players begin the season higher up on the depth charts. The grading by ProFootball Focus (PFF) is a cumulative play-by-play grading system, meaning a player who is in the game for 18 plays and does pretty well in each will finish with a higher grade than a player who is in the game for 5 plays and makes 1 spectacular play. Likewise, while fans might only remember when a player has 1 bad play (Jonathan Martin), the player's grade can still end up positive if he does well enough in his other plays on the field. Visit this site for a more in depth explanation of their grading system.
Cameron Wake (-0.3, 7 snaps)
Paul Soliai (-0.2, 7 snaps)
Vaughn Martin (-0.2, 27 snaps): Martin earned a start at defensive tackle in the absence of Starks and Odrick, and he mostly held his own, finishing with a QB hurry and a tackle in the run game.
Kheeston Randall (+1.0, 36 snaps): Randall did good work against the run, with 1 solo tackle and 1 assisted tackle, as well as generating a QB hurry.
Derrick Shelby (+1.2, 33 snaps): Shelby was part of the problem when it came to run defense (-1.1 grade with 1 missed tackle), but he looked unblockable at times against backups, and picked up 2 sacks and 2 QB hurries.
Emeka Onyenekwu (-0.9, 32 snaps): Onyeneku played for half the game, and only contributed 1 solo tackle, earning negative grades in run defense and as a pass rusher.
Tristan Okpalaugo (+0.2, 26 snaps): He showed good pass rush ability in earning 1 sack, but only contributed 1 assisted tackle against the run.
Dion Jordan (+0.7, 14 snaps): Jordan was credited with a QB hit, a QB hurry (that led to a Derrick Shelby sack), and a tackle of a running back short of a first down, and he did it all in just 14 snaps. Not bad for a guy who was still rehabbing his shoulder just 10 days before the game. The usual disclaimer of "he was up against backups" applies, but it's still good to see him making plays against NFL competition.
A.J. Francis (+0.7, 16 snaps): Francis did well in limited snaps as a backup defensive tackle, and he was credited with a QB hit.
Olivier Vernon, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick did not play.
Koa Misi (-0.3, 7 snaps)
Phillip Wheeler (-1.4, 7 snaps): He did well in run defense, but he slipped in coverage, which led to a first down pass by the Cowboys. Because he only played 7 snaps, he didn't get a chance to redeem himself.
Jason Trusnik (+0.4, 24 snaps): Trusnik was up and down. He had a couple of good run stops but also accounted for 3 missed tackles.
Jelani Jenkins (-0.6, 26 snaps): Jenkins had a poor game, despite playing nearly half of the defense's snaps. He contributed 1 missed tackle and was given negative grades across the board - defending the run, in coverage, and rushing the passer. Plenty of time for the rookie to improve though.
Austin Spitler (-0.1, 23 snaps): 1 solo tackle, but made no other plays (or mistakes).
Josh Kaddu (-1.4, 21 snaps): Kaddu, having spent his rookie year developing first on the practice squad then later on the active roster, was given a significant number of snaps. Though he was credited with two tackles, they were both downfield, and he was responsible for one of the Dolphins' missed tackles.
Jonathan Freeney (+1.2, 21 snaps): Freeney has been a long-time development project at LB, and he earned a spot on the active roster towards the end of last year. This game, he earned a positive grade as a backup LB, earning a positive grade rushing the passer and in coverage. He was responsible for 3 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, and allowed 1 reception for -2 yards in 9 snaps in coverage. He wasn't on the field much, but he did a lot.
Alonzo Highsmith (+0.4, 7 snaps): He had one assisted tackle but played in too few snaps to generate other stats.
Dannell Ellerbe didn't play.
Brent Grimes (-0.4, 7 snaps)
Dimitri Patterson (-0.7, 13 snaps)
Richard Marshall (+1.2, 14 snaps): After missing most of last year with blood clot in his back requiring surgery, Marshall did well in limited snaps, making a defensive stop in run defense (and his run-stopping prowess is why I feel he's best suited for the slot CB position). While he did allow 2 catches, they were for a combined total of only 8 yards as he only allowed a total of 2 yards after both catches.
Will Davis (-1.6, 29 snaps): Davis earned a positive grade for his coverage (+1.3) for only being targeted once while in coverage for 15 snaps. Also, he was in position the one time his assigned wide receiver was targeted and was credited with a pass deflection. Unfortunately, he was called for a defensive pass interference call on that play, which lead to a -0.9 grade in penalties being assigned, and his tackling was poor (-1.9 run defense grade). He was responsible for 1 of the Dolphins' 9 missed tackles and was unable to shed blocks on running plays towards his area of the field. Davis' lack of physicality against the run was a negative in his pre-draft scouting report, and he reportedly was told by Coach Philbin after the game that he needs to improve against the run to get more playing time.
Julian Posey (+0.5, 30 snaps): Unlike most of the backups, Posey made a stop against the run while out on the field. Unfortunately, he was also beaten for a 32 yard catch.
R.J. Stanford (-1.1, 24 snaps): Stanford was beat a couple of times in coverage, but he technically only allowed 1 completion courtesy of missed throws.
DeAndre Presley (-0.2, 22 snaps): Presley had an okay game in coverage. He just allowed 1 of 3 pass targets to become a completion, but he failed to get his hands on any of the passes, and he failed to tackle the receiver he was covering, which allowed the WR to get 5 yards after the one catch. He also failed to make any plays in the run game.
Nolan Carroll and Jamar Taylor did not play.
Reshad Jones (+0.0, 7 snaps): Our franchise safety generated one tackle in limited snaps before sitting with the rest of the first-team defense.
Chris Clemons (+0.0, 7 snaps): He had 2 tackles before sitting for the rest of the game.
Jimmy Wilson (-1.2, 21 snaps): He had 1 assisted tackle but was responsible for 2 of the missed tackles of the defense.
Kelcie McCray (-0.6, 31 snaps): McCray played nearly half the game, and he was underwhelming but not awful. He didn't miss any tackles, but he didn't make any stops in the run game, and he allowed an 18 yard catch while he was in primary coverage. The whole defense looked like they weren't ready for game-speed action, and McCray was no exception. He remains our presumed #4 safety behind Jones, Clemons, and Wilson.
Jordan Kovacs (+0.2, 23 snaps): Kovacs earned a significant chunk of snaps. He generated 2 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles. He made no huge mistakes but also didn't make any big plays.
Don Jones (+0.2, 10 snaps): Despite immediate post-draft talk of converting Jones into a cornerback, he spent his snaps primarily at safety this game. He generated no stats while on the third-string defense.