Falcons vs Dolphins revisited with PFF’s rankings

Mike Ehrmann

Pro Football Focus has completed their analysis of the Miami Dolphins’ 27-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons this past weekend. Let’s take a look at some of their top individual grades, as well as some of the bottom, for the Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins came from behind with a last minute touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to rookie tight end Dion Sims.  But, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system, it was the defense where the individual performances stood out the best - and worst - for Miami on Sunday.

Today we take a look at the top and bottom three players from the game, according to PFF's grades:

Dion Jordan, defensive end - + 4.3: The third overall pick from last April's Draft was the highest ranked player in the game, a game that saw him get the most playing time he has had in his short career.  Of course, some of that playing time came, unfortunately, due to the knee injury to Cameron Wake, so there's a downside to seeing this much of Jordan, but his performance Sunday showed why the Dolphins traded up to get the Oregon Ducks player.

According to PFF's Re-Focused article, Jordan had four quarterback hurries and a quarterback hit on Sunday.  The hit came in the fourth quarter, when he went past the offensive line and was to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in less than two seconds.  He also helped seal the game when he pressure Ryan, who then threw the pass that Jimmy Wilson was able to intercept.  A really good third game for the Miami rookie.

Ryan Tannehill, quarterback - +3.1: The only offensive player to appear on the list, Tannehill definitely deserved his grade this week.  While the offense did start off slowly, and Tannehill again fumbled the ball for a league high fifth time this year, when the game was on the line, the second year signal caller was ready to step up.

The final offensive drive for the Dolphins, resulting in the game winning touchdown with just 38 seconds remaining on the clock, was described by PFF has "a stunning display that included this three best throws of the game."  Those three throws were the incompletion off the hands of Lamar Miller, the 21-yard strike to Charles Clay down the seam, and the game winning touchdown pass to Dion Sims.

While the Dolphins struggled early, at some point, a team has to learn to win games like this - and Miami did just that this past week, thanks in no small part to Tannehill's performance.

Tie: Olivier Vernon, defensive end  and Brent Grimes, cornerback- +2.7: Vernon has seen a lot of criticism headed his way this season, after looking really good in the preseason, but not having the same impact in the first two games of the season.  And, rightfully so.  However, Vernon responded on Sunday, having his best game of the year, earning a positive grade from PFF for the first time in 2013.

If Wake is going to be out for any period of time as he recovers from the sprained MCL ligament, having both Jordan and Vernon playing well is going to be a requirement.

Meanwhile, you did not hear Grimes' name very often on Sunday, which should tell you just how well he was playing.  The Falcons only targeted the receiver covered by Grimes twice in 38 total pass attempts.  One of those two attempts was completed for a nine-yard gain.  And that's it.  That's all Grimes allowed for the entire game.

Teams are absolutely staying away from whomever Grimes is covering.  Before the season started, he was being described as potentially the steal of the free agent period.  At this point, it is really looking like that's a true statement.

Chris Clemons - -2.6: The vast majority of Clemons' -2.6 came in run support, as in he was bad against the run.  But, I think that was a defense problem, and not just Clemons.  The team as a whole was a -8.6 against the run, with Reshad Jones the only player to be above +0.7.  Clemons was listed as the worst player against the run for the Dolphins, but that's typically not his job; Clemons is the team's last line of defense most weeks, freeing up Jones to take chances and make plays.

Clemons struggled, and it's not something to be simply dismissed, but clearly the team missed Paul Soliai in the middle of the defensive line, as well as Koa Misi missing most of the game from the linebacking corps, and Clemons took the brunt of that.

Derrick Shelby, defensive end - -3.0: With the criticism mounting around Vernon leading into this game, it was Shelby who was the beneficiary of that rhetoric.  Fans were looking at his two sacks and two forced fumbles, and starting to ask if we shouldn't be seeing Shelby start instead of Vernon.  After Sunday's performances, that question should disappear, at least for a week.

Like Vernon and Jordan, Shelby was asked to do more with the loss of Wake for the game.  He responded by recprding a -2.1 grade in run defense and a -1.1 in pass rush.  It was simply a bad game from the second year player, but, he, too, will be important for the team if Wake is going to be missing time.  Grades like -3.0 for a game will not cut it.

Philip Wheeler - -4.1: Wheeler definitely had a rough game, missing, by PFF's count, six tackles, including one that should have sacked Matt Ryan.  He did have some nice moments, including several hurries, a tackle for loss, and great coverage on a screen pass, but six missed tackles is a lot, and your grade is going to be really low when that happens.

To be fair to Wheeler, he did have to miss some snaps due to, what can be assumed to be, some sory of injury.  He re-entered the game - a game that needed every defensive payer it could get, given how fast everyone seemed to be dropping to injuries - but never quite seemed comfortable.  We will have to see how much he practices this week, and if he is able to get past whatever the issue is, because the Dolphins cannot afford to not start Wheeler, but they cannot afford a -4.1 performance from him again, either.

What are your thoughts of the top and bottom of Miami's Week 3 performance?

More Dolphins Coverage:

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