Dolphins’ Studs and Duds: Week 1

Aug 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) looks on before the game against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) looks on before the game against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Dolphins lost a last-minute heartbreaker to the Seattle Seahawks due to crucial mistakes by two key players. Nevertheless, they have a lot to feel good about thanks to solid performances by several other members of the team.


1. Mario Williams – Williams was constantly in the face of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson until he left the game due to a concussion in the second half. Williams’ relentless pursuit of Wilson yielded a sack, a QB hit, several hurries, and he forced a bad pass that led to an Isa  Abdul-Quddus interception. Just as important, Williams’ sack came on a third-and-nine from the Miami 16-yard line, forcing the Seahawks to settle for a field goal to open the scoring.

Why it Matters: There was a great deal of scrutiny by some members of the Miami media surrounding the Dolphins’ decision to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon, whom they lost in free agency to the New York Giants, with the much older Williams. Williams went a long way to silencing those critics by his constant presence in the Seahawks’ backfield. Meanwhile Vernon failed to register a sack or quarterback hit in the Giants’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys . Moreover, Williams’ performance was a strong indicator that the Dolphins’ defensive line may finally live up to expectations and turn in a far better showing than they had in 2015.

2. Isa Abdul-Quddus – Abdul-Duddus’ interception of a Russell Wilson pass, and his subsequent 9-yard return, helped set up an Andrew Franks 41-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 early in the second quarter. Adul-Quddus also knocked down another pass and made three solo tackles.

Why it Matters: Abdul-Quddus’ solid debut gave Dolphins’ fans reason to believe the team has finally found a second reliable safety to take some of the pressure off Pro Bowler Rashad Jones. If Abdul-Quddus continues to play at this level, the added stability he will provide may help mask the inexperience of Miami’s younger DBs.

3. Ndamukong Suh – While Suh’s performance wasn’t quite as flashy as Williams’, it was every bit as dominating. He registered a sack, which left Russell Wilson hobbled, three QB hits, two solo tackles, and a batted pass.

Why it Matters: Suh’s ability to draw double teams not only opened rushing lanes for his fellow defenders to keep Russell Wilson’s scrambling in check, it also helped the Dolphins’ linebackers turn in a solid performance against the run. As a result, the Seahawks managed a mere 3.5 yards per carry, and their longest run was for just 12 yards.

4. Matt Darr – While Darr’s inclusion here may surprise some, his 46.7 yard average on seven punts was instrumental in winning the field position battle and keeping the game close.

Why it Matters: Darr was able to pin Seattle inside the 20 on three occasions. As a result, on average, the Seahawks began their drives on their own 23-yard line, while the Dolphins began their drives on their own 32-yard line. Those extra few yards were just enough to keep Seattle out of field goal range on more than one occasion.

5. Arian Foster (as a receiver) – Foster caught three passes on five targets out of the backfield for 62 yards, including a terrific 50-yard catch and run that left Kam Chancellor grasping for nothing but air.

Why it Matters: Foster flashed exactly the kind of open field elusiveness the Dolphins were hoping to see when they brought him in to supplement Jay Ajayi as a change of pace back.


1. Kenny Stills – To put it simply, Stills cost Miami the game and a share of first place in the AFC East by dropping a sure touchdown from Ryan Tannehill despite beating the defense by a good 8 yards. Beyond that, he caught just one of five passes thrown his way and was generally ineffective against the Legion of Boom.

Why it Matters: After an impressive showing in preseason, the Dolphins were counting on Stills to help offset the absence of fellow deep threat DeVante Parker. Instead, Stills choked on what would have been a 71-yard touchdown, failing to reel in a ball that hit him square in the hands while running in stride. It was one of the few openings offered up by the Seattle defense and would have given Miami the margin of victory. Furthermore, had Stills caught that pass, Tannehill’s passer rating would have spiked from a hum drum 74.8 to an impressive 99.35.

2. Andrew Franks – Like Stills, Franks failed when the Dolphins needed him most, missing on a partially blocked 27-yard field goal attempt that would have changed the complexion of the game.

Why it Matters: Some will undoubtedly argue that the offensive line allowed too much penetration, leading to Cassius Marsh’s block, and that is true. Yet, there is no denying that Franks kicked the ball far too low. Had he made that field goal, the score would have been 13-6 in Miami’s favor on Seattle’s final drive. That would have forced the Seahawks to not only score a touchdown, but go for a two-point conversion to win the game in regulation play.

3. Branden Albert – Tannehill was sacked five times. Two of those were given up by Albert. The veteran tackle was beaten on the first sack by exactly the same stunt that left him in the dust during the preseason opener against the Giants, while he was completely bull rushed on the second QB takedown.

Why it Matters: The Dolphins are looking for Albert to serve as a mentor to Tunsil, not surrender his job to the youngster just yet. That said, if he continues to look old and slow, that change may come much sooner than anyone expected.

4. Arian Foster (as a runner) – Foster managed just 38 yards on 13 carries for 2.9 yards per carry, and he failed to convert a crucial fourth-and-inches on the Seattle 17 during the opening quarter. Worse still, he became increasingly ineffective as the game wore on. Foster ran for 28 yards in the first half on seven carries, for a 4.0 average. Yet, he racked up only 10 yards on six second-half carries for a paltry 1.6 yards per run.

Why it Matters: In all fairness, Foster can’t be blamed for his poor showing on the ground because he was carrying a weight Adam Gase never intended. Rather, the fault lies with Jay Ajayi, who, according to media reports, was not allowed to travel to Seattle with the team due to his poor reaction after being told he had lost his first-team spot to Foster. Ajayi failed to hold on to his starting role, as Gase had hoped, with an uninspired showing in preseason. As such, while the Dolphins could have surely used him against the Seahawks, they were, instead, forced to rely on an often injured 30-year old veteran who hasn’t played a full season since 2012. As a result, they had next to no ground attack at the most crucial time of the game.

Final Grades

Quarterback: B- Tannehill came through in the clutch and guided the offense to three other scoring opportunities that came up short due to a dropped pass, a missed FG, and a failed fourth down run.

Running Backs: C Foster had a terrific 50 yard catch and run, but he faded as the game went on and failed to convert on a fourth-and-inches.

Receivers: D Stills dropped an easy TD and Landry was generally ineffective.

Offensive Line: C- Gave up five sacks and run blocking needs improvement.

Defensive Line: B+ Provided relentless pressure on Wilson and racked up 3 sacks.

Linebackers: B Tackling looked much improved as they held the Seahawks to 3.5 yards per carry and kept Wilson from scrambling for huge gains.

Defensive Backs: B Picked off Wilson and held him to an acceptable 77.5 QB rating.

Special Teams: B Darr punted well and Grant averaged 33.5 yards per kickoff return, including a 45 yarder he nearly broke, but Franks had a chip shot FG blocked.

Coaching: B- Gase did an excellent job of preparing the team to play under very difficult circumstances, but opting to go for it on the failed fourth-and-inches instead of taking the field goal was questionable. Vance Joseph’s defense looked terrific overall.


Despite the loss, Miami fans have a lot to feel good about. Their team made the longest trip possible in the NFL and went toe-to-toe with a heavily favored Super Bowl contender until the last possible moment in one of the most difficult venues in the league. Tannehill showed the kind of leadership his critics have demanded by guiding the offense on an 87-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown with just over four minutes to go in the game. The defense held Russell Wilson in check until the final drive, and rookies Xavien Howard, Laremy Tunsil, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant all played well. In the end, the game was decided by four plays; Stills’ drop, Franks’ blocked field goal, Foster’s failed fourth-and-inches carry, and the fourth-and-four conversion by the Seahawks on the last drive of the game. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but based on what we saw opening day, Adam Gase’s Dolphins are already a better team than they were in 2015.