Dolphins’ Studs and Duds: Week 2


The Miami Dolphins were looking to bounce back after a frustrating opening week loss. Yet, despite a frantic second-half comeback, they came up short 31-24 against their arch rivals, the New England Patriots.

1. Kiko Alonso – This game would have been a route were it not for Alonso’s hit on Patriot’s QB Jimmy Garoppolo. By knocking Garoppolo out of the contest, Alonso completely changed the complexion of the game and gave the Dolphins a chance to mount a comeback. Additionally, for the second week in a row he had double digit tackles and recovered a fumble.

Why it Matters: In the short term, by injuring Garappolo, Alonso gave Miami their only chance of staying close to the Patriots in the AFC East. New England must now face the Houston Texans on Thursday, then, host the Bills the following week. Needless to say, it won’t be an easy task if they have to go with a 3rd string QB. In the long term, the Dolphins seemed to have solved at least one of their issues at linebacker. Alonso made big plays in both games thus far and always seems to be around the ball.

2. Ryan Tannehill – Tannehill’s detractors will, no doubt, point to his two interceptions, particularly the one that ended the game, but there is simply no way to ignore the comeback he engineered. Tannehill completed 71% of his passes for 389 yards, 2 TDs, and a passer rating of 93.7. He also finished as the team’s leading rusher with 6 carries for 37 yards, including a gutsy run on the last drive, where he put his head down and took on defenders for additional yards. Most impressive of all, he achieved all this with no run support and in obvious passing mode from the 2nd quarter on.

Why it Matters: For the second week in a row Tannehill showed tremendous poise when it counted, and despite another heartbreaking loss, he has gone a long way to establish himself as the leader of this team. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished the game as the Dolphins highest rated player (85.9), and the way he managed the “No Huddle” offense was masterful, making it clear that he should have been given the right to audible years ago.

3. DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry – These two young receivers left no doubt as to why they make such a dangerous one-two punch. They combined for 243 yards on 18 receptions and helped fuel the Dolphins comeback.

Why it Matters: Despite not being at 100%, Parker showed what his presence on the field means to this team, opening up the underneath routes for Landry and Jordan Cameron. Furthermore, by drawing double coverage, he made it possible for Kenny Stills to exploit a one-on-one situation for his 24-yard TD reception. The one downside for Parker came on Miami’s last play, when Tannehill put up a jump ball in the corner of the end zone in a last ditch attempt to even the score. Unfortunately, due to his limited mobility, Parker was unable to get himself into position to compete for the ball.


1. Arian Foster – Foster managed a mere 3 carries for 9 yards before exiting the game with a groin injury.

Why it Matters: Foster was never meant to be the answer at running back, and he isn’t. After a slew of injuries that have sidelined him for 23 games over the previous three seasons, his body simply cannot take the pounding of an NFL game.

2. Jay Ajayi – Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Ajayi isn’t the answer either. He had 5 carries for just 14 yards. Worse still, he fumbled the ball at a crucial time of the game, ending a promising Miami drive.

Why it Matters: To this point in the season, Ryan Tannehill is the team’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. This cannot continue. Cue Kenyan Drake, who carried the ball twice for 12 yards and a TD. In my article, Adam Gase’s 12 Steps to Rehabilitating the Dolphins: Step 11, I predicted Drake would become the team’s premier runner by season’s end. From what we have seen thus far, that may come to pass much sooner than I had expected.

3. Vance Joseph – The Dolphins appeared totally unprepared for the Patriots’ simple offensive strategy, quick throws to negate the pass rush, and as a result, at times, it seemed as if Tom Brady had snuck onto the field in a Garopollo jersey .

Why it Matters: Sure, the Dolphins’ offense did nothing to help their defense stay off the field in the first half, but the defense didn’t help themselves either. There were mistakes aplenty throughout the game. Xavien Howard negated a key Cameron Wake sack with a hands-to-the-face penalty, Byron Maxwell was slapped aside like a child by Martellus Bennett on a huge 2nd half catch and run, and even Kiko Alonso failed to secure the QB on what appeared a sure sack for a big loss. Yet, worst of all was Joseph’s inability to defend against LaGarette Blount’s outside runs to the left late in the game, which allowed New England to chew up the clock.

Final Grades

Quarterback: B Tannehill did a tremendous job overall, but due to a slow start and an ill advised pass off his back foot as he was being hit, which led to an interception, he falls short of top marks.

Running Backs: D- Foster and Ajayi were abysmal. Drake offered the only sliver of hope.

Receivers and Tight Ends: B+ Parker and Landry were making one handed catches all over the field, Stills gained the tiniest measure of redemption with a touchdown catch, and even Jordan Cameron got past his “Hands of Stone” issue to contribute 5 catches on 7 targets, and a TD of his own.

Offensive Line: B The line permitted no sacks, but were less than stellar when it came to run blocking. Add to that Anthony Steen’s errant snap for a huge loss, and what should have been an A becomes a B.

Defensive Line: D Despite two sacks on third string QB Jacoby Brissett, they failed to get any kind of consistent pressure on Garoppolo. Only Ndamukong Suh, who led the Dolphins with 12 tackles, played a significant role against the run.

Linebackers: D Alonso and Misi showed a lot of hustle, but nevertheless, the Patriots racked up 161 yards on the ground. Worse still, most of it came when everyone in the stadium knew they would be running the ball.

Defensive Backs: F Second string quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished with a 130.8 passer rating, and third stringer Jacoby Brissett was close behind at 100.2. Enough said.

Special Teams: C Matt Darr had another excellent game, averaging 49.8 yards on four punts, but the return game was non-existent thanks to New England’s well placed kicks.

Coaching: C Halftime adjustments are the only reason this isn’t an F. Gase, and particularly, Joseph were out-coached. Had Garoppolo not gone down, things would have been a lot worse.


Like last week, there were some real positives, and even reasons to be optimistic moving forward. However, there is no denying the growing pains, or the fact that Miami doesn’t yet have all the personnel it needs to be considered a legitimate threat to the Patriots, or even the Jets. Perhaps that will change as the season goes along and players develop, but for right now, it is the cold hard truth. At this point, the team remains inconsistent, and for every bright spot on Sunday (Tannehill, pass blocking, the receiving corps), there were an equal number of concerns, and then some (running backs, pass defense, stopping the run, penalties). Just as worrisome were the blown opportunities late in the first half and early in the second. Considering that Miami’s three toughest games all come in the first quarter of the season (at Seattle, at New England, at Cincinnatti), this trial by fire may be looked back upon as an invaluable learning experience, but at the moment, it is merely the bitterest of pills. Even so, let us end on a bright note, for despite the two early heart-wrenching losses, it is obvious that the 2016 Miami Dolphins have a fighting spirit which recent incarnations of the team never possessed.