South Florida dodged a bullet this week when Hurricane Matthew did little more than bring dark clouds to the area, but the Dolphins couldn’t muster a silver lining as their season all but imploded in a 30-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
1. Jakeem Grant – Grant pulled off a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Why it Matters: Jakeem Grant proved he is capable of pulling off big plays at the NFL level, and that gives the Miami Dolphins‘ faithful at least one reason to feel hopeful about the future.
1.The Offensive Line – The Titans had managed just 6 sacks in their first four games. They got another 6 against the Dolphins on Sunday.
Why it Matters: The injured Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil were replaced by Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. The results speak for themselves. Beyond that, don’t expect to see Turner, Thomas or Albert back next year. The first two will be gone because they can’t play at the NFL level. The latter will be gone because, at his age, he is hurt far too often and simply not worth the price of his contract.
2. The Run Defense – The Titans racked up a total of 235 yards on the ground, including a demoralizing 166 in the first half alone.
Why it Matters: The Dolphins had only allowed 3.7 yards-per-carry coming into this game, but seem unable to stop the run whenever opposing offenses make up their minds to ram the ball down their throats. This was simply a repeat of what the Patriots did during the second half of week 2, when Bill Belichick pounded the Miami defense into submission with repeated runs by LaGarette Blount to the left side. As the CBS broadcast crew pointed out on several occassions, the Dolphins defense is built to rush the passer, not stop the run. Sunday’s game proved that when it matters most, they can’t even slow it down.
Quarterback: D Yes, the offensive line did nothing to help Ryan Tannehill, but he didn’t do much to help himself either. He got off to another slow start, threw a pass behind DeVante Parker that was bobbled into an interception, tossed another late INT when he was hit as he threw the ball, and never developed consistency, leading many in the home crowd to begin chanting Matt Moore’s name.
Running Backs: C Jay Ajayi was decent despite getting no help from the offensive line. Drake was underused, yet, when he had his chance, he dropped a pass that would have kept an early drive alive. Damien Williams provided the lone bright spot with a 50-yard catch-and-run.
Receivers and Tight Ends: B This unit was targeted just 12 times all day, so giving them a comprehensive grade is no easy task. Regardless, they made the most of their opportunities. DeVante Parker managed 70 yards on 2 receptions, and Jarvis Landry was his usual self, getting the most out of every touch.
Offensive Line: F The pass blocking was embarrassing. The run block was no better.
Defensive Line: F The line was helpless against the run. Worse still, they got next to no pressure on Marcus Mariotta, leaving him plenty of time to rack up a 117.5 passer rating.
Linebackers: D- This unit was regularly beaten to the edge and missed tackles galore against inside runs. Kiko Alonso played well yet again, but he can’t do it alone.
Defensive Backs: D- They weren’t tested often, but when they were, they failed. Mariotta hadn’t thrown a TD since week 2. He threw 3 against this unit.
Special Teams: B Jakeem Grant led the way with his spectacular punt return for a TD. Matt Darr was excellent once again, but drew a boneheaded roughing penalty. Andrew Franks did his job, and the coverage teams pulled off a solid job all around.
Coaching: C Adam Gase had the right idea. Given the injuries along the offensive line, he attempted to run a more conservative and balanced attack against the Titans, but the team failed to execute once again.
HE BIG PICTURE
After last week’s game I wrote…. if the Dolphins fall to 1-4 against the Tennessee Titans in week 5, nothing short of Divine intervention will save this season. Well, we are there now. Miami faces the 4-1 Pittsburgh Steelers next week and the prospect of a 1-5 start looms very real. After all, this game gave the fan base little reason to believe the Dolphins can fix the issues that have plagued them all season. Miami converted just 4-of-11 third downs, they lost the time of possession battle by 13:28, committed 8 penalties for 83 yards, managed just 200 yards on 41 plays while giving up 398 yards to Tennessee on 70 plays, and lost the turnover battle once again. To put it simply, the Dolphins are getting beat in every facet of the game week in and week out.
Sure, Miami has been decimated by the injury bug in lots of key areas (Xavien Howard, Jordan Cameron, Arian Foster, Laremy Tunsil, Branden Albert, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, and others), but so has just about every other team in the league. Might the return of some of these injured players help? Of course. The offense may also eventually get into sync with Gase’s system. Still, it is getting harder and harder not to reach a rather depressing conclusion. The Dolphins’ biggest weakness is simply that they don’t yet have the personnel or depth to even threaten for a playoff spot, and as such, things may get a lot worse before they get better.