Unable to make an impact, it seemed as if Hartline was more interested in taking notes than getting open.
While Hartline was listed as probable against St. Louis Rams on Sunday, it is uncertain what role his quadriceps played in his poor performance.
He was unable to create separation all afternoon.
Hartline was Miami's leading receiver (29 receptions for 514 yards) heading into Sunday's game, breaking a franchise record (most receiving yards in a game) in the process.
He is still the team's leading receiver, but was unable to add to his total and left Sun Life Stadium with those same numbers.
Ryan Tannehill targeted his favorite receiver a total of two times—both in the second half—but was unable to connect with the 6'2", 200-pound weapon. On both instances the Rams were penalized and the Dolphins were awarded an automatic first down, leaving Hartline without an official target on the stat sheet.
Tannehill did, however, benefit from Marlon Moore's unexpected contribution.
Moore, who was able to beat an unaware Janoris Jenkins, caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass in the second quarter, giving the Dolphins a 7-6 lead. It was his first touchdown reception since his rookie campaign in 2010.
He ended the day with three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Moore's contribution to the team thus far has mainly come through special teams (a total of three combined tackles), so it is unknown whether his performance this past Sunday is a blip or a trend.
What is known is that Miami cannot rely on the contributions from unlikely heroes on a week-to-week basis if they plan to contend for a playoff spot.
Credit is due to Finnegan for virtually eliminating Hartline from Sunday's game, but that does not exonerate Hartline from his performance and neither does his quadriceps, as the AP reported the injury didn't keep him from participating fully in practice (via ESPN).
Emerging as the Dolphins' No. 1 receiver, Hartline should continue to expect increased attention from opposing defenses.
If Hartline continues to be shut down with single coverage, it limits Tannehill's opportunities to put points on the board and has an adverse effect on the Dolphins’ rushing attack.
Miami has limited weapons and defenses will not fear Hartline, feeling they can shut him down without any safety help and allowing them to increase their presence inside the box to stuff the run.
It is up to Hartline (averaging 17.7 yards per catch) to keep that potential for a big play open.
Many feel the Dolphins are asking too much from a fourth-round pick, but this is the role the coaching staff elevated him to with the departure of Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson.
The coaching staff believed in him enough, so it is Hartline’s responsibility to live up to their assessment of his talent.
With victories come increased expectations—expectations that every Dolphins player on the roster must live up to.
Miami was fortunate to walk out of Sun Life Stadium with a victory on Sunday, but if Hartline disappears again against a formidable opponent—the likes of New England or San Francisco—the Dolphins may not be so fortunate again.
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