Grading Every Miami Dolphins Starter's 2012 Regular Season
The Miami Dolphins finished their 2012 regular season with a record of 7-9, three games out of the final wild-card spot in the AFC, and to some three games ahead of their projected win total prior to the start of the season.
Depending on which glass you choose to look at, either 2012 was a season of underachieving or overachieving. It's a rare season where deciding what the Dolphins did is strictly in the eyes of how you choose to look at this team and how optimistic you are (Miami showed improvement throughout the season and never gave up), or how pessimistic you are (Tannehill is Chad Henne 2.0, Joe Philbin is Cam Cameron with a better record).
I'm a bit on the optimistic side but also deal with the realistic facts. The first one is that the Dolphins are the second-best team in the AFC East (based off of record, this is true). The second one is that Ryan Tannehill is the second-best quarterback in the AFC East (what that means in a division with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez, I don't know, but it is true). And the third one is that Miami does have building blocks to work with going into 2013.
Throughout the season I graded each player in each game with live report cards. Today I will be giving each important starter a final grade for the 2012 season.
Be warned, statistics are not the only factor I will use for grading each player, so if you disagree with a grade, look beyond the stat sheet for reasons why the grade should be higher or lower.
Ryan Tannehill: B-
Everyone's opinion on the rookie quarterback varies.
Some belong to the camp that Tannehill needed more weapons and was hamstrung this year by the blatant disregard of Jeff Ireland in building a team around him.
Others believe that a great quarterback should raise his team up to a higher level than they're capable of and cite the success of Russell Wilson (who Tannehill defeated), Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck (who Tannehill defeats if Sean Smith or Nolan Carroll catch a ball in the fourth quarter) as reasons why Tannehill is a flop.
The reality on Tannehill is that he turned in a B- season; and I don't know what to make of that.
Tannehill excelled when Miami's running game excelled and he was able to protect the football. The good news is Miami got seven games like this.
The bad news was they also got nine games where this didn't happen.
For the season, Tannehill only had 13 interceptions, which is one statistic where Tannehill compares well with Andrew Luck, who finished with 18 picks. He also ended the year with a quarterback rating of 76.1, which isn't too bad for a rookie.
The good news that Dolphins fans likely want to hear is that this is the worst Tannehill could do. I'm not ready to say that though, because while he does need some help on offense, he also needs to show some improvement himself.
Even though Miami ran two or three running backs per game, Reggie Bush was the lone starter, as well as the only running back who played in all 16 games. Hence there will be no grades for Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller.
Grading Reggie Bush was surprisingly tough. He had a very uneven season this year, looking like the potential rushing champion one week, then looking like someone you'd release from your fantasy team the next.
His best game came against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, when he ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts. His next game against the Jets looked like one where he would continue to be a dominant back, as he rushed for 61 yards on 10 attempts in the first half before being knocked out by an injury to his knee (he wouldn't miss any more games due to the injury).
After that game Bush had remained very uneven, even getting benched after a fumble during Miami's disaster of a performance against the Tennessee Titans.
So why give him a B? Because when he was on, Miami usually won, and on top of that there were some games where the coaching staff didn't bother to use him in any capacity other than the obvious runs on first down.
Had Bush been used to his full potential, who knows how well Miami's offense would have performed throughout the year. This is something the coaching staff should be looking into during the offseason, especially as they decide whether to keep Bush or let him go.
Lane, at times, reminded me of Packers fullback John Kuhn with his ability to scratch out first downs on short-yardage plays.
Throughout the year Miami tended to get away from using Lane in this capacity, however, he remained a solid run and pass-blocker throughout the season. Here's to a repeat of his 2012 in 2013 for Miami.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The good news for Brian Hartline? He ended the season with 74 catches for 1,083 yards and proved himself as the Dolphins' No. 1 receiver for 2012.
The bad news: one touchdown. That's it for his 2012 season.
I do give Hartline credit for this however: He developed an instant chemistry with Ryan Tannehill during the season; keep in mind that Hartline missed all of training camp and the whole preseason with a myriad of injuries.
Despite only playing in 13 games, Bess had himself a solid 2012, catching 61 passes for 778 yards.
Much like Brian Hartline, however, Bess left a lot to be desired in the touchdown category, only grabbing one touchdown reception throughout the season.
The Pu-Pu Platter—F
This song goes out to Legedu Naanee, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, Armon Binns and some of the other so-called No. 3 receivers Miami attempted to trot out throughout the 2012 season. May we remember them for their dropped passes, missed communication and their lack of overall production.
With that in mind, while they won't receive full letter grades, a mark of credit to Rishard Matthews and Marlon Moore, who both produced well when called upon throughout the season.
The funny thing about Fasano is that while he actually led the Dolphins in touchdown receptions (he had five for the season), he also didn't get as many passes thrown his way as one would think, ending the season with 41 catches for 332 yards.
But on those 41 catches, Fasano was solid, and he was perhaps the most trusted receiver within the red zone, a place Miami had their issues scoring throughout the season.
Charles Clay will not be graded due to him not being a starter, however, he did show development and promise throughout the season.
I can't say the same thing for Michael Egnew, who will have to have the offseason and training camp of a lifetime to be on the field for the Dolphins in 2013 (or even stay on the roster).
Because that's exactly what you want to say about someone who you traded an All-Pro wide receiver for after said receiver picks up 118 receptions for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns for his new team.
Contract years usually bring out the best in players. For Jake Long, his 2012 contract year saw him getting beaten way too often for someone who at one point was the best overall player at his position.
The so-called dirtiest player in the game (copyright 1984 Ric Flair, Woo!) was solid on the left side for the Phins in 2012, and at times kept this piecemeal offensive line together through the Jake Long injury and other difficulties.
However, it seemed at times like Incognito wasn't meant to play in a West Coast offense, and if Miami decided to replace him in 2013, I wouldn't be surprised. But for 2012, he was an asset to the team.
Ladies and gentlemen, the best center in the NFL, Mike Pouncey. That he was kept off of the AFC's Pro Bowl roster is a travesty.
Why didn't the Dolphins attempt to use John Jerry at times at right tackle when Jake Long was out? He would actually be very solid at the position and should get a look from there next season if Long decides to leave.
Jerry wasn't as bad as he's been in the past at right guard, but his size and skills lend themselves to the tackle position, that's where he should play. I give him credit for his 2012 improvement though.
Jonathan Martin—B+ (Right Tackle)/C+ (Left Tackle)
Martin had an overall solid year when you consider he played both right and left tackle, and he is likely the future at left tackle for the Dolphins.
I have no problem with that despite his C+ grade, but I would love to see him bulk up in the offseason while retaining his great footwork so that he may finish some blocks on the left side that he would at times tend to go halfway on.
Let Dane Cook explain Garner's performance at right tackle during Miami's final four games of the year.
Wake led the Dolphins with 15 sacks. In fact, he had the majority of Miami's sacks in 2012, as the Dolphins finished the season with 42 sacks overall.
Soliai's season goes beyond the numbers, which for his sake aren't very prolific. It's the impact, as he has been able to occupy two or three blockers at a time, allowing for Miami's linebackers and safeties to rush the quarterback. The Dolphins are also very successful in stopping the run in 2012 due to Soliai's presence.
I will give credit to Jeff Ireland where credit is due, the Paul Soliai contract for 2012 was one of his best decisions of his career.
Starks is a lot like Soliai in that numbers don't tell the whole story, however, his numbers are far more prolific (4.5 sacks and four pass deflections) and his impact had been more immediate.
But he is an impending free agent, and one wonders whether Miami should keep him. With his age and the play of the next player on this list, I'm actually leaning towards no, even though Starks will actually be a bargain.
It's a solid B for a player that finally gets it in Year 3.
The 'it" that Odrick gets though is that he should be a defensive tackle, not a defensive end. This isn't so much on him as it is on the Dolphins coaching staff, who play him at defensive end due to the lack of talent at the position (Olivier Vernon, who I'm not grading because he didn't start, only showed flashes this season and will likely see more time at linebacker).
Odrick did see some time at defensive tackle this season and played very well, as for the season he ended up with five sacks and two pass deflections while doing a tremendous job stopping the run.
No grade for defensive lineman super-sub Tony McDaniel (due to him not being a starter), who was great when called upon for the Dolphins. He was one of my favorite players of the 2012 season however.
Burnett had a solid 2012 with 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks and five pass deflections for the season, where he stepped up as a leader on defense.
His greatness came in shooting the gaps and stopping the run. Pass defense though? He tended to struggle with tight ends and intermediate receivers, much like the rest of Miami's linebacking group.
Misi had a great 2012 with 3.5 sacks, two pass deflections, three forced fumbles and 65 tackles. Injuries were an issue for him late in the season, as he missed two out of Miami's final three games, but when he was on the field, we saw a more mature and productive Misi than we did during his first two years in Miami.
Dansby produced his best season with the Dolphins in 2012, collecting 101 solo tackles, a sack, one forced fumble and nine defended passes. Of the linebackers, Dansby did the best job overall against the pass, and at the very least made receivers and tight ends think twice before taking him on.
Players usually try their best to not get beaten and hold onto interceptions during their contract years. They usually go for the most production possible and attempt to shut down the wide receivers that they cover.
The mere thought that Miami would actually consider placing the franchise tag on Sean Smith actually sickens me. It is a mockery of the term "franchise player", which implies a player is important in helping the franchise succeed.
Is it really fair for me to grade Richard Marshall after he played only four games? I believe it is, considering that he did beat out Vontae Davis for the starting cornerback job and allowed for the trade with Indianapolis to occur.
What did Miami get out of that? Four games, one interception and a game one where Andre Johnson gave Marshall the beating of a lifetime (metaphorically speaking).
By the way, Vontae Davis will be playing this upcoming Sunday, just thought I might throw that out there.
I know, I know, I'm shocked too. I've taken more shots at Carroll in this list than quarterbacks have over the course of this season, so why does he get a B-?
He improved this season, a lot. Yes, he's the only player who has received two zeroes from me, but he always bounced back well from those bad performances. On top of that, he did rein in some of his aggression while covering receivers that tends to get him in trouble, or at least does a better job of hiding it than he used to.
Carroll impressed me at times, and you can even see this if you look back at the All-22 camera view of some Dolphins games and you see a pass not thrown to Carroll's side because of the good coverage he's playing on the receiver. These aren't just against mediocre receivers either, some of them will surprise you.
Stanford was uneven, which you would expect from someone who wasn't expected to be a huge factor in this secondary coming into training camp.
Wilson was even more uneven than Stanford and had more of an impact on special teams.
I loved Reshad Jones in 2012, mainly for the way he played. He will continue to get better and be one of the best safeties in the NFL as his career progresses.
He gets an A for a great year, but I'm not as upset over his Pro Bowl snub as I am over Pouncey's. I could see why other safeties would get the nod.
Clemons was serviceable, but never great, throughout 2012. He could rack up tackles like no one's business, but when he had to cover players, a lot was left lacking.
By the way, no grades for Dimitri Patterson and Bryan McCann, however, both players played well in Miami's final two games of the season (in McCann's case, final four games) and should be on Miami's roster at the end of training camp in 2013. They seem like the rare Jeff Ireland acorn that turned into something good.
The good: a game-winning field goal against Seattle.
The bad: game-losing field goal misses against the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
Carpenter did have some early-season issues but seemed to fix himself as the season went on. An injury wiped out the final two games of his season. I do expect Miami to bring in competition for him during training camp however.
Alright, why is HE not in the Pro Bowl? Best punter in the NFL.
The last time I can remember the Dolphins having a home-run threat in the return game was O.J. McDuffie during his rookie season (no, I'm not counting Ted Ginn Jr. or the Ginn family, please put your thumbs down, and not in any direction).
It was a joy to see that potential in Miami once again, even if Thigpen isn't exactly Devin Hester, but rather just a solid return man with some home-run potential. Thigpen ended the season with a punt return and kick return for a touchdown.
I've graded how well the coaching staff coached during the game in every report card, so why stop with the season-ending report card?
The best way I can describe the coaching is average.
The good part: discipline. The team was strong in that regard, committing the fourth-fewest penalties in the league in 2012.
The bad part: the lack of imagination. At times it seemed like the coaching staff was too content to play it safe. Not once did we see a situation where Reggie Bush, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were on the field at the same time with Miller or Bush in the slot. Why is that? Couldn't that have been an effective offensive look?
Why did it take nearly 13 games to discover that Bush could work as a receiver out of the backfield if you lined him up as a receiver? It was almost Chan Gailey-like in lack of imagination, and I expected better out of two West Coast offense-oriented coaches.
In terms of how hard this team worked, they got the most out of each of their players, but schematically, they didn't get the most out of their talent. For that reason, they get a C+ for Season 1, as well as a vote of confidence from me for their 2013 season due to the prospect of this team adding more talent for them to work with.