Miami Dolphins: Offensive Grades After First Quarter of the Season

Richard SantamariaCorrespondent IIOctober 4, 2013

Miami Dolphins: Offensive Grades After First Quarter of the Season

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    While fans of the Miami Dolphins are in their post-loss funk after the Dolphins' 38-17 defeat at the Superdome in New Orleans, all they have to do is take a step back to see a beautiful picture.

    Miami won three of its first four games and defeated two playoff contenders, the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons.  The Dolphins have also notched two road victories.

    In 2013, Miami added a slew of talent, through free agency and the draft, and the team is still developing its chemistry.  The Dolphins are improving daily and their schedule only gets easier.

    This was supposed to be the difficult part of the Dolphins schedule, with many pundits claiming Miami and its fans should be doing cartwheels if they could steal two of their first five games.  Well, how about four?  The Dolphins are favored by three points in their home matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, after all.

    While Miami is far from a perfect team, it is a contender, mainly because of the growth of second-year quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.  Without a doubt, the Dolphins have not had an offense as effective as their present one in over a decade.  

    Because of Tannehill and the addition of receivers such as Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, Miami's offense is on pace to score more points than any Dolphin team since 2002.  In 2002, Miami, led by Jay Fiedler and Ricky Williams, averaged more than 23 points per game.

    I will now examine the Dolphins offense through the first quarter of the season and assign grades to its units and starters.

     

    All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus' subscription-based services unless otherwise noted.

Quarterback

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    This is where it all starts and ends for the Miami Dolphins.  The fate of the South Florida franchise is tied to Ryan Tannehill.

    When you look up a list of signal-callers ranked by quarterback rating, you will find the usual suspect on top.  

    Tarvaris Jackson?  No.  

    Let's ignore quarterbacks with fewer than 120 attempts, like Jackson and his eight passes.

     

    The flaw with this rating system is obvious.  There is no way Tarvaris Jackson (158.3) should have a higher rating than Peyton Manning.  The traditional QB rating system gives too much credit to caretakers, such as Russell Wilson (95.3) who averages less than 200 yards per game on 24 attempts.

    Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required) offers a much more comprehensive analysis of quarterbacks, taking into account sacks and giving much more value to completions and passing yards.

    According to PFF, Tannehill (+3.6) ranks 13th among all quarterbacks, including Terrelle Pryor.  Pryor? The Raiders quarterback has PFF's highest rushing rating (+4.3) among quarterbacks.  In PFF's total quarterback rating system, Russell Wilson (+1.2) ranks 18th and RG III (-2.3) ranks 25th.

    If we isolate the passing component in PFF's rankings, then Tannehill (+5.9) is eighth among all quarterbacks, Luck (+3.7) is 11th, RG III (-.5) is 18th, Pryor (-.6) is 21st and Wilson (-1.5) is 22nd.

    Tannehill has matured as expected, but the rate of his growth has been a pleasant surprise.

    Grade: B+

     

     

Offensive Line

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    A simple eye test tells us that the Miami Dolphins offensive line has not been very good thus far.  Miami leads the league in sacks allowed (18) and ranks 24th in the league in rushing yards per game (81.5).

    The truth may be a little off.  Consider these facts:

    • 20 NFL teams have allowed at least 10 sacks.
    • Ryan Tannehill has dropped back 164 times this year, which ranks 11th in the league.  
    • The Dolphins average 3.9 yards per rushing attempt, which is very close to the NFL team average.
    • Poor blocking by Miami's running backs have led to numerous sacks this year.

    Excuses for the offensive line, you say?

    Pro Football Focus takes into account every detail, and they rank Miami 13th in the league in pass blocking (+1.0) and 23rd in run blocking (-11.2).

     

    1. Mike Pouncey

    PFF ranks Pouncey (+5.5) sixth among all centers, second in pass blocking (+2.9) and 11th in run blocking (+1.8).  According to PFF, Pouncey has been responsible for one sack and two hurries. 

    Grade: A-

     

    2. Richie Incognito

    PFF ranks Incognito (+5.2) 13th among all guards, eighth in pass blocking (+3.2) and 24th in run blocking (+.9).  Among left guards, PFF ranks Incognito seventh.  PFF claims Incognito has allowed two sacks and three quarterback hits.

    Grade: B+

     

    3. Jonathan Martin

    Martin (-.9) ranks 38th among all tackles according to PFF, 25th in pass blocking (+2.1) and 68th in run blocking (-4.7).  Based on PFF's statistics, Martin has allowed four sacks, eight hurries and one quarterback hit.  While Martin has used technique to be adequate in pass protection, he does not have the strength to drive defenders during rush attempts.

    Grade: C-

     

    4. John Jerry

    PFF ranks Jerry (-1.8) 38th among all guards, 24th in pass blocking (+.7) and 57th in run blocking (-3.6).  PFF claims Jerry is responsible for two sacks, five hurries and three quarterback hits.  PFF ranks Jerry 17th among right guards.

    Grade: D+

     

    5. Tyson Clabo

    PFF ranks Clabo (-6.9) 63rd among all tackles, 59th in pass blocking (-4.4) and 68th in run blocking (-4.7).  According to PFF, Clabo is responsible for four sacks, 11 hurries and three quarterback hits.  Clabo has been a disaster through four games.  Maybe it's time to give Nate Garner more snaps or convince Jared Gaither to play football again.

    Grade: F

     

    Overall Offensive Line Grade: C-

Running Backs

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    1. Lamar Miller

    We all know the Miami Dolphins have had their issues with run blocking.  Despite this weakness and limited touches, Lamar Miller is 21st in the league with 196 rushing yards.  Miller averages 4.6 yards per carry, which is 10th in the league among running backs with more than 40 carries.

     

    While Miller flashes potential, there are growing concerns about his game.  If his 49-yard run is removed, Miller is averaging a sickly 3.5 yards per carry.  While Miami's offensive line should shoulder some of the blame, Miller ranks 34th in the league in yards after contact (62), according to Pro Football Focus.  PFF also ranks Miller 54th in yards after contact per rushing attempt (1.4).

    Grade: C

     

    2. Daniel Thomas

    What is there to say here?  The former second-rounder continues to exhibit bust qualities.  After four games, Thomas' 2.8 yards per carry in 2013 are worse than his career average of 3.5 yards per rush.  At least he has scored twice.

    Grade: D-

     

    Overall Running Back Grade: C-

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    Ryan Tannehill has weapons.  The Texas A&M standout is 14th in the NFL in passing yards with 1,076—ahead of players such as Tom Brady and Tony Romo.

    Pro Football Focus ranks Miami's passing game 13th in the league and Tannehill is still building rapport with Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson.

     

    1. Mike Wallace

    So far, Wallace's production on the field has not matched the giant contract he signed this offseason.  To date, Wallace has 15 receptions for 176 yards and a single touchdown.

    Wallace brings a lot more than his receptions, though.  He draws every team's top cornerback and prevents safeties from cheating toward the line.  Miami desperately needed a receiver like Wallace and some long touchdowns are just around the corner.

    Grade: B-

     

    2. Brian Hartline

    Hartline has become a fourth-round steal and currently leads the Dolphins in receptions (21), receiving yards (272) and receiving touchdowns (2).  The Ohio State star is once again on pace to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

    Hartline is a fantastic route-runner, with great hands and deceptive speed.  Pro Football Focus currently ranks Hartline (+5.6) as the 10th best receiver in the league behind Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Washington, Andre Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall.

    Grade: A

     

    3. Brandon Gibson

    Though he has failed to score, Gibson has 20 receptions through four games for 208 yards.  Gibson (+3.2) has been a reliable target from the slot and is ranked 24th among all receivers by PFF.  Gibson has proven to be a bigger, faster, more physical version of Davone Bess.

    Grade: B

     

    4. Charles Clay

    Clay is another one of Jeff Ireland's late-rounds gems.  The sixth-rounder is a subpar blocker, but he has been fantastic in the passing game.

    Among tight ends, Clay is currently sixth in the league in receptions (20) and fourth in receiving yards (245).  Clay has more receiving yards than Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten.

    Grade: B+

     

    Miami is on the verge of having one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL.

    Overall Grade for Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B+