Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys: Report Card Grades for Each Dolphins Unit

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVAugust 24, 2014

Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys: Report Card Grades for Each Dolphins Unit

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins moved to 2-1 on the preseason thanks to a 25-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. 

    The victory for Miami was an uneven one that was a lot closer than it should've been, as Miami dominated in yards and other statistics, while the Cowboys did their best to defeat themselves. 

    The Dolphins defeated themselves plenty, mainly at quarterback. Ryan Tannehill had a game he'd rather forget, while Matt Moore was uneven. 

    The offensive line played the best they have in two years though, as they protected the quarterbacks well while opening up holes in the running game. 

    Going forward, the Dolphins will have to continue to build up consistency. The best way to do this would be to play their starters for at least a series against the St. Louis Rams next Thursday.

    This is especially important for Tannehill, who looked like he lost confidence Saturday night. 

    Here's a look at the grades from a game that was excellent in most aspects but lacking in the most important one: quarterback.


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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Oy, this was brutal. 

    Ryan Tannehill was not good. 

    He started off well, completing a few good passes and moving the offense up and down the field, and he even ran for seven yards early in the game. 

    But then he threw a great pass to Dion Sims that Sims would catch, then fumble. 

    That shouldn't affect Tannehill, since the pass was good and he didn't fumble, but at that point, things turned around. 

    Tannehill would follow that up with two incomplete passes, then he looked like he got his groove back, but then he overthrew Mike Wallace by a good five yards on a play that should've been a touchdown. 

    After that, Tannehill was just plain bad, managing to make an offense that looked great at times and was great in theory into a repeat of the Mike Sherman years. 

    Tannehill's final pass of the game was a fitting image for him: an interception on a play where he had his target set before the snap. 

    The final bloody numbers: 13-of-21 for 119 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a quarterback rating of 57.4. 

    As for Matt Moore, he was better against Dallas' second-team defense in the second half on one drive, which saw Moore complete a 54-yard pass to Damian Williams.

    After that, Moore was mighty mediocre, but on one play—a pick-six in the fourth quarter—Moore somehow managed to make the worst play by a quarterback all evening. 

    After that play, Moore, with the help of an explosive Dolphins running game and bad Cowboys penalties, led the Dolphins on a 13-0 scoring run. 

    Ryan Tannehill's Grade: D

    Matt Moore's Grade: C

    Final Grade: C-

Running Back

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last week, Dolphins fans were all worried about the running backs as injuries depleted the unit, while the healthy backs couldn't seem to get any traction. 

    This week saw the opposite. Knowshon Moreno played his first game as a Miami Dolphin and looked great, running for 64 yards on 10 attempts, including a 19-yard scamper in the first quarter that helped set up the first field goal of the game. 

    Moreno showed vision that other running backs on the squad seemed to lack, but the offensive line helped by managing to open up holes for Moreno, as well as Lamar Miller, who ran for 34 yards on seven carries. 

    That's 98 yards on 17 attempts for Miami's first-team running backs. It's a shame their quarterback couldn't perform this well, too. 

    As for the second-team backs, Orleans Darkwa had the biggest play of the game, breaking out a 53-yard run in the fourth quarter, which helped Miami score a touchdown. 

    Darkwa would finish with 70 yards and a touchdown on six carries. 

    Damien Williams would chime in with 33 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts of his own, including a 20-yard run. 

    As a whole, Miami ran for 200 yards on 35 rushing plays—the type of performance Dolphins fans wanted to see from this much-maligned unit. 

    Grade: A

Wide Receiver/Tight End

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    As bad as the quarterback play was on Saturday, the wide receivers really didn't suffer much. 

    They actually played very well as a unit. Mike Wallace didn't have any drops, and he led the team in receptions with six.

    The what-could-have-been touchdown in the first quarter was as much on Tannehill as it was on Wallace, but I can't complain about the rest of Wallace's game. 

    Brian Hartline was thrown to four times and had three catches for 25 yards, but he couldn't corral another. You can't blame him for that, as the pass was thrown too high. 

    Gator Hoskins had the best receiving play of the night, a 27-yard catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

    Overall, a good, but not great, game from Miami's wide receivers, one that would've been better had the play at quarterback been more impressive. 

    Grade: B

Offensive Line

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    It's been two years since I've been able to say this, but Miami's offensive line dominated on Saturday. 

    The line opened up holes for the running game, allowing the backs to run for 200 yards. Shelley Smith was a welcome addition at right guard, as Miami moved on the ground when he was in the game. 

    The O-line continued its good play in pass protection, not allowing a single sack all game.

    Keep in mind that the Cowboys have one of the worst defensive lines in the league, but also keep in mind that this is still the NFL, and sometimes teams get sacks by accident.

    Overall, a great game for the offensive line. 

    Grade: A+

Defensive Line

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    This is the defensive line Dolphins fans hope (and expect) to see this season. 

    Cameron Wake had two sacks in limited game time, while Olivier Vernon had one sack. 

    Throughout the game, the Dolphins created pressure on the Cowboys quarterbacks, and like last week, they finished on the plays. 

    In the run game, Dallas managed to gain just 94 yards, with much of that happening against Miami's second- and third-team defense. 

    Overall, great performance by the first-teamers on the defensive line.

    Grade: A-


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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It wasn't quite as bad as it's been before. 

    The Cowboys were able to exploit the middle like every team before them against Miami, but big plays were limited. 

    Linebackers were used on blitzes to get pressure on the quarterback, and it worked, save for the fact that the sacks came from defensive ends and not linebackers. However, the pressure was there. 

    Was it a great performance? No, but it was better than what we've received from this much-maligned unit.

    Grade: B-


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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The one thing Dallas was able to do on offense when the first-teamers were in the game was a simple pitch-and-catch between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant

    Covering Bryant throughout the game was Cortland Finnegan, but at times it looked like a 3-year-old would've had more success. It just didn't look fair. 

    The safety play was also subpar, something to keep an eye on throughout the season. 

    Brent Grimes didn't have one of his better days, but I wouldn't worry too much about him.

    Grade: C

Special Teams

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    It's unfortunate that Miami lost its second kicker to injury against Dallas, who knew a kicking battle would be a battle of attrition. 

    The return game had some highs and lows. The highs included Damian Williams turning nothing into something on the final punt return of the game. 

    A low was Jarvis Landry attempting to return the ball from inside the Dolphins' own 10-yard line. 

    The kickoff coverage was even worse, as the Dolphins couldn't seem to stop Dallas' returns, especially in the first half.

    The Cowboys gained 148 yards in kickoff returns, which was only a little bit less than the yards they gained in the passing game. 

    If you're disgusted by the play of the special teams, no one would blame you. 

    Grade: D


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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The play-calling on Saturday was phenomenal. Give credit to Bill Lazor for his offensive game plan, which was the type you'd want to see in the third preseason game. 

    Give credit to the coaching staff for addressing the run game last week, as the improvement was seen. 

    This game would've looked better coached had it not been for the play of the secondary or Ryan Tannehill. 

    Actually, one coaching problem: What was Cortland Finnegan doing covering Dez Bryant? That won't end up well, and it didn't. 

    Other than that, I liked how the staff did. 

    Grade: B

Final Grades

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images
    Positional UnitOverall Grade
    Running BackA
    Wide Receiver/Tight EndB
    Offensive LineA+
    Defensive LineA-
    Special TeamsD
    Cumulative GradeB

    The good news is Miami didn't have as many problems against the Cowboys as it did in the first two preseason games, but Ryan Tannehill's play was too concerning for me to call this a great game. 

    The team did average out at B due to strong play in the trenches and from the running backs.