Miami Dolphins Report Card: Grading Each Position After the First 2 Weeks

Thomas GaliciaContributor IISeptember 20, 2011

Miami Dolphins Report Card: Grading Each Position After the First 2 Weeks

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    There's no joy in Miami this week as the Dolphins have started 0-2. 

    To some this was expected, others are somewhat baffled. 

    But shocked isn't one of the feelings to describe the team right now.

    Well, now's as good a time as any to take a look at the team's first two games against New England and Houston and grade each position, including the coaching staff. 

    I'll do this every two weeks from here on out, better to chart this Miami Dolphins roller coaster ride, and possibly take a look at whether the roller coaster will go climbing up, or continue its free fall. 

    So strap yourself in tight, let's take a look at where we've been, and where we're going!

Secondary: F-

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    All Miami had to do was cut Nolan Carroll and keep Will Allen. Sounds simple considering that Will Allen played in only half the preseason and yet managed to look twice as good as Carroll did. 

    But instead, Allen gets cut, Carroll keeps his job. 

    But Carroll isn't alone. Reshad Jones has been a disappointment as well. It was very telling that the touchdown that put the game away for Houston was a result of blown coverage between Carroll and Jones. 

    I'll say it: Will Allen and Chris Clemons (who was out with a hamstring injury) make that play, break up the pass, which was on 2nd-and-6. Miami possibly gets the ball back down by only three with a little more than 10 minutes to go. 

    Then there's the fact that Vontae Davis has caught the injury bug. 

    First there were the cramps against New England. Now there's his lingering hamstring issue which has him listed as questionable this Sunday against Cleveland. 

    It won't get any better for them as the injuries add up. 

    Here's a good idea, why not give Jimmy Wilson a try instead of Carroll?

    We now know what we have with Nolan Carroll, and its not good, so why not see what we have in Jimmy Wilson, who we know is a big hitter?

Offensive Line: D+

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    This offensive line has gotten so bad that we're at the point where even Jake Long gets beat. 

    This isn't so much Long's fault as it is the rest of the line.

    When you know you don't have to worry about the right side; that Marc Colombo gets passed through more than a New York City Subway turnstile; that Vernon Carey is out of position; you can afford to only have one lineman and one linebacker go right, since they'll get through, then send the rest of your front seven towards the left side. 

    You might look at the rushing yards and think "well, they weren't so bad on Sunday" but then you remember that the Texans were prepared for the passing game, and not prepared for Daniel Thomas, who was making his NFL debut (I'll get to him later). 

    But look at the pass-blocking. It's cover your eyes bad. 

    Against Houston, Henne was sacked twice and knocked down seven times. Against the Patriots, Henne was sacked four times and knocked down 11 times. 

    Six sacks and 18 knockdowns of the quarterback in two games is absolutely unacceptable. It could've (and probably should've) been a lot worse than that. 

    This is one area in need of major work. Not what you would expect when its the head coach's specialty. 

    This always seems to happen to the Dolphins in the last seven years.

    Saban's strength was the secondary. Yet the secondary was bad when he was in Miami.

    Cam Cameron was supposed to be an offensive guru, yet in his one year in Miami we saw a bad offense which lead to a 1-15 season.

    Now we have Sparano, an offensive line guru, with a terrible offensive line.

    The Miami Dolphins: Irony's favorite football team.

Defensive Front Seven: C

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    This unit bounced back nicely after a terrible game against New England where they were dressed down completely by the Pats offensive line. 

    For the New England game I'd give them an F since Brady had enough time in the pocket to check the wind's speed, its direction and the time of day before firing it off to his tight ends.

    But against Houston they stepped it up. Matt Schaub was harassed all day, getting knocked down eight times and sacked three other times. On top of that the Dolphins recorded seven tackles for a loss. 

    They couldn't make up for the porous secondary, but the Dolphins front seven managed to do their part.

    The only problem I saw was containing Ben Tate, but that's going to be a problem for other teams down the line this season. I'd give them an A for their effort against Houston. 

    Overall its a C, and they'll only get better as they continue to grow as a unit. 

    If only the secondary could hold up their end. 

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B-

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    Now we get to the parts of the team that have been decent for Miami (think of it as a sandwich, we just got past the stale bread, now we're onto the decent cold cuts; not Boar's Head, but not bad either). 

    Miami's receivers have been good. Not great, not very good, but better than decent. 

    The communication between Henne and his receivers has been good, the only gripe being where it counts: in the red zone. 

    That's been the offense's main deficiency. Much of this falls on the receivers. 

    In the fourth quarter against Houston, Henne made a nice throw to Marshall in the red zone that should've gone for a touchdown, but Marshall wound up dropping it.

    The same thing happened the week before against New England. Again Miami was facing a third-and-goal in the red zone, Henne went to Marshall, and Marshall couldn't hold on.

    Its almost as if the two work great in between the two 20 yard lines, but once they get into the red zone, it becomes 2010 all over again.

    This should improve as the year goes on. Right now as it stands Miami is ranked ninth in the league in passing yardage despite a porous offensive line.

    While I'm not too confident about the line, I'm confident in Marshall, Bess and Hartline, and I'm even somewhat confident in Clyde Gates and Anthony Fasano.

    Speaking of Fasano, where was he against Houston?  

Running Backs: B-

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    On only 18 carries, Daniel Thomas had 107 yards. 

    Do the math, average it out, that's 5.9 yards per carry. 

    His longest run was for 14 yards, which only makes those numbers and that average really pop out. Take out that 14 yard run and he still managed to get 93 yards on 17 carries. 

    That's still 5.5 yards per carry. 

    Now before you start asking why he only had 18 carries—no wait, ask away: why the hell did Thomas only get 18 carries?

    He definitely earned his A+ for the game. Right now as we speak, fantasy owners have either already put in their claim on Thomas, or are still contemplating it (if you're still contemplating it, don't bother, someone else snapped him up, I can guarantee you that). 

    As for Reggie Bush, so far he's been what we thought he was: in two games he's had 17 carries for 56 yards, an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Most of it came when they tried to use him as an every down back.

    But just because Daniel Thomas is and should be the every down back doesn't mean Bush should spend most of his time on the bench.

    Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would do the Dolphins a favor if he looked at some tape from the Saints since 2006 and from USC during Bush's tenure there and see that opposing teams were afraid to have Reggie on the field at the same time as LenDale White/Deuce McAllister. 

    And Daniel Thomas so far looks like he's better than both. Yet how many plays were Reggie and Thomas on the field at the same time? 

    I probably blinked and missed them, but it didn't seem to be often.

    That's one weapon Miami has that they're going to have to exploit on offense going forward.

    Reggie should be used as a change of pace back and as a receiver coming out of the backfield. 

    I'd even line him up at receiver if I have to. Quick slants and screen passes could turn into magic when the ball is in Reggie's hands. 

Chad Henne: B

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    Twas a tale of two games for the embattled starting Miami quarterback. 

    The New England game saw a confident passer not afraid to take risks throwing for 416 yards and two touchdowns. 

    The Houston game saw a more rattled Henne, similar to 2010 but with a better arm. 

    Henne and the Dolphins offense is going to revert to the mean of these two games: not as good as they were against New England, but not as mediocre as he looked against Houston. 

    As of right now Henne is 42-of-79 with 586 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

    It should be mentioned that one of those interceptions was at the end of the New England game when it wouldn't have made a difference, and the other was tipped due to poor offensive line play. 

    Oh, then there's his running: on 10 rushing attempts Henne has 85 yards and a touchdown.

    During their third quarter drive against Houston where they settled for a field goal, Henne had nothing but green in front of him. Next time that happens, he should feel free to just run right in. 

    My confidence in him is still good, and for right now he's at a solid B. He's the least of the Dolphins' concerns at this point. I'm not too concerned for my safety aboard the HenneCoaster for now. 

Special Teams: D+

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    Right now we have a Pro-Bowl kicker and Pro-Bowl punter being held back by a toilet bowl special teams coverage unit. 

    Carpenter is one of the main beneficiaries of the new kickoff rule, or at least he was until teams discovered that making the Dolphins kickoff coverage unit miss is about as hard as finding a dirtbag at a South Beach nightclub. Now its about a wash. 

    Meanwhile every Brandon Fields punt travels 50+yards, but when the punt returner can return it for 30 yards, what's the point? 

    Special teams more so than any other unit comes down to coaching.

    Other than kickers, punters and return men, the only memorable special teams specialists I could think of are Larry Izzo and Steve Tasker. Other than that, the coverage teams on every team are the same in regards to talent and ability.

    That's why coaching and instilling discipline is the most important part of the little-appreciated third facet of the game, which is never third most important. 

    So for these failures, not just on special teams but on the entire team, sadly I have to go with...

Tony Sparano: D-

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    Coach Sparano, this one's on you. 

    But to tell you the truth, I don't have to tell you. Coach explains it well with this nugget:

    "It’s baffling to me. It really is. I don’t have any answers for it. We’ve got to do a better job."

    Really Coach Sparano? Really? Is it really that baffling to you? You're the last one still confused by it. Here's what one of your veteran leaders have to say about this:

    We have to start practicing like it’s the game. We have to do that because so far, we’ve been playing a lot like we practice. We definitely have because some of the things that have been happening in practice have been happening in the game. And they’re not good things, and they continue to show up in the game.

    That was Yeremiah Bell. Now here's the shocking thing: Daniel Thomas, a rookie who played in his first regular season NFL game concurred with Bell on that when asked about it:

    “I definitely agree with that, we have a lot of mental mistakes in practice, and sometimes it carries on into the game.”

    Now as far as bad practices go, who do you blame for that? Yes some of it falls on the players, which is what Jason Taylor basically said behind closed doors after Sunday's game, as well as when he said that some of the players were "Losing Confidence."

    But that all starts with the coaches.

    Nolan's defense has been atrocious but we know he's a good coach and will get an improvement from that unit.

    Daboll's offense still has some kinks to work out but thus far has been relatively solid, and since we now know what we can get from Daniel Thomas, we should have some balance against Cleveland.

    But at the top? Its not looking too good for Tony Sparano.

    If the Dolphins are still winless after their road trip (@Cleveland, @San Diego, bye week, @New York Jets), then expect Tony Sparano to be cleaning his office out on October 18th.

    Possibly even earlier.

     

    Thomas Galicia is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist who also writes about music, movies, the Miami Heat whenever this stupid lockout ends (and he's praying its soon), the Chicago Cubs, and the WWE. He also knows that most of you will disagree with him on this subject. That's what the comments are for, tell him he's wrong, or if you agree with him, tell him he's right. Then visit www.thomasgalicia.com and follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia.