Miami Dolphins Report Card: Grading the First Quarter of the 2011 Season

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVOctober 3, 2011

Miami Dolphins Report Card: Grading the First Quarter of the 2011 Season

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    We're now a quarter of the way into the season and the Miami Dolphins are heading into their bye week. 

    Everything is now going according to plan, that is of course if the plan was to get Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano fired and finish the season winless so they can acquire Andrew Luck next year. 

    Miami is now at 0-4 following another game in which the final score didn't tell the story of how bad they were, a 26-16 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

    So, now that the Dolphins are 25 percent done with a schedule that their fans wish was 100 percent complete, and will be going into a bye week that will be followed by a Monday Night trip up to the Meadowlands where all of the world could see how bad this team is, let's take a look at their report card for the first quarter of their season. 

    Sadly for the Dolphins, I'm not grading on a curve.

Secondary: F (Original Grade, F-)

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    How is Nolan Carroll still employed by the Miami Dolphins?

    I wondered that again yesterday, as Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson got past Carroll to catch a touchdown pass early in the first quarter.

    Then I did a little bit of research and discovered that maybe there might be some nepotism involved.

    You see, Carroll is the son of Florida's Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, who is the first African-American woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor in the history of Florida and is partially responsible for Governor Rick Scott being elected last November.

    I'll keep my political views out of this since this is Bleacher Report and not the Huffington Post, but right now I'm sure there are plenty of Miami Dolphins fans who now detest Carroll even more. (If you live outside of Florida, all I'll say is that Governor Rick Scott's approval rating is about as high as Tony Sparano's right now. In fact, I'm sure that Governor Scott would kill for Sparano's current approval ratings.)

    So yes, nepotism is likely the reason why Carroll is still a member of the Dolphins.

    But he's not alone in the secondary's woes. When a team ranks 30th in passing yards allowed, he can't be the only reason.

    First of all, Vontae Davis hasn't played since Week 2 against Houston. Then you have Sean Smith, who's been exposed as still being too green and very overrated. 

    The safety position, other than Yeremiah Bell (who's looking pretty old but is still more productive than most of the unit), is a quagmire with Reshad Jones missing tackles so often that we're wishing that we'd resigned Gabril Wilson. 

    The Dolphins' secondary has only one interception this season—Jimmy Wilson's in Week 3.

    But the secondary isn't the only problem on this team, not by a long shot.

    It has only been consistently the worst. 

Offensive Line: F (Original Grade, D+)

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    Thus far the best player on the offensive line has been Mike Pouncey. 

    That's not a good thing. 

    Jake Long doesn't look 100 percent healthy right now, and while 60 percent of Long is still better than most of the Dolphins' offensive line, he can't carry this line on his own. 

    Long and Pouncey are the future of this team, two of only a few players on this team I'd consider "must keep," and with the way this season is going, why continue to risk further injury to Long when the season looks like it's sinking?

    I don't mind Pouncey playing because he's still young and needs to get up to speed with the NFL. More practice makes perfect, but Long is already one of the best left tackes in the game today (when he's at 100 percent).

    No need for the Dolphins to risk further injury to their cornerstone in a lost season. Having to carry the missed blocks of Richie Incognito, Marc Colombo and company when he's only at 60 percent just isn't sane or worth it. 

    Of course this current staff still probably thinks the Dolphins are a playoff team. They likely think after the bye week that the Dolphins will go 10-2 and finish the season in the playoffs.

    Not only is that very improbable, but that would drive the fans insane because it would mean having to put up with this current staff for likely another two years. 

    Long should sit for the remainder of the season. It feels like our A+ student has fallen in with the wrong crowd this year, and his grades are slipping as a result. 

Defensive Front Seven: C (Original Grade, C)

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    You want to talk about a player who has single-handedly brought up the grade of his unit? Meet Cameron Wake. 

    Last week, in one sentence of an article suggesting that Dolphins' wideout Brandon Marshall be traded along with Wake, many took that as me saying that "Cameron Wake sucks." 

    Far from it. Wake is a huge asset, and because he's in the final year of his contract, now is the time to make the deal.

    Again he proved that by taking up double teams and still managing to record a sack. Wake by himself gets an A, but everyone else on this unit is failing with flying colors.

    Those colors of failure of course are aqua and orange.

    This week, I don't think Wake should be traded.

    Whatever Wake asks for from Miami this offseason, just give it to him, and build a halfway decent front seven to go around him. He and Brandon Fields will be the only Dolphins making the trip to Hawaii this year, anyway.  

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: D+ (Originally B-)

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    How come every picture we see of Brandon Marshall is of him being tackled? 

    On Sunday, Marshall looked like he had checked out completely. I can't blame the guy. 

    He didn't come to Miami to be part of a sinking ship. He's becoming a bit of a distraction, but not in a vocal way, for by all accounts he's actually been very good in the locker room. The problem is that you can't tell when he's on the field. 

    Marshall is starting to look like Randy Moss during the Oakland years.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the unit has been neither bad nor good. 

    Davone Bess continues to have the dropsies, which is odd considering that Bess was known for not dropping passes. Brian Hartline is solid (that's all I can really say about that). 

    Clyde Gates is Ted Ginn Jr. minus the wasted first-round pick, meaning two years from now he'll be the best kickoff return man in the NFL for some other team.

    Then there's Charles Clay, who yesterday showed some flashes, but it was his first game so I can't really give him a fair grade. 

Running Backs: C- (Original Grade B-)

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    Reggie Bush produces more in his Pizza Hut commercials than he does on the field. 

    I'd also like to state that I'm boycotting Pizza Hut, obviously whomever came up with these ads was looking at a Fantasy Football Preview from 2006, because there's no way anyone brags about Reggie Bush as their fantasy pick in 2011. 

    But that's not Reggie's fault. He's not an everyday back, but was forced to become one on Sunday due to the injury to Daniel Thomas.

    Thomas right now would get an A from me, but he's already missed two games and is starting to look very hit-or-miss with his injuries. When he's in the game he's great, but he has to be in the game. 

    So I'll just give the unit a grade of C- for now, until DT comes back, whenever that is. 

    Maybe the bye week will do him some good. 

Quarterbacks: D (Original Grade: B for Chad Henne)

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    Now that we've seen Matt Moore in some regular season action, I must grade both quarterbacks. 

    Chad Henne has gotten worse as the season has progressed. He gave Dolphins fans so much promise against New England only to slowly but surely revert to his old ways. His performance was capped by an end-of-game interception against the Browns in Week 3.

    Then on Sunday he hurt his shoulder against San Diego. This is ironic of course because two years ago Henne played in his first NFL regular season game in San Diego after Chad Pennington hurt his shoulder.

    While Pennington's injury was severe, Henne's wasn't, and he'll likely start again next Monday night against the Jets. This allows me to remind everyone that Henne is 3-1 against the Jets. 

    Other than that, it's the same old stuff. I really thought the guy had changed, but alas, he did not.

    Then there's Moore. Moore is a fine backup and a fine band-aid, but I never thought for a second that he'd lead a team to the playoffs. 

    While his performance on Sunday was decent enough to keep Miami in a game they had no business winning, he's not really starting material. 

    The D grade is mainly for Henne's continued deterioration from the starting quarterback with promise whom I saw in the preseason and against New England back into the Chad Henne who made Dolphins fans long for Kyle Orton. 

Special Teams: C+

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    Brandon Fields has been Miami's MVP. 

    Fields has punted the ball 15 times and averaged 51.6 yards per punt, with seven of those punts landing inside the 20-yard line and none of them being touchbacks. 

    So why can't he have his own picture? Why is he almost anonymous?

    Oh yeah, that's right, he's a punter! Nobody cares about punters.

    Other than Fields, the rest of this Special Teams unit continues to be not so special.

    Carpenter got back on track on Sunday, but still isn't what he used to be, and the unit as a whole still can't defend kickoffs or punts.

    Fields has been so darn good that he brings this unit's grade up further than it should be.  

Tony Sparano: F (Original Grade: D-)

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    Well, Sparano is safe beyond the bye week at least, so odds are his last game will be Monday October 17th against the Jets in New Jersey (where, I should point out, Sparano has never lost a game).

    But I don't have any words to say about him being the Dolphins' head coach. I'll let you guys say it in the comment section.

    This isn't about me being lazy, it is more about me not wanting to be redundant.

    Besides, I'll just give you the link to this Facebook group, which now apparently has a petition.

    I have good news for the Dolphins' next week though: they won't lose!

    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 and follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia.