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First Quarter Report Card
By on October 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

With the Dolphins off this weekend, I figured today would be a good day to post my first quarter “grades” for the team. The Fins are currently 25% of the way through the regular season and, at 2-2, are chasing the 3-1 Patriots and Jets in the AFC East. The Fins are one of seven 2-2 teams in the conference and one of 13 in the league. With 12 regular season games to go, there is plenty of time for this season to be either made or broken, but as you’ll see, there are some areas of the game that need serious improvement, and others that are probably better than you realize. Keep reading to see my grades for the Dolphins’ offense, defense, and yes, special teams…

OFFENSE: C

While Chad Henne has had two of the biggest passing games of his career in the last two weeks, interceptions are plaguing the young QB and the offense’s overall inability to score points has been a major problem through the first four games of 2010. The Fins are averaging just 16.5 points per game, which is 26th best in the 32-team NFL. Henne is tied for 11th in the league in interceptions (4) and tied for 14th in touchdowns (4).

As for the running game, Ronnie Brown is tied for 21st in yards (226) and Ricky Williams is 29th (176), but if you combine those two guys (and let’s be fair, the Fins consider  them pretty much interchangeable), they have run for 402 yards, which would put them third in the NFL behind only Arian Foster of the Texans and the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall. That said, R&R have combined to rush into the endzone just once this season. The Bears are the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown, but the Fins are one of just five teams with only one.

Brandon Marshall, of course, has been a bright spot. His 340 receiving yards put him eighth in the NFL, but, and you’re noticing a trend here, he has scored only one touchdown so far.

Bottom line: The team is moving the ball alright, but not scoring a ton of points. I’m one of the people who is not at all worried about Chad Henne and I expect things to get better as the season goes on and more rhythm and chemistry are developed.

DEFENSE: B+

After allowing a total of 20 points in their first two games of the season, the Dolphins gave up 72 points to the Jets and Patriots the last two weeks. Of course, the defense did not allow all of those points, and in a couple of spots, they were put in situations that were nearly impossible to defend.

At the end of the day, points allowed is the most important defensive stat out there, and while the Fins are tied  for 23rd in the NFL by allowing 22 points per game so far this season, that number is exceptionally deceiving. With the way the stats are compiled, the defense is charged with giving up the points that the Pats scored on their kick return TD, their blocked field goal TD, and their interception return for a TD.

So the “92″ points allowed this season is not a true indication of how this unit has played. In fact, if you factor in the blocked punt that set the Pats up at the 15 and the Ricky Williams fumble that gave Minnesota the ball on the Miami one yard line, you could make the argument that the Fins defense should only be charged with somewhere between 57 and 63 points allowed (63 would be if the Vikes and Pats had to settle for FGs on those possessions, 57 if they wouldn’t have scored at all.) With my math, that means the Dolphins are now a top-10 defense in the NFL, but of course, my math is not reality.

As far as I’m concerned, though, the only “bad” game that the defense had was against the Jets and New York is showing that they are capable of putting up some really good numbers when they have the ball.

Finally, it would be wrong to discuss the “D” without mentioning CB Vontae Davis, who is very possibly developing into the next great corner in this organization’s rich history. He has been stellar so far.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F+

Let me just get this out of the way: the “plus” in “F+” is for Brandon Fields getting 10 of this 20 punts this season down inside the 20, a couple of which came at critical times.

Now then: two blocked punts (plus two more in the pre-season), a blocked field goal, a 103-yard kick return for a touchdown by the Patriots’ Brandon Tate, consistently poor coverage on both kicks and punts, and a mostly lifeless return game not only lead to a poor grade by me, but also the firing of Special Teams Coordinator John Bonamego.

This is obviously a troubled unit and hopefully with the extra time between Black Monday against the Patriots and the next game at Green Bay, new coordinator Darren Rizzi can get some of this stuff sorted out.

OVERALL: C+

Things are not great but they are not terrible. While the special teams grade pulls the average down, the offense is trending in a pretty positive direction, and as I’ve tried to demonstrate, the defense is better than the numbers say it is. Additionally, four games do not a season make and I don’t think any of us have seen anything that would make us think that the Fins can’t have a playoff-caliber season.

The next four games will be particularly challenging, as Miami must play three of their next four away from Sun Life Stadium. Of course, the team is 2-0 on the road so far this year, and still looking for their first home win.

That’s my take on these first four games. Now, it’s your turn…

What grade do you give the Dolphins for the first quarter of the season?

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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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waagtod says:

The offence is a solid C , play calling is spotty and sometimes the wildcat drags drives to a halt. No one believes ronnie will throw the ball so it tells the defence “run”. Also, Henne is still young if he has a game like last week, why don’t they put Pennington in for a couple of series to see if that fires him up. Defence is a B, they are awesome much of the time but they a too aggressive sometimes( a good fault to have, i guess). Special teams has been an F so far, seems like they don’t play together people don’t seem to know their assignments. That adds up to a D. This season can still be saved, we have good coaches who should be able to make adjustments. Who knows, maybe we can still make the wildcard?

guillermo_prc@yahoo.com says:

players need to stop making mistakes and start playing the game thats what they get paid for,and leaders have to address the problem and get them ready for the game it goes both ways leaders and players. so i guess that by the loss to new england they get the message that is time to get serious and get the ball rolling this team has the potential to get into the playoffs go dolphins (fan from 72 undefeated season)

finzfan0863 says:

Agree with John on Henne’s “passing tendencies”….. 2 words Chad…. pump fake! Just once in a while.. keep the d-line (and d-backs) guessing and let your receivers get a little extra separation by pump faking! The d-line waits for Chad to cock the arm… then they know it’s coming next, get their hands up, then it’s ball batted down or up in the air for a pick 6.

cochy13 says:

The Dolphins are a solid C. Nothing spectacular. What I don’t understand is in a town that so quick to criticize and want people fired, no one is asking the real culprit for this mediocrity to step aside. Bill Parcell’s and his corny Jeff Ireland are what’s wrong with this team. Yes, they brought in Carlos Dansby and B. Marshall. But they also drafted Pat White, Patrick Turner and signed Gibril Wilson, Jake Grove, Justin Smiley, Ernest Wilfork. If two of moves would have resulted in players, maybe we wouldn’t have to constantly change the back half of the roster in order to find starters and special team’s players. Chad Henne will be fine. What hurting him and the running game is the fact that our starting right guard is a throw away journeyman, our center is a undrafted free agent and our starting right guard is a guy we picked up of waivers 4 days before the season started. That’s Parcell and his crony. Maybe, if we didn’t prematurely place Will Allen on IR, Jason Allen could still be a special teams ace instead of a defensive starter. There have been so many questionable moves this season, and the stinken Tuna and his buddy the smelling guppy remain unquestioned

guillermo_prc@yahoo.com says:

1)dolphins offence cant score more points very low average2)defence to be more consistent stopping the opponent from scoring points and pressure to the querterback3)special team needs to stop the run back kick off and get the ball kicked before is blocked also more yardage run on return kick off my rate for the dolphins is a (D) they can be better than that.

John says:

Twice in last Monday’s game Henne threw into double or triple coverage when Marshall was WIDE open down the middle, also pre-snap he frequently looks only to the side he is throwing to, he hardly EVER looks at the away side of the play. If this guy wants to be a game changer he needs to fix these things and quick!

Another is looking off the receiver, which he hardly ever does, at the snap he locks onto his target and the defenses are all moving in that direction, it’s a wonder he has completed as many passes as he has. He needs to look the field over more, if he does, he’ll find that there are guys open on just about every play that the ball never gets near to them.

As for special teams, from what I have seen at practice this year and last during August they spend 5 minutes at most, they do not work on coverage assignments, they don’t work on blocking assignments, they rarely do any live contact drills like on field goals or punts, I never saw them even do a walk-through on kickoffs either covering or returning them, and obviously it shows. Fact is it was not coach Bonamego that was the problem with ST’s, it was the fact he wasn’t allowed any time during to practice to go over the things you’re supposed to cover during ST practice.

DolfanInWI says:

As already mentioned, our 2 wins have come against a horrible Buffalo team and a struggling Minnesota, but we are not an F grade. An F team still would have lost those games. This team gets a D thus far.

When you look at the expectations of this year and combine that with 2 huge divisional primetime losses, 1 win over maybe the worst team in football, and 1 win over a WR depleted, underachieving Vikings team… Sorry, but I can’t give them any better than a F.

Rodney says:

2-2 has C written all over it. But following the “report card” analogy, I would say that are severe UNDERACHIEVERS! They have the potential to be honor roll!