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…
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.
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.
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…
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