Karlos Dansby is on his way to his most productive season in Miami. He’s on track for 120 tackles and has been around the football more than in the past. Kevin Burnett similarly has played well against the run and often wins in coverage against running backs. Koa Misi, miscast as a 3-4 outside linebacker, is finding a home as a 4-3 OLB more responsible for setting the edge of the run defense. He also has been effective with the occasional surprise blitz. None has made a game-deciding play. All have played, well, solid. Grade: C-plus.
Richard Marshall’s first season with Miami was a complete bust. He struggled in the four games he played and then missed four games before going on injured reserve — remember that durability is a crucial factor in judging players. Sean Smith was excellent in shutting down A.J. Green and Larry Fitzgerald, but had a particularly bad game in Indianapolis. Nolan Carroll has improved compared to the past couple of seasons and is actually playing better than Marshall did. Jimmy Wilson, a late-round pick last year, started the season as a safety but depth issues have forced him to play as the nickel. He has struggled. Reshad Jones has been solid and has delivered a couple of turnovers, which is what the Dolphins have expected the past couple of seasons. Chris Clemons also has been around the ball more than in the past but he is something of a liability in coverage. His angles to receivers or ball-carriers are sometimes curious. Grade: C-plus.
Dan Carpenter had a very shaky time in late September and it could be argued he cost the Dolphins games against the New York Jets and Arizona. But he has recovered nicely, connecting on six consecutive attempts. The rest of the special-teams play has been stellar. Vernon has a couple of blocked field goals and has a recovered punt for a touchdown. Wilson blocked a punt. Marcus Thigpen started his NFL career with a 72-yard punt-return touchdown. They have tried and successfully executed an onside kick. Oh, and Brandon Fields is among the best punters in the NFL. Grade: A-minus.
Philbin is never too high or too low. He didn’t panic through a winless preseason. He didn’t celebrate during a three-game win streak. And his team has adopted his personality, which is a sign players are following their coach. The Dolphins have put together a solid, veteran staff that has players such as Hartline, Jerry, and Carroll playing better than in the past whereas rookies Tannehill, Martin and Vernon have contributed to one degree or another. There have been some questions about late-game play calling on offense, but overall, this coaching staff puts a team on the field that is prepared and disciplined. Grade: B-plus.