Grading the Miami Dolphins vs. the Atlanta Falcons

 

asalguero@MiamiHerald.com

Quarterback

B+ Yes, Ryan Tannehill sometimes holds the football too long. He doesn’t exactly get it out in Marino-esque fashion. And that along with poor blocking is the reason Tannehill got sacked five times Sunday and has been sacked 14 times in three games. But when he has time, as he did during the game-winning drive Sunday, Tannehill is showing himself a playmaker. He has no issues throwing to everyone. He rarely throws into double coverage. And perhaps his finest pass — to running back Lamar Miller on a wheel route out of the backfield — fell incomplete because Miller dropped it. The throw showed great touch and accuracy.

Running backs

B Neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas had a good day protecting the passer. Both were good enough, however, running the ball. Miller broke a 49-yard run and Thomas ran harder than most fans have seen him run before in gaining 21 yards on five carries. It would have been nicer, however, if Miller had taken that 49-yarder to the house.

Receivers/tight ends

A Dion Sims’ one-handed catch in the end zone covered 1 yard and a multitude of problems for the Dolphins. It gave the team a win and showed the team can spread the ball around in a victory. Nine Miami receivers caught passes and while none totaled more than 56 yards (Brian Hartline) it was about attacking the Atlanta secondary in waves. Rishard Matthews was notably impressive, catching four passes for the best day of his two-year career. Charles Clay dropped one pass and failed to make a great catch on another opportunity.

Offensive line

C- Richie Incognito pointed out that protection of Tannehill is also the responsibilities of multiple players who aren’t offensive lineman. True. Thomas and Sims gave up sacks. But the other three were on the offensive line, including one in which Incognito and left tackle Jonathan Martin failed to pick up a stunt, blocking the same guy while another got at Tannehill untouched. The run blocking was better than it has been in the first two weeks. Improvement!

Defensive line

C The Dolphins’ best run stopper was out, and the team clearly missed Paul Soliai. The Falcons rushed for 149 yards. Randy Starks played very well in his first start of the season, collecting four tackles including a tackle for loss. The Dolphins showed very little pressure with Cameron Wake out of the game. Dion Jordan did have a significant stop on a third-down running play that forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal instead of a having a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

Linebackers

C+ Phillip Wheeler and Koa Misi left the game at various times with injuries but returned. Dannell Ellerbe led the team with 10 tackles and had a quarterback hurry. The linebackers struggled with tight end Tony Gonzalez on the first drive of the game but clamped down and got help after that.

Secondary

C+ Nolan Carroll got his second start of the season and got picked on a little bit. Brent Grimes took care of his side very well and Reshad Jones was excellent in deep coverage and as a hitter. The hero was Jimmy Wilson, who came up with a game-clinching interception.

Special teams

A- Don Jones forced a fumble on a punt return, and long snapper John Denney stole the recovery from an Atlanta player who had the ball in his grasp. Caleb Sturgis continues to be a great weapon as he connected from 46 and 50 yards. Brandon Fields net punting average was 51.7. That’s net. Excellent. The return game is in a funk.

Coaching

A Nothing to complain about here. The Miami staff once again milked more out of their players in the second half than the opposing coaches milked out of their players. That was the difference.

Overall

A A comeback win at home against a team that lost only three games last season? Excellent.

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