Armando Salguero

PFF grades for Week 15; PLUS the backstory of how Matt Moore returned to the Dolphins after initially being discarded

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore throws the ball in the first quarter as they play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dec. 17, 2016.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore throws the ball in the first quarter as they play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dec. 17, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

This past offseason the Miami Dolphins were searching for a backup quarterback and Matt Moore was searching for a new team.

The Dolphins had a new coaching staff and they wanted to look around for an upgrade at backup quarterback so they told Moore to feel free and look for work elsewhere because they were also going to be looking around.

And that’s what happened at first.

Moore visited the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins brought journeyman Brandon Weeden in for a free agent visit. Moore also scheduled a visit with the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins were also on the verge of scheduling other visits.

And then Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and quarterback coach Bo Hardegree went to head coach Adam Gase and made the case for Moore. They told Gase that Moore is a winner -- an actual fact given his winning won-loss record in career starts, and that Moore had a history of working well with starter Ryan Tannehill.

And so Gase gave the go-ahead and the Dolphins scheduled a free agent visit with Moore.

That’s right, after five seasons with the team, Matt Moore visited the complex he’d worked at most of his career, to get acquainted with all the new people running the team.

It wasn’t long into that visit that both Gase and Moore figured out this would be a good fit.

That’s how Matt Moore returned to the Miami Dolphins last offseason when it seemed for a while he’d be elsewhere. Lucky for all parties involved.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore talks with the media about being nervous on his first start to replace injured Ryan Tannehill Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. Moore had a career-high four touchdown passes to lead the Dolphins to a 34-13 victory over

Moore is now the team’s starting quarterback as Tannehill is dealing with a partially torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Tannehill is hopeful he can return to the team at some point if the Dolphins make the playoffs, but the more likely scenario is that Moore remains Miami’s starter the rest of this season and the postseason, if the Dolphins qualify.

And the new quarterback’s first outing Saturday night against the New York Jets was a resounding success if you watched the game and studied the tape afterward.

Our colleagues at ProFootballFocus.com watched the tape and this is their take on Moore and the rest of the Dolphins, following the 34-13 victory:

Moore was blitzed on 14 of 19 drop backs. All four of his touchdowns came on plays where Moore was being blitzed. Although his touchdowns throws went up, his completion percentage fell from 75 percent when not blitzed to 64.3 percent when blitzed.

So this makes sense. The risk is higher for everyone on the blitz but so is the reward.

The Dolphins offensive line as a whole was solid on Saturday against the Jets defensive line, ranking fifth in the league in least pressures allowed. They also gave up zero sacks and zero QB hits.(The one Jets sack was not on the offensive line).

(Salguero: I’m told the experiment of moving Kraig Urbik into the starting lineup was a success. It seems the Dolphins were not happy with the calls coming from the center spot under Anthony Steen the past few weeks. Everyone showed patience for a while because Steen is playing center for the first time, but after an especially bad outing against Arizona, coaches decided on the more experienced Urbik as the starter. And there was improvement. So I would expect Urbik to continue being Miami’s starting center.)

Dolphin receivers did well adjusting Moore. Moore's average time to throw the ball was 2.51 seconds compared to Tannehill's season average of 2.62 seconds. This is important. Moore did not hold the ball despite trying to get throws down the field.

Receiver Jarvis Landry currently ranks third in yards per route run with 2.33. Landry helped add to that average with a 6.0 YPRR on Saturday and 81 yards after the catch.

Although running back Jay Ajayi leads all NFL running backs with 50 missed tackles, he struggled on Saturday, with just two. Ajayi more than tripled the rushing attempts of the next highest Dolphin (Kenyan Drake who had five attempts 5) and still did not have the highest missed tackle total.

On defense ...

Cameron Wake had a great game with a sack-fumble and an interception. But he was not the highest-graded player on the Miami defense. That distinction goes to cornerback Xavien Howard who posted an 84.6 grade, to barely edge out Tony Lippett, the cornerback on the other side of the field. Lippett had two interceptions and a grade of 83.4.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake talks to the media about his first interception of his career that came Saturday night, Dec. 17, 2017, in the Dolphins 34-13 defeat of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Brandon Marshall, the Jets’ most accomplished receiver, was targeted 11 times and finished with one reception for 16 yards.

Phffffft.

The amazing thing about Howard’s grade and performance? He had not played for more than two months while he recovered from his second knee surgery of the year.

But it wasn’t about Howard alone. Five different Dolphins were in coverage when Marshall was targeted. Five of these targets came against Howard and he didn’t give up a catch.

Obviously, the ankle injury to Byron Maxwell is an issue. He has had an MRI and is likely to miss practice time this week. His status for Saturday’s game at Buffalo is uncertain at best after he played only eight snaps against New York.

Ndamukong Suh, normally solid against the run, didn’t perform up to standards Saturday. He currently ranks ninth among all defensive tackles in stop percentage. (Stop percentage is the PFF percent of stops a player makes on run defense snaps).

Suh’s run stop percentage this season is 9.7. But although Suh played 18 run defense snaps against the Jets, he acquired just one stop, giving him a stop percentage of 5.6 on Saturday.

Dolphins inside linebacker, Kiko Alonso has given up the second most yards after the catch all year among all inside linebackers. Although Alonso has played the seventh most snaps in coverage, he did not help his total on Saturday giving up 47 yards after catch while in coverage. Alonso, it must be said, is playing with an injured hamstring.

Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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