Armando Salguero

Pro Football Focus, Armando Salguero grade the Dolphins’ Week 1 performance

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, here picking up one of his hurries of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, had an outstanding debut to the 2017 regular-season.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, here picking up one of his hurries of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, had an outstanding debut to the 2017 regular-season. AP

For several years now, I’ve joined with ProFootballFocus.com to provide you with their grades (along with my insights and opinions) on the previous week’s game a couple of days after that game is played. This year the partnership continues.

Expect PFF’s grades here every week.

This week, we see accolades for Jay Cutler and Jay Ajayi — the Two Jays in the Miami Dolphins backfield — along with Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and others. We also see Xavien Howard and Mike Hull didn’t fare so well in coverage and Laremy Tunsil had an inconsistent day as a left on Sunday.

Here are PFF’s grades:

OFFENSE

Quarterback Jay Cutler emerged victorious in his first start with the Miami Dolphins, earning an overall grade of 80.3. That was the fifth-highest of all QBs in Week 2, prior to the Monday Night game.

When facing no pressure, Cutler completed 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, for an NFL QB rating of 115.1.

In 11 dropbacks under pressure, Cutler was 4-of-9 for 31 yards and had a rating of 53.5 while also taking two sacks. The Chargers, who trust ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to create pressure on their own, blitzed Cutler only three of the 35 dropbacks he had all afternoon.

(Pretty obvious the best way to help Cutler be successful is protect him and throw a lot of short passes. The Dolphins did both to a degree on Sunday. He’s off to a very good start and that leads me to this column about Cutler’s future in Miami and how this season will determine what direction that will take.)

One year after finishing second in the league with 900 yards after contact, running back Jay Ajayi racked up 82 of his 122 total yards on the day after contact, the most for any back in Week 2.

Miami Dolphins QB Jay Cutler talks about missing football while he was retired, his ex-teammate Alshon Jeffery and more.

Ajayi’s eight forced missed tackles also led all backs -- a category he led the league in with 58 in 2016. He was on the field for 64 of a possible 68 snaps, suggesting all the talk of him being a three-down player in the offseason manifested in him actually playing all three downs in the opener.

(Ajayi carried the football 28 times. He caught two passes. He played 64 of 68 snaps. That is not sustainable for an entire season. I don’t know if the Dolphins are not happy with Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake as change-of-pace or third-down backs but there is no way Ajayi can play 94 percent of the offensive snaps this season like he did Sunday.)

Despite some concern earlier in the week with a knee injury that landed Jarvis Landry on the injured list on Friday, the wide receiver was a target monster in his first game with Cutler behind center. His 15 targets was the second-most for Week 2 and his 13 receptions led the league for the week.

Of Landry’s 78 receiving yards, 62 yards came after the catch. That was the most for any WR on the week. Landry led the league with 630 yards after the catch in 2016.

The Dolphins this season have transitioned to Laremy Tunsil as their starting left tackle. He succeeds Branden Albert who did a good job when he was healthy the past few years. Tunsil did a good job paving the way for Ajayi on run plays, earning a run-blocking grade of 80.5.

Tunsil’s pass-blocking was a different story. He struggled in pass protection all afternoon, allowing three QB hurries, both of Miami’s sacks and a hit in 33 pass-blocking snaps. Tunsil’s overall grade of 45.7 ranked 44th of all tackles in Week 2.

Tight end Julius Thomas started the game and played 65 of a possible 68 snaps, while run-blocking specialist Anthony Fasano played just 16 snaps. Thomas grabbed all three targets that came his way for 26 yards while Fasano was not targeted on the afternoon.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins running back, talks about his experience in 'concussion protocol'.

DEFENSE

DT Ndamukong Suh was the highest-graded player in the game, earning a grade of 89.7 overall grade. That ranked fourth among all interior defensive linemen for Week 2. He was his usual dominant self in run defense, earning a grade of 90.2, while his pass-rushing grade of 81.8 was highlighted by four hurries on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

DE Cameron Wake had a relatively quiet afternoon by his standards, recording two QB hurries while playing just 33 snaps — 25 of which were passing plays. Wake finished the 2016 season with 43 QB hurries, good for sixth-best of all 4-3 DEs.

(So here we go again? Cameron Wake was a part-time player at the start of last year. And after it was proven the team needs him in the game more, the Dolphins decided to use him more. And now he’s a part-time player again to start this season? This requires monitoring over the long-term. If this continues all season, the Dolphins will have effectively forgotten what they learned last season. If, however, this is meant to keep Wake fresh early in the season for a playoff push later then it’s understandable.)

CB Xavien Howard was targeted a league-high 13 times in Week 2 and allowed 10 receptions for 87 yards on the afternoon, which is also a league-high. His overall grade of 46.8 ranked 62nd of all CBs in Week 2.

(Howard had an excellent training camp and preseason. The Dolphins expect him to be among the best press-man cornerbacks in the NFL this season. The thing is, the Dolphins didn’t play a lot of press-man on Sunday. There was a lot of zoney stuff back there.)

LB Chase Allen drew the start because Lawrence Timmons went AWOL Saturday. He played only 14 snaps because the Chargers didn’t show their base offense very often but rather were in three-wide receiver sets much of the afternoon, requiring the Dolphins to respond with their nickel.

Despite this, Allen had the third-highest grade for any Dolphins player in Week 2 at 81.3 within the snaps he did play. Allen had two stops in run defense.

Mike Hull was the player most affected by Timmons’s defection. If Timmons were present, he would have played the 14 or so snaps Allen played. But with Timmons out, Hull had to stay on the field in nickel situations. So he played 58 snaps and was picked apart by Philip Rivers all day in coverage.

Hull allowed all nine targets against him to be caught for 95 yards. The targets, receptions and yards allowed were all the most for any LB in coverage for Week 2.

(REALITY MOMENT HERE: The Chargers are a bad team. They’ve been in last place in the AFC West for 20 consecutive regular-season weeks. There are reasons for that and coaching is one of them. The fact the Chargers saw a weakness in the Dolphins defense -- which is Hull in coverage -- glowing in neon and only went after him nine times is poor tactics. When the Dolphins play a good team that is properly coached and strategic in its approach, they will wear out Hull. That is a fact. They will target him twice as many times as Los Angeles did and gain twice as many yards unless Hull suddenly becomes great in coverage. This is why next-man-up doesn’t work here. The Dolphins should consider using a cornerback or safety as one of their “nickel linebackers.”)

Defensive lineman William Hayes earned a grade of 82.6, which ranked sixth for all edge defenders in Week 2. He played just 25 snaps on the afternoon, but was able to record three QB hurries and a Miami’s lone sack in 17 pass rushing snaps.

(The more I see Hayes play and the more I hear about his effect within the locker room, the more I appreciate this offseason addition. Excellent so far.)

First-round rookie Charles Harris played 27 snaps, with 22 of those leading to pass rushes. He recorded one QB hurry in his first game as a pro.

(Well, this is a start. The Dolphins are using Harris as a three-technique on many pass-rush downs and then stunt him outside to mess up the blocking scheme. He obviously did not get home in this game. This is not a terrible start -- one tackle and one QB hurry. But it is also not enough. The first-round pick must do more.)

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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