The Dolphins lost on Sunday, The Miami Herald has learned. And in losing, the Dolphins had some good performances and some really bad performances, ProFootballFocus.com has learned.
PFF’s grades from Miami’s 20-0 loss to New Orleans are below.
My commentary is in (parenthesis).
After a promising start to the season, QB Jay Cutler had his second straight unspectacular game, grading out as the 25th-ranked QB with a grade of 50.5 for Week 4.
His overall grade of 68.3 ranks 25th among QBs for the season. Cutler was 12-of-15 for 103 yards and an NFL QB Rating of 95.3 when not blitzed. But he was 8-of-13 for 61 yards and an interception for a rating of 40.9 when blitzed by the Saints.
(I must say this about the blitzed stats and rating: It includes the interception which completely skews the statistic. But that interception was truly as much on tight end Julius Thomas as Cutler. Thomas is 6-foot-5 and he was matched up against a cornerback four inches shorter. And Thomas did not get open, did not win the fight for the ball, and couldn’t even knock the first-down pass down for an incompletion, which would have given the Dolphins two more chances at the end zone and a short attempt at a field goal after that. So I understand Cutler threw the interception. But I know where the Dolphins are blaming the miscue. Now, the fumble? That’s on Cutler. Cannot lose the football).
Cutler only attempted one deep (20+ yards downfield) pass of his 28 attempts and 22 of the 28 came within nine yards of the line of scrimmage.
(Yeah, the Dolphins are trying to run an offense that gets rid of the ball quickly. And, yes, that is a sign the Dolphins don’t have a ton of trust in the offensive line right now.)
After carrying the ball 28 times in the season opener against the Chargers, running back Jay Ajayi has a combined 23 in the last two games. For the second straight Week, Ajayi did the majority of his damage after contact, as 44 of his 46 yards on the ground against the Saints came after initial contact.
Of Ajayi's 184 total yards, 148 have come after contact this year, as he has found himself being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage often in 2017. Despite playing just three games, Ajayi is tied for 4th among all running backs with 14 forced missed tackles on the season.
(Once again, Ajayi’s work points a finger at an offensive line that is not doing its job as a unit).
DeVante Parker was tied for the highest graded player on the team with a grade of 81.4, good for fourth-best of all wide receivers in Week 4. He was targeted a team-high 8 times against the Saints, grabbing six receptions for 69 yards. For the season, Cutler's NFL QB Rating when targeting Parker is 105.5, while Kenny Stills (90.6) and Jarvis Landry (73.5) are a distant second and third.
Right tackle Ja'Wuan James, good the first two weeks, came back to Earth against the Saints. He was the Dolphins’ highest-graded offensive player in the first two games but he fell of the table this week. His grade of 49.6 ranked 50th of all tackles in the league for the week as he struggled in both pass-blocking (53.1) and run-blocking (42.0).
After allowing just one QB hurry in the first two weeks combined, James allowed four and his first sack of the season against the Saints. His grade for the season now stands at 78.1, which is 15th-best for all tackles in the league.
LT Laremy Tunsil was one of the worst tackles through three weeks, but had a very good game against the Saints, as he was tied for the highest-graded player on the team at 81.4. Tunsil was strong in both run-blocking (83.3) and pass-blocking (80.7).
Tunsil allowed just one QB hurry after allowing five hurries, two hits and two sacks through the first two weeks. His grade for the season now stands at 63.6, which makes him the 38th-ranked tackle in the league.
(Bad ranking, but arrow pointing up.)
Safety Reshad Jones was the highest-graded player on the defense (81.2), particularly in run defense, where he was at 89.0 for the game.
(Jones and Ndamukong Suh have been Miami’s most consistently good defensive players so far this season.)
For the season, Jones ranks 5th out of 74 qualifying safeties with a 86.4 run defense grade.
Fellow safety Nate Allen had another poor game, coming in with a 59.0 grade. Allen ranks 69th among all safeties with a 36.2 overall grade.
This is noteworthy because Allen is actually playing a higher percentage of his run-defense snaps, 49.2 percent, within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage while Jones is playing 47.1 percent in the tackle box.
LB Lawrence Timmons played all 74 snaps making his season debut against the Saints and his overall grade of 80.7. That ranked him 13th of all linebackers for Week 4. Timmons led the team with four stops and recorded two QB hurries while allowing just 2 of 5 targets thrown his way in coverage to be caught for a total of 19 yards.
Timmons’s return to the team did not impact Kiko Alonso. Alonso also played all 74 snaps but it put a dent in the playing time of Mike Hull who had only 25 snaps and Chase Allen who had 3 snaps.
(This is the way it’ll likely play out as long as Timmons and Alonso are healthy. They’ll play practically all the snaps, including in nickel. The MIKE linebacker -- either Hull or Rey Maualuga this week if he continues to get healthy and in shape -- will play only on run downs).
CB Bobby McCain finished the game with a 38.9 overall grade, 91st for all corners in Week 4. (Um, that’s bad).
He was targeted just one time in the first two weeks of the season, but was picked apart all day by Drew Brees, allowing all 10 targets thrown his way to be caught for 97 yards. Seven different Saints caught a pass with McCain in coverage on the day.
Rookies Charles Harris and Cordrea Tankersley were two bright spots on an otherwise dreadful day for the Dolphins. Harris earned a grade of 80.5, which ranked 9th for all edge rushers in Week 4. He recorded two QB hurries, a hit and a stop in his 35 snaps. Tankersley started and played 73 of a possible 74 snaps and earned a grade of 79.2, 26th-best for all CBs in Week 4.
He allowed 36 yards on the 7 targets thrown his way.
(Tankersley fought all day. He didn’t back down. But what goes unsaid above is that he allowed six catches on his seven targets so that has to improve. And still, Drew Brees was the opposing quarterback. So not bad for a first outing. As for Harris, I get that he’s doing the little things. So that’s good. But he’s a first-round pick. He was selected to do little things good. He was selected to do big things -- like sacks, strip sacks, caused fumbles. Defensive end picked in the first round are supposed to be difference-makers).
The rough start to CB Xavien Howard's year continued against the Saints, as he graded out at 38.4 overall, 93rd for all corners in Week 4. He allowed all 4 targets thrown his way to be caught for 43 yards and was also charged with two penalties in the game. For the season, his overall grade of 37.0 ranks 106th out of 112 qualifying cornerbacks.
(Obviously, Howard’s grade is poor. But this is where I look to the results. He’s not giving up touchdowns. So the Dolphins can live with this.)
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero