Armando Salguero

ProFootball Focus Week 5 Dolphins grades: Yeah, defense rocked

Miami Dolphins Kiko Alonso tackles Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Mathews on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins Kiko Alonso tackles Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Mathews on Sunday. For The Herald

Remember I told you late Sunday and in my Monday column Jay Cutler isn't going to be benched this year even though pundits and others who don’t get a vote are advocating for it?

Read that column because it explains the reason the quarterback is safe. And it also tells you he does need to improve.

This week’s ProFootballFocus.com grades make that latter point better than I do.

Here are the grades and breakdown from Sunday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans. As always, Salguero opinions and insights in (parenthesis):

Offense

Cutler continued to struggle under pressure, as he completed just one of seven passes for six yards for an NFL QB Rating of 39.6 in his nine dropbacks under pressure.

For the season, Cutler has been pressured on 38.5 percent of his dropbacks, sixth-most of all QBs in the league. His completion percentage under pressure is 39.5, which ranks 27th in the league. For the season, he is the 30th ranked QB overall with a grade of 68.6.

(When the quarterback is under pressure more than any but five other NFL quarterbacks, the issue is not with the quarterback, it’s with the protection. It is substandard right now).

Running back Jay Ajayi ran for 77 yards on the afternoon with the majority of them (52) coming after contact, which has become the weekly norm for him. Of Ajayi’s 261 rushing yards this season, 200 have come after contact. That’s a whopping 76.6 percent of Ajayi’s yards are made pretty much on his own. He has also forced 17 missed tackles on rushing plays.

Mike Pouncey has struggled to begin the season but earned an overall grade of 82.3 against the Titans, third-ranked of all centers in the league for the week. He was much better in pass-blocking than run-blocking in each of the first three games, but shined in run-blocking against the Titans with a 80.5 grade.

(Should be noted Dolphins coach Adam Gase has said Pouncey has played well in the game prior to Sunday’s and the one against New Orleans was especially good).

Left guard Anthony Steen was the third-ranked overall guard on the week with an 84.2 overall grade. (Wait, what?)

Although he struggled in pass-blocking (54.7 grade), he dominated as a run-blocker with a grade of 90.4 on the day. His overall grade for the season is now a respectable 72.0, which ranks him 26th among all guards in the league.

(Anything Steen does that is good is a blessing because he is basically holding down the position until Ted Larsen returns next month. But if Steen continues to improve and run block like he’s Larry Little, there might be a competition over at right guard when Larsen comes back to play LG).

With top wide receiver DeVante Parker leaving the game after just three snaps because of an ankle injury, Jarvis Landry was the focal point of the passing game. He was targeted a team-high nine times and caught five passes for 44 yards. While he is still primarily a slot receiver, running 64 percent of his routes inside, this number would represent a career-low percentage.

The previous low was 70.3 percent of routes run inside in 2015.

(Despite what seems like a solid day for Landry, the fact is he flubbed routes at least twice that I saw. One time, Anthony Fasano can be seen on tape yelling and motioning at Landry because the WR was running up the sideline when he was actually supposed to cut in across the field. Cutler, expecting Landry to be there, simply threw the ball into the dirt when the receiver wasn’t where he was supposed to be).

Defense

(Yeah, these are going to be really good because the defense turned in its finest performance of the season).

For the second straight week, Kiko Alonso was among the league's elite at the linebacker position, this time claiming the top spot with an overall grade of 91.7. He recorded a team-high six stops, a quarterback sack and allowed just 18 yards in coverage on four targets. His overall grade for the year now stands at 80.5 and that ranks him 20th out of 87 linebackers.

(PFF forgot Alonso also caused the Matt Cassel fumble that Reshad Jones scooped up and returned for a touchdown).

Safety Reshad Jones also claimed the top overall grade for his position, coming in at an elite 90.3. He dominated in run-defense once again, earning a grade of 95.7 on the day. For the season, Jones has recorded a stop in 11.1 percent of his total tackles when lining up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage. That’s third-most at the safety position. Jones’s grade for the season now stands at 84.6 overall and that ranks him 11th out of 84 safeties.

Cornerback Xavien Howard entered the week ranked as the 96th out of 111 qualifying corners with an overall grade of 39.8, but had a strong showing against the Titans, earning a grade of 81.5. That’s good enough for 11th-best in the league for the week.

Howard was targeted just four times on the day, allowing two receptions for 14 yards while also defending a pass. His overall grade for the season now stands at 46.9, 79th out of 108 qualifying cornerbacks.

Defensive end Cameron Wake had one sack, three hits and two hurries in his 35 snaps against the Titans. He became just the 12th player since 2006 to have over 500 pressures.

Linebacker Rey Maualuga started at middle linebacker and played 31 snaps, recording five tackles, with two stops on the afternoon. He earned a solid 78.1 overall grade which ranked 15th at the position for the week.

Lawrence Timmons had his second straight strong showing, recording seven tackles, five stops and a quarterback hurry. That earned Timmons a grade of 85.9 which ranked sixth at the position for the week.

(The Dolphins linebacker unit is complete for the first time this year in that everyone who is on the roster is healthy and playing. And it showed against Tennessee. Great job).

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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