Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins ProFootballFocus grades vs. Atlanta plus the issue with dropped passes

Receiver Jarvis Landry celebrates after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Falcons on Sunday.
Receiver Jarvis Landry celebrates after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Falcons on Sunday. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Let’s start here: Although the Miami Dolphins won this week and the offense performed better and some people are seeing Sunday’s victory over Atlanta as a seminal moment in the 2017 season, everything is not quite resolved yet.

There are still improvements to make. There are still issues to address.

(Sorry to call the truth police on your victory party).

The Dolphins last week dropped five passes. This according to my count at the game and coach Adam Gase, who confirmed the number at his press conference on Monday.

And that means the Dolphins, which came into the game with a completion rate of around 80 percent on catchable balls (30th in the NFL), did nothing to improve their ranking.

There were 24 catchable balls in the game on Sunday. Dolphins receivers caught 19 of them. That’s 79 percent for the game. That’s a lower percentage (by one percent) than what the team was averaging going into the game. And that average going into the game was bad.

So the Dolphins did nothing to improve their No. 30 ranking in the category.

This needs to improve. The Dolphins believe their receivers (and tight ends and running backs are included here) are among the best in the league as a unit. But if the unit is dropping passes, it kind of shakes that belief because at the core the job of a receiver is to, well, receive a catchable pass.

Anyway, the ProFootballFocus.com report is below. My comments and insight are in (parenthesis):

Offense

Quarterback Jay Cutler was effective in his 22 drop-backs under no pressure, completing 11-of-22 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns for an NFL QB Rating of 90.0. He entered the week as the 32nd-ranked QB against the blitz, but was able to complete 12-of-15 passes for 107 yards and a rating of 96.4 against the Falcons blitz in Week 6.

For the season, Cutler has an NFL QB Rating of 49.8 when under pressure which ranks 24th of all QBs in the league. This metric shows how important it is for the Dolphins to keep Cutler comfortable in the pocket.

(The Dolphins play the New York Jets on Sunday. The Jets had zero sacks of Tom Brady last week. Zero. What’s more important is that Brady was touched exactly once in 38 drop-backs. The Jets, known for blitzing and attacking the quarterback under Todd Bowles, were toothless on this front against New England. I don’t know if the Jets will change their approach against the Dolphins, but whatever the Patriots were doing, the Dolphins should do that to try to get similar results for Cutler.)

Running back Jay Ajayi played his most snaps (48) since the season opener against the Chargers and he wore down the Falcons defense, running for 130 yards on 26 carries and earning the NFL’s top running back grade of the week at 91.0.

Ajayi gained 96 of his 130 yards after contact and he was able to force four missed tackles. For the season, Ajayi's overall grade of 84.6 has him the fifth-ranked running back; with 296 of his 391 yards (76 percent) coming after contact. His 21 forced missed tackles ranks fifth of all running backs through Week 6.

With wide receiver DeVante Parker inactive with an ankle injury, Jarvis Landry was targeted a team-high 12 times. He was able to grab eight receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown but did have two drops on the afternoon. It was an up and down day for Landry, as his targets and receptions ranked in the top 5 of all WRs for the week and his four forced missed tackles ranked tied for first.

But Landry was also the only WR to have multiple drops for the week as well. Landry has just two other career games of two drops - Week 4 in 2015 against the Jets and Week 12 in 2016 against the 49ers. (Landry had a drop against Tennessee the previous week.)

Wide receiver Kenny Stills also stepped up in Parker's absence, earning the seventh-highest WR grade for the week at 80.3. He caught all four targets thrown his way for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Leonte Carroo was the main beneficiary in snaps with Parker out, playing 24 on the afternoon. But he was targeted just twice, dropping one while the other resulted in an interception.

(Carroo is stuck in a tough cycle. He needs to play more to play better but he isn’t going to play more unless he plays better.)

Right tackle Ja'Wuan James was the Dolphins highest-graded offensive player in each of the first two games but struggled the next two coming into Week 6. Against the Falcons, James earned a grade of 82.0 which ranked ninth for all tackles in the league. (So he’s up this week!)

James did not allow a quarterback hurry after allowing five the last two weeks and through five games has allowed just one sack for the season.

Defense

Defensive end Cameron Wake was apparently unblockable, earning the top edge defender grade of the week at 89.0.

He was elite rushing the passer (90.1), registering five quarterback hurries and a sack. Wake had a pass-rushing productivity (a formula that factors sacks/hits/hurries per pass rushing snap) of 19.8, which was the best among 4-3 defensive ends. For the season, Wake's overall grade of 87.3 ranks 10th all of edge defenders and his 87.6 pass-rushing grade ranks sixth.

Defensive end William Hayes played a season-low 14 snaps against the Falcons (obviously because the Falcon went heavy on the passing and light on runs). But Hayes recorded a quarterback hurry and three run stops in defense, highlighted by an eight yard loss late in fourth that put Miami in position to kick the game-winning field goal.

Hayes has played just 119 snaps (38.3%) on the season, but the team's plan to use him primarily as a run-down end has helped him earn a run-defense grade of 89.0, which ranks fifth of all edge defenders through Week 6.

Since coming back from an early season suspension, Lawrence Timmons has been one of the best linebackers in the league, a trend that continued in Atlanta in Week 6.

Timmons earned the ninth-highest LB grade for the week at 81.1. Since his debut in Week 4, Timmons has 15 stops, tied for fifth of all LBs in the league. For the season, Timmons ranks fourth of all LBs with an overall grade of 87.3.

Cornerback Xavien Howard had a very poor game against the Falcons, grading out at 29.8 for the week.

(Yeah, Howard shadowed Atlanta elite receiver Julio Jones much of the game so keep that in mind.)

He was targeted in coverage a team-high eight times, allowing six receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. His grade for the season now stands at 37.4 and that is 111th out of 114 qualifying corners.

Rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley made his third straight start and was targeted just three times on the afternoon, allowing one reception for 13 yards and recording a pass defended as well.

(The pass defensed was important. It came on the throw which Reshad Jones ultimately plucked out of the air for a victory-sealing interception.)

Jones was the highest-graded safety in the league for Week 5 and entered the game against the Falcons as the number one safety in run-defense. But he struggled for most of the game before coming up with the game-clinching interception on the final Falcons' drive.

Jones' run-defense grade was 29.8 for the day and he missed two tackles, giving him five for the season. He recorded no stops after earning nine the previous three weeks combined.

(Hard to accept Jones had a bad day when he basically ended the ballgame for the Dolphins. He’s paid like a playmaker and he made the biggest play of the game. That’s good enough for me.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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