Barry Jackson

Gase needs to rethink quarterback decision; Dolphins notes, fallout

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the second half of an NFL football game at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the second half of an NFL football game at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) AP

Lots of Dolphins notes, metrics and thoughts in the aftermath of Sunday’s 20-0 loss/debacle against the New Orleans Saints:

• Adam Gase indicated he’s not considering a quarterback change.

That’s regrettable, because he should be.

That’s not to say that he absolutely, positively must bench Jay Cutler immediately, though a strong case could be made for that.

But I am saying that Cutler needs to generate at least some offense in the first half of Sunday’s Tennessee game to justify keeping his job beyond that.

And if Gase isn’t willing to consider going to Matt Moore at that point, if not sooner, then he’s displaying both short-sightedness and blind faith for Cutler that the quarterback doesn’t deserve. If Cutler doesn’t give his team a spark by next week, then Gase owes it to his team to make a change.

It would be one thing if Cutler had a sterling body of work. But he doesn’t.

His career has been frustratingly uneven, and even his pretty good play for Gase in Chicago in 2015 shouldn’t be overstated. He was middle of the pack in passer rating that year (16th at a career-best 92.3) and his team was 6-10.

With a highly competent backup in Matt Moore, Cutler should be afforded only slightly more rope than any one of the other quarterbacks who could been signed off the street after Ryan Tannehill was injured, such as Colin Kaepernick.

Here are the facts:

1) Cutler and Moore have each had a three-game regular season sample size as Dolphins starters since last December.

After leading Miami to a win against Arizona after Tannehill’s injury that day, Moore then produced eight touchdown passes, three picks and 105.6 rating, with full game point outputs of 34 in a win against the Jets, 34 in a win against Buffalo and 14 in a loss to New England.

Cutler, in his three games, has produced 19 points in a win against the Chargers, six points (all scored in garbage time, on the final play) in a loss to the Jets and none in a loss to the Saints. He has two touchdowns, two picks and an 80.4 rating.

2) Cutler’s work since the start of last season suggests Sunday wasn’t an anomaly. Over his eight starts since the beginning of 2016, Cutler has played poorly in six of them – the past two, plus four of his five starts last season, with ratings of 76.2, 74.9, 55.1 and 81.5 in those four games last season.

And there’s this: Cutler hasn’t produced more than 20 points in any of his past eight starts dating to the 2016 opener.

3) Yes, the Dolphins’ offensive problems extend well beyond Cutler. But his accuracy hasn’t been at an NFL starter’s level the last two weeks.

4) Cutler’s failures are more worrisome considering they have come against a Saints defense that relinquished 1025 yards in its first two games against the Vikings and Patriots (among the worst in recent NFL history) and a Jets defense that had allowed between 34 and 45 points in four of its previous seven games, dating to last season.

Me? I would make a change now, knowing you could go back to Cutler if Moore struggles. But I also see the wisdom in giving Cutler one more start.

But if he cannot generate any offense in the first half against the Titans? Then a change won’t only be warranted; it will be a necessity.

• Signing Cutler, considering his background with Gase, made sense at the time. But one unfortunate consequence is that his salary eliminates $10 million in what would have been much-needed carryover cap space for next season. The Dolphins already are up against the 2018 cap.

• Per Pro Football Focus, Cutler was 12 for 15 for 103 yards and a passer rating of 95.3 when not blitzed but 8 for 13 for 61 yards and an interception with a rating of 40.9 when blitzed against the Saints. Cutler only attempted one deep pass (20+ yards downfield) all afternoon of his 28 total attempts and 22 of the 28 came within nine yards of the line of scrimmage.

For the season, Cutler's passer rating when targeting DeVante Parker is 105.5, while Kenny Stills (90.6) and Jarvis Landry (73.5) are a distant second and third.

• Some notable offense snap counts Sunday: In this regard, nothing changed appreciably from the Jets game. Jakeem Grant played some early but finished with only five snaps and Leonte Carroo two. Stills and Parker played 47 of Miami’s 52 offensive snaps, and Landry 46….

Four of the five linemen played all 52; at left guard, Anthony Steen played 43, Jesse Davis nine….

Jay Ajayi played 32 snaps, Damien Williams 11 and Kenyan Drake nine… At tight end, the snaps broke down this way: Julius Thomas 39, Anthony Fasano 38, MarQueis Gray three.

• Some notable defensive snaps counts: Rookie Cordrea Tankersley went from inactive to starting and playing 73 of 74 defensive snaps. Xavien Howard played 72, Bobby McCain 46 and Alterraun Verner only one. Per PFF, McCain was dreadful, allowing all 10 passes to be thrown against him to be caught for 97 yards on Sunday…

Lawrence Timmons went from suspended to playing all 74 defensive snaps. (PFF said he played well, ranking 13th of all linebackers for Week 4). Kiko Alonso played 74, Mike Hull 25 and Chase Allen threee…

At defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh played 67 of 74 snaps, Davon Godchaux 42 and Vincent Taylor 23… At defensive end, Andre Branch played 50, Cam Wake 46, Charles Harris 35, Williams Hayes 32 and Terrence Fede three.

• PFF says Tankersley played well, producing the 26th best grade for all cornerbacks in Week 4. He allowed 36 yards on the 7 targets thrown against him… PFF also credited Harris for a good game, including two QB hurries. But Howard permitted all four targets in his coverage area to be caught for 43 yards and also had two penalties.

• PFF says Laremy Tunsil graded out well, Ja’Wuan James poorly against the Saints.

• And this should tell you how bad the Dolphins’ run blocking has been the past two weeks: Per PFF, 44 of Ajayi’s 46 yards on the ground against the Saints came after initial contact. In all, 148 of Ajayi's 184 total yards have come after contact this year; he has repeatedly been hit at or behind the line, which is an indictment of the team’s run blocking. That and Cutler have been the biggest offensive problems.

Check back in a few hours for highlights from Gase’s Monday news conference.

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