Barry Jackson

Dolphins fill need at defensive end after signing linebacker. Plus impressive Tannehill numbers

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

The Dolphins, searching for defensive help, are signing veteran linebacker Martrell Spaight, according to a source, and also are expected to promote defensive end Jonathan Woodard from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Spaight, selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by Washington, played three seasons for the Redskins but was released Sept. 1.

He had 75 tackles in 15 games last season, including six starts. An outside linebacker at Arkansas, he switched to inside linebacker with Washington.

Spaight, 6-0 and 243 pounds, has no career sacks and one career interception, in 2016 against then-Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley.

Spaight, 25, gives the Dolphins added depth in the wake of a foot injury sustained Sunday by linebacker Chase Allen, who has said the injury is not serious.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins placed Hayes on injured reserve with a torn ACL and released receiver Tanner McEvoy, who had played on special teams in the first three games. That created two spots to be filled on the 53-man roster.

One will be filled by Spaight, while Woodard is expected to fill the other. Miami has only three healthy ends – Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn and Charles Harris.

The Dolphins auditioned veteran end Kony Ealy and Robert Ayers on Tuesday but didn’t sign either and ultimately preferred Woodard, who impressed the team in training camp and preseason before being cut Labor Day weekend.

Woodard, who’s 6-6 and 271 pounds, was drafted by Jacksonville in the seventh round out of Central Arkansas in 2016, tore his Achilles’ tendon in training camp, was cut in September 2017, spent two weeks last October on the Falcons’ practice squad and has been in Miami’s system since joining the Dolphins’ practice squad early last December.

The Dolphins released him Labor Day weekend but quickly re-signed him to the practice squad. He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game.

The Dolphins also are expected to resign Cameron Malvaeux to their practice squad, according to a league source.

Malvaeux played in four games for Miami last season, was cut Labor Day weekend and then signed to the practice squad but cut two weeks ago when Miami signed long snapper Lucas Gravelle when John Denney was nursing an injury.

Now Malvaeux is soon to be back with the Dolphins’ practice squad, after working out for the Colts on Monday. With Denney healthy, Gravelle was waived from the practice squad.

Branch is expected to miss two to four weeks, as colleague Armando Salguero has reported.

Ryan Tannehill has risen to fourth in the league in passer rating, at 121.8, behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees.

There are myriad factors in play here: Tannehill’s accuracy has been exceptional; he’s completing 73 percent of his passes, which ranks fifth behind Brees, Fitzpatrick, Derek Carr and Eli Manning.

His receivers aren’t dropping passes.

He ranks fourth in yards per attempt at 9.28 per attempt, behind Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff.

And he’s getting time to throw.

Consider this, from Pro Football Focus: Through three weeks, Tannehill ranks fifth among all quarterbacks in time to throw (2.39 seconds per attempt) but also has the best quarterback rating in the league (131.4) on attempts that are 2.6 seconds or more.

Tannehill continues to pick apart defenses when he isn’t blitzed, completing 14-17 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns (158.3 rating) against Oakland. Tannehill entered Week 3 with just a 36.1 passer rating against the blitz but the Raiders blitzed him just seven times on the day (3-6 for 36 yards).

“I think he’s done a good job,” Adam Gase said Monday. “I think there’s room for improvement, as always.”

The Dolphins had only 44 offensive snaps on Sunday, and Kenny Stills (40) and DeVante Parker (33) and Danny Amendola (31) played the vast majority of them at receiver.

But Albert Wilson (10 snaps) and Jakeem Grant (nine) made the most of their limited snaps. Wilson earned the highest-overall grade for the team at 92.7 and ranks second among all wide receivers in yards per route run this season at 3.84. Grant earned a 79.1 overall grade for Week 3 and leads the league in yards per route run at 3.86, just ahead of teammate Albert Wilson.

Gase wanted to play both of them more than that. “We only had 45 plays in the game,” Gase said. “That makes it tough to really start rotating everybody in there. We had a good plan going into it of how we wanted to do it. We just didn’t have a ton of plays.”

Not only does Xavien Howard have seven interceptions in his past eight games – most by any NFL cornerback in that time span – but look at what he did against Amari Cooper on Sunday.

Per PFF, Howard covered Cooper on 27 of his 37 routes, limiting him to just one catch and eight yards on three targets for the game. Howard allowed just a 39.2 passer rating when targeted from weeks 10-17 last season (league average was 87.6) and so far this season he’s allowed just five receptions on 15 targets and a passer rating of 32.2.

Per PFF, Hayes – in his final game of the season before sustaining a torn ACL – earned the highest-grade for the defense at 91.4 overall in just nine snaps, accounting for two defensive stops and a sack.

Hayes posted a career-high 90.3 overall grade in 2017 and was off to a strong start in 2018 (79.8), which makes his loss particularly hurtful…. Howard, Quinn, Jerome Baker and Davon Godchaux were the second-through-fifth highest graded players on defense.

More snap count stuff: Defensively, only TJ McDonald and Kiko Alonso played all 76 snaps. Raekwon McMillan, who had been playing every snap, logged 59 and Baker’s snaps shot up to 56, partly a byproduct of the Dolphins wanting to play him more and partly the result of defensive injuries, including one to Chase Allen….

Stephone Anthony got three snaps on defense and Mo Smith two. Fitzpatrick played all but three defensive snaps… Even with injuries to Hayes and Branch, Cam Wake again played only 51 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps. Robert Quinn played 71 percent, Harris 45 percent…. Kenyan Drake had 29 snaps, Gore 16…

Quick stuff: Former Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore declined workout invitations from the 49ers and Titans, according to Pro Football Talk… Kenny Stills has 14 receptions of balls thrown 20 yards or more since the start of 2016 – the most in the league since that time. … Bobby McCain on Sunday allowed six of seven passes in his coverage area to be caught for 119 yards, per PFF… Gase didn’t blame Minkah Fitzpatrick for some breakdowns early in the game. “He was good,” Gase said. “We had a couple of things that happened in front of him that … It seems like the safety gets blamed for things that aren’t his fault.”

Here’s my six-pack of Tuesday UM nuggets, including some N’Kosi Perry information.

Here’s my Tuesday Heat post, with interesting introspection from Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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