Dolphins practice in preparation for their last game against Buffalo
The Dolphins, by winning Sunday, can finish 8-8, a record that would suggest they’re average.
But in reality, these Dolphins are below average in most key offensive and defensive categories. For perspective, the NFL measures 36 key statistical team categories; the Dolphins are below average — and in many cases, well below average — in 28 of them.
They’re 30th in yards per game, 30th in yards allowed per game, 25th in points per game, 25th in points permitted per game, 31st in third down offense, 28th in third down defense, 30th in sacks taken per pass play, 27th in defensive sacks per pass play and 30th in passing yards.
They’ve been outgained by 1,463 yards, which is third-worst in the league.
So where exactly aren’t they average or below average? Here’s where these Dolphins were better than many teams:
▪ They’re eighth in rushing yards per attempt, thanks to the fact that Frank Gore averaged 4.6 per carry before his season-ending foot injury, which ranks 23th in the league, and the fact Kenyan Drake is averaging 4.5, which ranks 28th.
Their 4.7 rushing average for the season is their highest since the 1973 team, which won a second consecutive Super Bowl.
Despite all of that, Miami is just 19th in rushing yards per game, in part because they’ve run fewer offensive plays than any other team, a byproduct of their inefficiency on third down.
▪ They’re seventh in punt return average at 10.9, thanks to Jakeem Grant averaging 16.3 on 14 returns before his season-ending foot injury. They’re sixth in kickoff return average at 24.8, thanks to Grant averaging 29.7 on 18 returns.
▪ Though the offense generally has been dismal, failing to reach 200 yards in three of the past four games, Miami has had more long scoring plays than most. The Dolphins lead the NFL with nine offensive touchdowns of 50 plus yards, with 3-12 San Francisco second on that list with seven.
Albert Wilson and Kenyan Drake have two apiece, and Jakeem Grant, Leonte Carroo, Kenny Stills, Kalen Ballage and Brandon Bolden one each. Yet in spite of that, Miami has the NFL’s third-fewest yards on offense this season.
▪ They’re second in the league in percent of passes they’ve intercepted. Xavien Howard (seven interceptions), T.J. McDonald (three) and Kiko Alonso (three) have accounted for 13 of the 20 interceptions. The only other defensive category where Miami is above average: fourth-down defense.
▪ The Dolphins are seventh in field goal percentage, with rookie Jason Sanders having converted 17 of 19 attempts (89.5 percent).
▪ Among offensive linemen, the Dolphins have two players who rate above average in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Laremy Tunsil is rated 29th and Ja’Wuan James 39th among 84 offensive tackles.
If you wondered, Jesse Davis is rated 61st and Ted Larsen 78th among 79 guards. Travis Swanson is 23rd among 38 centers.
▪ Excluding out-for-the-year Vincent Taylor, Miami has only one defensive lineman rated in the top 35 at tackle or end — Cam Wake, who’s 14th among ends. Davon Godchaux is 38th among tackles, Robert Quinn 32nd among ends after a recent surge. Akeem Spence and Andre Branch are among the lowest-rated at their positions.
▪ Kiko Alonso is 10th in the league in tackles with 120 but PFF rates him 75th of 90 qualifying linebackers because of his subpar pass coverage metrics. Jerome Baker (19th) is the only Miami linebacker rated among PFF’s top 50.
▪ In Miami’s defensive backfield, PFF rates only two players above average: T.J. McDonald, rated 33rd of 89 safeties, and Xavien Howard, 17th of 117 corners. Bobby McCain has slipped to 94th of 117.
So there were several things the Dolphins did well this season – well above average. But far more that they didn’t.
THIS AND THAT
▪ McDonald (ankle) is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game at Buffalo, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is expected to start at safety for the fifth time this season.
Howard, who has missed three games in a row with a knee injury, is listed as questionable and was limited in practice all week. Coach Adam Gase said he “would have to make me feel really, really good to have him active.”
▪ Alonso (knee, hamstring) was listed as questionable and said he intends to play Sunday. Gase said he looked better this week. Defensive end Branch (knee) and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (hamstring) are quesitonable. Both were limited in practice Friday.
▪ Wake, an impending free agent, says he wants to play next season, prefers to play here, assumes the Dolphins want him back and is OK if he is starter or not.