It’s been a rocky first half of the season thus far for the Miami Dolphins as they have made news more for what has happened to them off the field (injuries, coaches caught doing drugs in their office, hurricanes…etc) than what has happened on the field. After 8 games through the schedule it’s time for the Midseason Report Card to grade this team at the mid-way point. I will do this in two parts; give out grades for each unit and then pass out some Midseason Awards.
If not for the last game vs the Raiders where Miami’s offense actually looked competent and we saw Cutler with 300+ yards and 3 TD’s there is no way Miami would have gotten higher than an “F” grade here. The quarterback play has been bad, WR’s and TE’s have dropped a ton of passes, Devante Parker has missed multiple games again, the offensive line has been poor, and the running backs have been so bad the coaching staff has called out players like Ajayi and Drake by name in press conferences. The second half of the year can’t be worse but with injuries mounting now on this side of the ball we will see.
This unit started off the season red hot with strong games even in losses. Their play vs the run has improved by leaps and bounds over last year. They are getting a more constant pass rush even if the sack numbers aren’t there. The back-end of the secondary has been so-so but Miami is playing with two very young CB’s. The past couple games (Baltimore and Oakland) the defense is starting to show some cracks but through 8 games there is little to complain about with this unit.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Cody Parkey has made some very big field goals (Chargers and Falcons games) but he misses a lot of extra points. The other negative has been Jakeem Grant who has been dreadful in the return game. Running too many kickoffs out of the endzone and failing to make it to the 25 yard line and then if it draws a penalty Miami’s defense has been forced to start in the shadow of their own endzone and this has happened numerous times so far this season.
This has been a rough year for Adam Gase to say the least. Yes he has had to deal with many things out of his control; starting QB get’s injured days into training camp, player going AWOL day before first game, Hurricanes, Assistant Coach taping himself doing drugs, no Bye Week…etc, but some things in his control haven’t gone well. The offense has been horrible, the playcalling is head scratching week to week by not taking shots down the field, running one of your best and most popular players (Jay Ajayi) out of town at the trade deadline, arguing with fans and the media about fans chants in games. I know sometimes it’s impossible to make chicken salad out of chicken s#it but at the end of the day Gase needs to be more flexible, adapt more, and be less combative.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Cordrea Tankersley
To me this is a no brainer and Tankersley is the easy winner. Yes, Davon Godchaux has played well but Tankersley is the only rookie that starts and after being thrown in to the deep end of the pool a few weeks into the season he has done an admirable job holding down one of the starting cornerback positions. The good has far outweighed the bad with Tanksersley thus far and I do think he has a long a bright future in the NFL and in Miami.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Xavien Howard
I know the play of the cornerbacks hasn’t been great but the leap from year 1 to year 2 for Howard is noticeable. He still struggles at times but overall Howard has improved his play greatly since his rookie season and I think he will continue to get better as he gets more games under his belt.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: William Hayes
I want to give this award to Lawrence Timmons but you can’t quit on your team on the eve of the first game of the year and be rewarded for it. Plus, Hayes has brought a presence to the run defense that has improved that aspect of Miami’s defense greatly. A veteran presence who does the little things that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.
MOST DISSAPOINTING NEWCOMER: Julius Thomas
He has shown nothing, looks old, slow, and out of shape. Aside from a handful of plays he has actually made the tight end position worse overall than it was last year. A bad trade that hasn’t worked out through 8 games and I’m not sure will improve the 2nd half of the season.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kenny Stills
This was a tough one because the offense has been so bad through 8 games. The offensive line has been a nightmare so I can’t give it to anyone on that unit. Same with the tight end and quarterback position. Ajayi is gone and his first 7 games with the Fins was nothing special. So it leaves me with one of the WR’s. Parker has missed time again (shocking to no one) so its Landry or Stills. While Landry has more receptions I think Stills made more big plays (TD vs Atlanta, 2 TD’s vs Jets and the big catch in the first half of the Jets game, TD vs LA Chargers.) So by default Stills wins this award as he has the most number of impact plays on offense this year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ndamukong Suh
The Suh we are seeing this year is the Suh a lot of us have expected to see the day Miami signed him. Not that Suh has played poorly in previous years, he hasn’t. Just this year he has raised his game even more and has had even more impact plays on the field. At times he has been un-blockable and he is carrying this defensive line and helped bring along two rookies like Godchaux and Taylor and gotten them up to speed at a fast pace.
TEAM MVP: Ndamukong Suh
For everything I mentioned above really. The offense has been so bad this year that the defense has carried this team to 4 wins in reality and the leader of the defense has been Suh. Even in losses (like the Oakland game) Suh has played tremendous and at a very high level.
OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE YEAR: Damien Williams TD vs the Raiders
Not a lot of positive or exciting offensive plays to pick from here and it really came down to the Stills miracle catch vs the Jets (2nd time they played them) in the 1st quarter or this Williams TD vs the Raiders. I went with the Williams play because a) it scored points b) the second effort by Williams was amazing c) Jarvis Landry giving up his body with the block was tremendous.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE YEAR: Reshad Jones INT to lock up win vs Atlanta
Clearly the biggest defensive play of the year as it sealed a huge road win vs a very good Falcons team. Tankersely had a hand in this play, literally by tipping the ball to Jones so he could make the play.
BIGGEST TEAM DISSAPOINTMENT THROUGH 8 GAMES: Offensive Line Play
Miami brought back 4 of 5 starters on this offensive line unit from last year that played well and the unit has been a dumpster fire. Mike Pouncey looks old, slow, and just not the same. Laremy Tunsil has struggled in his move to left tackle. Bushrod is slowly regressing at right guard. And the play at left guard without Ted Larsen has been flat out bad.
We will do another report card like this after the 2017 season but at the halfway point these are the grades and awards. There is a lot of room for improvement for many members of the Miami Dolphins and hopefully the second half of the year plays out better than the first half.