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Miami Dolphins: 2017 Report Card By Position

2017 report card JC Ruiz via Flickr


Dolphins 2017 Report Card By Position

While the 2017 NFL season isn’t over yet, it is for the Miami Dolphins. After their season was over, I wrote about what went wrong for the Dolphins. Between coaching, injuries, and overall effort, this season was a disaster. However, a lot of individual players had a season to remember. At the same time, many players never met expectations. The 2017 report card for the Miami Dolphins isn’t exactly pretty, but it could be worse.



The skinny: This is a hard position to truly judge because two guys were thrown into the fire this season. With Ryan Tannehill tearing his ACL, Adam Gase was forced to find a second option. While some criticized him for this, Jay Cutler didn’t do a terrible job. Winning only six out of 14 games isn’t ideal, but not many other quarterbacks would have done much better. The Dolphins own the worst offensive line in the AFC, and some of the most confusing play calls in the NFL. Adam Gase didn’t exactly cater his offense to Cutler’s strengths, something that was evident on the field. Matt Moore was absolutely terrific in the two games he was forced to come in because of a Cutler injury. Unfortunately, he was horrible in his two starts this season. All in all, it was about as average as you can get in the NFL.

Grade: C-

Running Back

The skinny: This is yet another position that you have to put an asterisk next to. The Jay Ajayi trade really threw this unit into a tailspin for a while. When the former Pro Bowler was getting the carries, he was breaking off runs of 15-plus yards left and right. Then he was traded for a myriad of reasons, which created a massive hole in the depth chart. Luckily, Gase came to his senses and started giving Kenyan Drake meaningful snaps, which resurrected the running game.

Drake absolutely explodes when he touches the ball. His vision and effort have turned him into a nightmare for opposing defenses. Running behind one of the worst lines in the NFL certainly didn’t help. Damien Williams excelled at short, hard runs and got some crucial first downs this season. Drake and Williams are the only two backs that got touches and did something with them. Credit is due where the players earn it.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

The skinny: Nobody gives this group enough credit for what they did in 2017. DeVante Parker was expected to have a more prominent role, as was Jakeem Grant. Jarvis Landry somehow managed career-highs with 112 catches and nine touchdowns, even though this is the worst the offense has been since he arrived in Miami. Kenny Stills provided a nice deep threat, which he showed off consistently even if his quarterback didn’t throw the ball in his direction.

The big three of Parker, Stills, and Landry were supposed to be one of the best wide receiving corps in the NFL. They still were when you turn on the tape, but it doesn’t really show on the stat sheet. Guys were open, and they ran routes the right way. However, Jay Cutler and Matt Moore just didn’t have time to get the ball out. Receivers’ production relies so much on the rest of the offense; this really rests on overall production. The receivers 2017 report card might be the most skewed, but this is a talented group.

The tight ends are probably the hardest position to evaluate. Very few targets for Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano both played sparingly, and Miami utilized them in entirely wrong ways. Thomas isn’t the player he was in Denver and Fasano is pretty old himself. Overall, Fasano was a solid blocker but just didn’t have memorable plays. Dealing with injuries almost all season certainly didn’t help out Thomas, who only had three games with over 30 yards receiving. I graded this unit more on blocking than receiving since that is how Gase utilized them most this year (unsuccessfully).

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

The skinny: Now I know that I tore this position group down all season long. Execution and effort were two big reasons why this unit underperformed this season. There was never a real starting five along the line, which leads to continuity issues. The run blocking was a real problem this season; it seemed every defensive line simply overpowered the Dolphins. A bright spot this season was keeping the pocket somewhat clean and giving Cutler time to survey the field. While it wasn’t amazing, the pass protection improved vastly since last year.

Laremy Tunsil really never grew into the NFL left tackle he was envisioned as. A move inside to guard might be necessary since the Dolphins are really deficient in that spot. It seemed Tunsil was just too slow against speed rushers to protect Cutler. Ja’Wuan James was average before his injury, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better for him. The 2017 report card along the offensive line definitely reflects their play in 2017. Mike Pouncey is on his way out, and those three didn’t look like first rounders this season.

Grade: D



The skinny: I decided to include the entire secondary in this 2017 report card because they all essentially play the same position. The Dolphins’ safeties come down into the box and play a lot of nickel and dime. Additionally, Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley could both easily slide over to safety and produce defensively. Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard both had outstanding seasons and really improved the play on the back-end overall.

Even though the turnover numbers weren’t incredible, only allowing 225 yards per game is pretty good for such a young defense. Overall, the tackling needs some work. But in the open field, no defenders routinely whiffed on tackles. Coverage-wise, this was an outstanding group — until they faced an elite quarterback. The 2017 report card really took a took a hit because of sub-par performances in big moments. Brady, Brees, and even Cam Newton picked apart this secondary. They are still young so this is no cause for concern, but great defenses play to the level of their competition.

Grade: B


The skinny: The Miami Dolphins 2017 linebacker corps has been unlike any position group I have ever seen. Second-round rookie Raekwon McMillan tore his ACL in the first punt of the preseason and was projected to play significant snaps if not start prior to his injury. Lawrence Timmons went AWOL the first game of the season against the Chargers and was nowhere to be found. He later returned to the team, but always seemed to be behind in the playbook and, as a result, he was routinely out of position. Former Bengal Rey Maualuga was reportedly almost 20 pounds overweight heading into the regular season. Just three months later, in November, the team released him after being arrested two nights before a game in Miami.

Kiko Alonso was amazing when he wasn’t targeting quarterbacks or getting lost in coverage. One thing that really angers fans, myself included, is how poorly the team utilized Alonso this season. He has always been terrible in coverage, in Buffalo and Philly, he was below average as a defender in space. The deepest Alonso needs to drop is 3 yards into the flat or the curl. Unfortunately, he was taken advantage of in man coverage all season. Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt played when called upon, but neither did anything spectacular. This group was picked on all season across the middle. Opposing running games didn’t flourish, but Miami gave up their share of huge plays. The scheme did them no favors, but this was a lackluster season for this group.

Grade: C+

Defensive Line

The skinny: As always, the defensive line came to save the day in most games this season. With Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, and Ndamukong Suh getting pressure from all areas, opposing quarterbacks had limited time in the pocket. Jordan Pillips and Davon Godchaux both dominated the line of scrimmage this season at the tackle position. Overall, this unit has been the most consistent on the team for quite some time.

There aren’t any glaring weaknesses besides getting a pass rusher to replace Cameron Wake. Andre Branch had some pretty uninspired performances but was overall solid. Honestly, William Hayes never showed up on the stat sheet and only played ten games. However, he was easily the best rush player at setting the edge. That was his job coming into the season, forcing running backs inside and set the edge, which he has done beautifully. The 2017 report card for this unit is rather apparent. Despite playing in an odd wide-nine system, this defensive line has put up great numbers.

Grade: A

Special Teams

The skinny: Punt and kickoff coverage is something that the Dolphins need to work on in the offseason. Too many returns had wide open lanes and looked uncoordinated. The 2017 report card on special teams ultimately got hurt from taking bad lanes in coverage and tackling. On the flip side, punter Matt Haack had quite a remarkable season. He set a franchise-record in one game with seven punts inside the 20. Kicker Cody Parkey also had a near-perfect season. Making 21 out of 23 attempts with a long of 54 yards is definitely a season to remember. He only had two games with no field goals made. Those are two specialists the Dolphins need to look into re-signing to continue success in 2018. Aside from the coverage issues, the special teams weren’t the joke they have been in recent years.

Grade: B-