Dolphins grades, stock up, stock down for victory over New England – The Denver Post


The Dolphins opened the season and the Mike McDaniel era in rousing fashion with Sunday’s 20-7 victory over AFC East rival New England at Hard Rock Stadium.

The defense led the way early and late, producing three turnovers, and the offense, although not firing on all cylinders, did its job as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got the ball in the hands of his lightning-fast wide receivers and allowed them to go to work.

McDaniel kept his team focused despite the huge expectations, evidenced by the Dolphins selling out their allotment of season tickets.

All in all, it was a strong debut for the first-place Miami Dolphins.

Passing game: B

The highlight was the 42-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-7 from Tagovailoa (23 for 33, 270 yards, one touchdown, 104.4 passer rating) to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. But fellow wide receiver Tyreek Hill (eight receptions, 94 yards) was probably the star of the show with his ability to get yards after catch on short and medium routes. Tagovailoa showed accuracy, patience and, for the most part, good decision-making. There were a couple of plays that were questionable, especially while under pressure. Tagovailoa had at least one ill-advised pass attempt while in the hands of a defender. But overall Tagovailoa was strong. The offensive line allowed three sacks, which is troubling, and seven quarterback hits, which is also troubling. New England’s Matthew Judon was a major concern, especially as the game progressed. He ended with five tackles, one sack and four quarterback hits. But considering it’s the first game and the Dolphins’ offensive line had to shuffle as three tackles (Terron Armstead, Austin Jackson and Greg Little) missed plays due to injuries, it was a good performance overall.

Running game: D

This might have been the only major disappointment of the day. The Dolphins had 65 yards rushing on 23 carries (2.8 yards per carry) as both the offensive line and running backs had trouble getting going. New England threw multiple looks at the Dolphins, and they were effective to a certain extent. Running backs Chase Edmonds (12 carries, 25 yards) and Raheem Mostert (5 carries, 16 yards, including an 11-yard run) didn’t have many holes, and as a result their speed didn’t show much. This remains a work in progress. But remember it’s a new coach and new offense with two new offensive linemen and two new running backs.

Defending the pass: A

Start with the Jevon Holland interception in the end zone in the first quarter after Xavien Howard tipped the pass in the air. It was a huge play. There was also a touchdown by linebacker Melvin Ingram on a strip-sack by Brandon Jones, and Kader Kohou caused a fumble after a reception that was recovered by Jaelan Phillips. Emmanuel Ogbah had a sack and two quarterback hits. The Dolphins totaled two sacks, six passes defended, and three quarterback hits as New England quarterback Mac Jones (21 for 30, 213 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 87.2 passer rating) wasn’t able to get much going consistently. By the way, cornerback Nik Needham played 56 snaps (98%), Kohou played 18, cornerback Keion Crossen played 16 with cornerback/safety Elijah Campbell getting four. That experience could come in handy later in the season. Nice work on the front end and the back end.

Defending the run: B+

The Dolphins held New England to 78 yards rushing on 22 carries (3.5 yards per carry), a significant accomplishment considering the Patriots were eighth in rushing last year at 126.5 yards per game and had a 100-yard rusher in both of their losses to Dolphins. The Patriots had three 12-yard carries, but aside from those, they didn’t do much damage. Defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis had five tackles apiece to lead the charge. But linebackers Jerome Baker (six tackles) and Elandon Roberts (five tackles) were also there for run support. The Dolphins’ run defense had the 10th-best performance of the week entering the Monday night game.

Special teams: A

Punter Thomas Morstead was the brightest star here with his four punts that averaged 45.8 yards, including a 58-yarder in the third quarter that was downed at the Patriots’ 8-yard line by newly acquired Justin Bethel, whose strength is special teams. It was one of three punts Morstead put inside the New England 20-yard line. Kicker Jason Sanders had field goals of 43 and 49 yards. Holland didn’t return a punt in two attempts, and Mostert had one kickoff return for 16 yards (fullback Alec Ingold returned the other for 12 yards). New England had a 28-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for a total of 12 yards. Good debut.

Coaching: A

McDaniel was prepared, and he had his team prepared. The rookie head coach made one of the gutsiest calls of the day in the NFL when he went for it on fourth-and-7 from the New England 42-yard line, and it resulted in a Tagovailoa to Waddle touchdown. Beyond that, the secondary and offensive line worked well as units despite battling missing personnel. It’s tough to say with certainty McDaniel outcoached New England’s Bill Belichick, but he led his team to a victory and handled the entire situation well, and that’s what counts.

Stock up: Kader Kohou

Kohou, the undrafted rookie cornerback, caused a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Jaelan Phillips in the fourth quarter. Kohou ended with three tackles, including one for a loss, a pass defended and a caused fumble among his 18 defensive plays and one special teams play. His contribution was especially important and promising, considering cornerbacks Byron Jones (leg) and Noah Igbinoghene (inactive) were sidelined.

Stock down: Mike Gesicki

Gesicki was targeted once and ended with one reception for 1 yard. Let’s not go to the extreme and think this trend will continue exactly and Gesicki, whose strength is receiving, will end the season with 17 receptions for 17 yards. But keep an eye on this trend that’s surfaced since training camp. Gesicki played 25 snaps, which is 42%. Fellow tight ends Durham Smythe played 38 snaps (63%) and Hunter Long played 12 snaps (20%). We’ll just say Gesicki had a few opportunities but not a whole lot of opportunities, and watch the situation.



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