The Miami Dolphins enter the bye week at 3-2 with a mix of good and bad.
Miami’s coaching and training staff will begin its self evaluation while players take time off to rest. It’s also time for ESPN.com to evaluate the Dolphins, as well.
Here is our bye-week report card for Miami:
Offense: Rank 28th
Walker’s grade: C-
Analysis: Miami’s offense is harder to grade than it appears. The offensive line is in shambles and is the biggest reason the Dolphins are struggling on this side of the football. The Dolphins can’t run block or protect the passer, which makes it hard to accomplish much. The growth of quarterback Ryan Tannehill is one of the few things holding this grade afloat. Tannehill looks improved in most areas in his second season. What’s even more impressive is he’s doing it without a running game and being sacked an NFL-high 24 times. If Tannehill gets a running game and better pass protection after the bye, look out. Tannehill could do some damage this year with the skill players he has. But the offensive line must step up.
Defense: Rank 25th
Walker’s grade: C
Analysis: Statistically, Miami’s defense isn’t performing up to expectations. The Dolphins are ranked 25th in total defense. They are mostly struggling against the pass. But Miami’s defense deserves some slack after facing Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and defending Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Flacco in consecutive weeks. That group will provide problems for any defense. I expect Miami’s defensive numbers to improve after the bye. The Dolphins will get healthy and face less talented quarterbacks. Miami’s defense is a group that plays hard and has yet to reach its potential.
Special Teams: B
Analysis: Miami’s special teams have been solid in most areas. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis is 10-of-11 on field goals and is a nice weapon for Miami. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields continues to quietly perform, and the coverage teams has been decent. I still want to see more from returner Marcus Thigpen, who is exciting in the open field. He is averaging 26.2 yards per kickoff return and 4.6 yards per punt return.
Analysis: I am getting a better feel for Miami’s coaching staff in its second full season. This is a group that preaches discipline. The Dolphins average just 4.2 penalties per game. The offensive play calling from Mike Sherman can be shaky at times. However, coach Joe Philbin and Sherman also deserve credit for the development of Tannehill, who is starting to look like the long-term solution. I like the aggressiveness and creativity of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The pass defense needs to be fixed. But Coyle is using his talent in a variety of ways. In the first three games, the second-half adjustments have been stellar. There’s only one game this year -- against New Orleans -- where Miami’s staff was thoroughly outcoached, which is a good sign.
Analysis: Perception can be a funny thing. Considering their tough schedule, if Dolphins fans were told in the preseason that Miami would be 3-2 entering the bye, most would be happy. But losing two consecutive games after a 3-0 start makes it seem like Miami is on the decline. The Dolphins still positioned themselves well to make a run after the bye. They have four home games in the next six weeks with a chance to pad their record. But there are major weaknesses to address after the bye. If Miami can’t run the ball, protect the passer or stop the pass, it’s going to be hard to win consistently.