Miami Dolphins 2021 Week 1 Report Card

The Dolphins found a way to pull out a victory at Gillette Stadium in Week 1 despite being badly outgained in terms of yardage.

So how did that translate in our weekly report card?

Quarterbacks

Tua Tagovailoa came out on fire, directing an absolute gorgeous opening drive that ended with his own touchdown run, but he rest of his performance wasn’t quite as impressive. The final numbers were OK, with Tagovailoa completing 16 of 27 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown, a 3-yarder to rookie Jaylen Waddle in the third quarter. But it’s impossible to overlook the nasty interception that came close to costing the Dolphins the victory because Tua absolutely has to know better than to try to chuck the ball away into traffic while getting pressure. There was another instance when he threw late into coverage and was lucky safety Devin McCourty wasn’t able to come up with another pick. Besides his touchdown, Tua didn’t run the ball. On the plus side, he was on the money with several slants, including a key 13-yard completion to DeVante Parker on the game-clinching drive. Overall, it was a solid effort, though there’s stuff to clean up. Jacoby Brissett was a factor with two QB sneaks for first downs, including the game-clincher, and helps bring up the grade. Grade: B-

Running backs

The Dolphins’ rushing totals weren’t particularly overwhelming, but Malcolm Brown deserves props for a huge 4-yard gain to set up Brissett’s final QB sneak. He was stopped after what looked like a 2-yard gain but refused to go down and the pile got pushed forward for a couple more yards. That was really big. Myles Gaskin ran the ball well, picking up 49 yards on nine carries, including a 15-yard gain on the Dolphins’ second touchdown drive. Salvon Ahmed didn’t do much in the running game, but had a nifty 18-yard reception on the first touchdown drive. Grade: B-

Wide receivers

Waddle made an immediate and clear impact in his first NFL game, starting with a 17-yard pick-up on a slant on the very first offensive snap, followed by a 36-yard gain to set up a field goal and then his touchdown. Unfortunately, he did have a bad drop on a third-down pass to stop a drive. DeVante Parker showed once again what a factor he can be when healthy with four catches for 81 yards, including the key 13-yard pick-up late and a 30-yard reception on the second touchdown drive. No other wide receiver caught a pass and Albert Wilson was the only one else who was targeted (happened twice). Mack Hollins and Jakeem Grant each played seven snaps on offense without consequence. Grade: B+

Tight ends

It was an awfully quiet day for the tight ends in the passing game, as Durham Smythe had the only reception (good for 9 yards). Mike Gesicki played only 21 snaps (his lowest total since his rookie season) and didn’t have a catch on two targets. He did catch one pass in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated when the Dolphins were penalized for an ineligible man downfield. Hunter Long played 18 snaps, though he wasn’t targeted and the same held true for Cethan Carter on his 12 snaps. The biggest role for the tight ends on this day was blocking and considering the Dolphins managed only 259 total yards, it’s hard to hand out a very high grade here. Grade: C

Offensive line

This was not an easy assignment for the offensive line going against a solid New England defense and doing so with a rookie starting at left tackle after working at other positions during training camp, but it’s hard to be overly critical of the performance. The Dolphins’ final offensive numbers were pedestrian, but the running backs did average 4.1 yards per rushing attempt and Tagovailoa was hit four times while being sacked twice. The negatives were three penalties, though there was one bogus holding call against that rookie, Liam Eichenberg. The other holding call was legit, as was Solomon Kindley’s ineligible downfield penalty. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The biggest development on the defensive line in this game was the knee injury that sidelined Raekwon Davis after only five snaps, forcing veteran John Jenkins to get extensive playing time at nose tackle. Emmanuel Ogbah had a really good game, particularly during a stretch of the second half when he forced a holding penalty and then had a tackle for loss on a running play. Zach Sieler had the first of two fumble recoveries for the Dolphins, but also was flagged for illegal hands to the face. Christian Wilkins had one of the Dolphins’ nine quarterback hits, but was moved out of his position on Damien Harris’ 35-yard run on the first offensive play of the game. That run really skewed New England’s rushing numbers because without it the Pats gained 95 yards on 29 carries for a 3.3 average. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Jerome Baker was very active and ended up leading the team with 12 tackles, but all of them came downfield (shortest gain was 4 yards) and he was on the wrong end of a 26-yard completion to running back James White, tough credit has to go to Mac Jones for a perfect pass on that one. Baker also was involved in the tackle that produced Xavien Howard’s big takeaway late in the game. Sam Eguavoen was the most productive pass rusher among the linebacker with three QB hits, though Andrew Van Ginkel had a fairly quiet outing. Elandon Roberts had an apparent third-down sack wiped out by a dubious roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting Jones at the knees as he fell forward into him and also had great coverage on an incompletion. New England running backs caught nine passes for 75 yards, which is a bit much to give up. Grade: C+

Secondary

Jones ended the game with 281 passing yards, but he didn’t have a completion longer than that 26-yard hook-up to White. Jakobi Meyers tied White for the team lead with six catches, but they went for only 44 yards, while Nelson Agholor had a team-high 72 receiving yards. The only glaring coverage mishap resulted in a 22-yard completion to Meyers, but it was the product of a receiver knocking slot corner Justin Coleman out of the way on an uncalled pick play. What the DBs did best again was creating takeaways, with Howard’s play obviously topping the list. But Eric Rowe was the one who stripped the ball on the Sieler fumble recovery and rookie Jevon Holland also forced a fumble by tight end Jonnu Smith, though the Patriots recovered that one. This was a game for the whole defense with a lot of bending but little breaking. Grade: B

Special teams

It was a pretty uneventful game in terms of special teams, though Jason Sanders did what he does, which was make a 48-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half look easy. It was not a great Dolphins debut for punter Michael Palardy, who had a net average of only 35 yards in large part because he put a punt from the Miami 48 into the end zone for a touchback. Jakeem Grant gained 18 yards on his only punt return, but he fielded the ball at the 2-yard line, so chances are the Dolphins would have had the same starting point had he let it go (because it likely would have gone into the end zone for another touchback). Jamal Perry, Mack Hollins and Brennan Scarlett all were in on two tackles on special teams, and the Dolphins didn’t give up a long return. Grade: B

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