A breakdown of the Miami Dolphins' performance after five games this season:
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is blossoming in his second season as an NFL starter. He's improved his completion percentage (62.6) and has an 85.5 passer rating. He's responsible for leading the Dolphins to two fourth-quarter victories in the first five games. Tannehill has improved in every aspect of the game he struggled with — third down (ranked ninth before Sunday), fourth-quarter performance (80.6 passer rating) — in 2012.
Dolphins cornerbacks have been strong this season, and that's been evident by the fact no receiver has scored a touchdown yet. Brent Grimes has played like a top 10 talent at his position, and Nolan Carroll appears to be blossoming in his fourth season. Once Dimitri Patterson, the season-opening starter, returns from his groin injury the Dolphins' secondary could tighten even more. So far this season opposing quarterbacks have a 83.9 passer rating.
H-back Charles Clay, who has been called on to play more because of Dustin Keller's season-ending knee injury, is blossoming in Miami's west coast offense. He's on pace to catch 74 passes for 950 yards, and leads the Dolphins with three touchdowns scored. Clay has always had talent, but this former Tulsa fullback appears to be developing chemistry with Tannehill.
The offensive coaching has been lackluster. The running game is inept, and often abandoned. Pass blocking remains an issue considering Miami is on pace to set a franchise record for sacks allowed, and the Dolphins haven't utilized Tannehill's athleticism much. Joe Philbin and staff must do a better job putting the offense in position to be successful.
The Dolphins' defense hasn't lived up to expectations yet. This unit, which has consistently been stingy against the run, and was No. 1 in red zone defense last season, has a bend but don't break approach. But lately there has been too much bending. Injuries to key starters (Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Dannell Ellerbe and Patterson) have handcuffed the unit at times.
The only rookie who has made a significant contribution this season is kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has made 10 of- 11 field goals. Dion Jordan, the team's first-round pick, averages 20 snaps a game, and needs to have his workload increased. One of the rookie cornerbacks (Jamar Taylor or Will Davis) needs to earn some playing time by practicing well. Tight end Dion Sims and tailback Mike Gillislee need to speed up their development considering both play positions the Dolphins need help at.
The rushing game is on pace for a franchise-low 1,114 yards, and there is concern the Dolphins don't have the offensive linemen athletic enough to make this zone blocking scheme work. Lamar Miller's shortcomings limit him to 11 touches per game, despite the fact Daniel Thomas, who is averaging 2.6 yards per carry, has been a major disappointment.
The Dolphins are on pace to allow 77 sacks. Everyone, from the offensive line, the tailbacks and tight ends, and the quarterback are part of the problem, which has led to 24 sacks so far. If this pace continues there's little doubt Tannehill won't be healthy enough to play all 16 games.
A few players have not lived up to expectations yet. Strong safety Reshad Jones, who just signed a $29 million contract extension last month, is struggling in this new defense. ProFootballFocus.com rates him the NFL's 70th best safety this season. Center Mike Pouncey has been manhandled against the Browns and Ravens. And Marcus Thigpen hasn't been a factor in the return game yet.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun