We saw it with our eyes...The Dolphins offensive line that included reserves Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner at left guard and left tackle respectively, struggled on Sunday. And by struggled I mean allowing six sacks, three quarterback hits and multiple more pressures in only 18 passing attempts.
Coach Adam Gase said the pass protection was bad enough that he basically pardoned quarterback Ryan Tannehill from being criticized for a bad game.
And the ProFootballFocus.com analysts agree with that in this week's tape review. To wit:
Billy Turner was forced into action at LT -- a position he is basically the third-stringer for. He had a game to forget against the Titans, allowing three sacks, two QB hits and five QB hurries in addition to being responsible for one hands to the facemask penalty. Turner was the worst tackle in the league for week of the 55 qualifying players and also struggled in the run blocking game - an area he's had success at in the past.
The Dolphins' offensive line continues to be a major issue and the injuries and lack of depth showed against the Titans. They allowed four sacks (the other two must have been on running backs or a tight end) and 16 total QB pressures on just 24 drop backs. For the season, they rank second in sacks allowed (12), and second in total pressures allowed (67) to the Colts 76. The thing is the Dolphins have 57 fewer passing snaps.
As a result, the Dolphins rank dead last in the league in pass blocking efficiency (PBE is a formula that combines sacks, hits, hurries to the number of passing plays).
For the record, Mike Pouncey played well.
“Really well. Really well," Gase said. "It was like he was never gone."
Ja'Wuan James, meanwhile, continued his curious decline compared to the play he delivered his rookie season and early in 2015 before he was injured.
James gave up 1 1/2 sacks (he shared a sack allowed with Jay Ajayi in which neither player touched Derrick Morgan as the DE got a free run to Ryan Tannehill). Morgan, by the way, came into the game without a sack. He finished with two, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
I asked Gase why James, who was benched at the end of the Cleveland game, didn't play well the following week at Cincinnati and didn't play well against the Titans, has not been good this year.
“To say he’s not good, I think that’s a little extreme," Gase said. "I would say this, if there’s … if there’s 50 plays in a game, he’s having 45 really good plays to where he’s doing things right and then we’re having five rough plays, or five bad plays.
"It’s just something (that) when you’re at tackle, those five bad plays really stick out. That’s the thing. I know we’ve changed some technique things that we were trying to do with the tackles and some guys, it takes to quicker than others. Some of the things that we’re trying to do with him are different than what he’s done in the past.
"It’s about sometimes trusting your coaching, trusting the scheme that we’re trying to do and selling out and being all in. Sometimes what happens is when you’re in the middle of the game and bullets are flying, you’re trying to just figure out a way to get the guy blocked. And then you go away from a certain technique, and it’s a group working together, that can put you in a bad spot. That’s what’s happening a couple of times. I know he’s trying to do it right. It’s just we need him to kind of pick up the pace of doing it right all the time."
I don't want to quibble with coach ... but I will.
NFL offensive tackles get paid to protect the QB. They get paid to, in essence, be anonymous. The way they're anonymous is if you don't hear about them giving up sacks or sticking their big ham hands up an opponent's facemask, or tackling defensive linemen or jumping offsides.
James was mostly anonymous his rookie year. This year you hear about him a lot. If he's having five "rough plays" out of 50, that's not former first-round draft pick performance. That's middle of the road performance. So James is under-performing.
Moving on ...
WR Jarvis Landry came into the week leading the league in targets and receptions, but only had three targets (three catches for 28 yards) on the afternoon. It was the first time all year he was targeted fewer than 10 times. For the season, he is now 10th amongst WR in targets (44) and 4th in receptions (34).
Landry cannot be happy because he is Miami's short to intermediate WR threat. In a game Tannehill is under siege, the ball should be getting out quick to counter the pressure. The ball should be getting out to Landry. And it wasn't.
Tannehill was pressured on 16 of his 24 drop backs against the Titans, completing 5-of-10 passes for 74 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. He took six sacks.
In the eight drop backs Tannehill didn't have any pressure, he was very effective, completing 7-of-8 passes for 123 yards. For the season, Tannehill has been pressured on 44.4 percent of every drop back, most of any QB in the league who has started every game. For his career, Tannehill has now been sacked 200 times in less than 4 and a half years.
Tannehill's in-game numbers when not being pressured suggest Gase is correct not to throw the QB under the bus and, indeed, defend him and endorse him as his QB for the season.
Running back Jay Ajayi got the start and played 30 of 44 snaps against the Titans, 22 more than the next highest RB Damien Wiliams. Although he was only able to gain 42 yards on 13 carries, 36 of those yards came after contact and he was able to force three missed tackles.
DE Cameron Wake continues to show he is a great fit for the new wide-9 defensive scheme. Despite playing only 26 snaps against the Titans, Wake was able to record three QB hurries and two stops. For the season, Wake ranks 3rd of all 4-3 defensive ends in pass rush grade and has 15 QB hurries on only 122 total snaps.
The Dolphins did something different with Wake this week, as first reported by Salguero. They played Wake on early downs and employed him in a hybrid front that had Wake as one of five linemen in what was basically a 5-2 front. Call Wake an extra defensive end, which he was at times, or an outside linebacker, but he was in his four-point stance all but once.
CB Tony Lippett had a rough afternoon in coverage against the Titans, allowing 7 of 8 targets his way to be caught for 51 yards and a touchdown. He recorded nine solo tackles and 3 stops which were both the most for any cornerback in Week Five.
After leading the league in QB hurries through the first two weeks of the season, DE Mario Williams has really struggled recently, recording only two QB hurries the last 3 games. Williams was a ghost this game. He didn't have a tackle, a sack, a hit or a hurry. Zero.
For the season, Williams now has 15 QB hurries, putting him at 15th amongst 4-3 defensive ends. He has been slightly more effective against the run than the pass this year, grading out as PFF's 12th best 4-3 end in run defense through five weeks.
Safety Reshad Jones continues to quietly get better each week it seems, as he had another strong showing against the Titans, particularly in coverage, where he allowed only one catch for two yards. For the season, Jones has allowed eight catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns, grading out as PFF's 4th best safety in coverage through five games. Jones has typically struggled in pass coverage in his career so it's nice to see him continue to improve his game despite the unit as a whole struggles.
DT Ndamukong Suh had a quiet afternoon by his standards against the Titans, recording only one tackle and two QB hurries. Despite the underwhelming performance, Suh still leads all NT/DT with 19 stops and is ranked No. 1 at his position in run defense grade through five weeks. He also ranks 4th in QB hurries (10).
One thing about this game: Suh typically gets double teamed inside. That wasn't the case against the Titans as Josh Kline, who joined the team in September after being cut by the Patriots, faced off against Suh one-on-one a majority of the day.