ReFo: Jets @ Dolphins, Week 17
Miami got the help they needed on Sunday, but in the end they just couldn’t help themselves. Before the game they needed either a loss from Baltimore or a win from San Diego to have a chance. They got both. They just couldn’t hold up their part of the deal and only scored seven points all day against a Jets team with nothing to lose. Ryan Tannehill turned the ball over three times and Rex Ryan pulled out all the stops to finish off a 20-7 victory.
The Jets finish the season at 8-8 for the second time in two seasons. Ryan found out after the game that he will indeed be back as head coach of the Jets next season. With quarterbacking dominating the NFL, it’s amazing Ryan has won any games the last five years. In four of his five seasons with the Jets, his starting quarterback has graded in the bottom three in our overall grading. If Geno Smith can develop into even an average quarterback, it’s scary to think what the Jets could do. The Jets will pick 18th in next year’s draft.
The loss drops the Dolphins to a disappointing 8-8 finish. In a season mired by controversy, the Dolphins were one of the most inconsistent teams in football. In back-to-back weeks they beat the Bengals and the lost to the Buccaneers. In weeks 14-15 they put up 58 total points against the Steelers and Patriots and then just 7 total points in weeks 16-17 against the Bills and Jets. It’s still hard to say exactly what the Dolphins have at quarterback as Tannehill has been the main culprit in their variable performance. The Dolphins will pick 19th in the 2014 draft.
Jets – Three Performances of Note
Going Out With a Bang
When you watch a meaningless week 17 game as a fan, this is precisely what you want to see. Rookies Geno Smith and Dee Milliner look like pro bowlers at their respective positions. His numbers may not have been gaudy, but Smith’s efficiency was as good as it’s been all season on Sunday. He was accurate on 18-27 targeted pass, including 5-6 on throws over 10 yards down the field. Smith finished with the highest grade of his career at +3.8, just a week after posting his second highest grade, a +3.5. It may not have been pretty for a long stretch in the middle of the year, and he still finished as our third lowest graded quarterback (-19.7), but Geno flashed enough that he’ll likely be starting come Week 1 next year.
If you watched the game this should come as no surprise, but Dee Milliner was everywhere on Sunday. He bit on two double moves, both to Mike Wallace. The first gave up a touchdown and the second one should have been a long score had it not been for an overthrow. He rebounded about as strong as a corner possibly could, though, allowing just five catches on 13 targets for 50 yards with two passes defended and two interceptions. The game-ending interception was a case of right place, right time, but his first pick was a thing of beauty. Wallace lost his footing on a hitch route, but Milliner read the route from a mile away and broke in front of him for a diving interception right on the edge of the red zone. His +5.2 grade is by far the best of his career and a great sign for Jets fans.
For all of 2012 and the first 12 weeks of 2013 Muhammad Wilkerson looked like an all-pro and the bona fide closest thing to J.J. Watt. Then for some reason the third year defensive end seemed to lose a little luster. Over the final five games Wilkerson had a cumulative grade of -3.4 and averaged just 2.4 pressures per game with one total sack, compared to 3.5 pressures per game and 10 total sacks in the previous 11 games. Again on Sunday he was a non-factor for much of the day. His run defense was solid with two stops and a +0.5 grade, but not game changing like we’ve come to expect. His pass rush was very weak with just three pressures and a -1.4 grade. One has to wonder if his snap counts are catching up to him. His performance has taken a noticeable turn towards the end of the season and he’s played a total of 1,997 snaps the last two years. This year alone he only missed 63 snaps and never sat out more than eight in a single game.
Who Saw This Coming?
NFL players level of performance is not a constant stream. The game in game out results can be completely random at times and season to season results show can show extreme variance as well. There is no more obvious case to support this point than Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie physically is what you would build your optimal corner to look like if you were playing Madden. Size, speed, he has both. Sometimes that translates to 10 interceptions, like he had in 2007, and sometimes it translates to our second lowest graded cover corner on the season like it did in 2013. Against the Dolphins he allowed five of 10 targets for 77 yards and had an overall grade of -2.3. His habit of biting on double moves led to 937 yards allowed this season, the third most in the NFL.
Dolphins – Three Performances of Note
Don’t Blame Us
One of the bigger myths surrounding the Dolphins this season has been that their offensive line gives Ryan Tannehill no time to throw. This stems from their league-high 41 sacks allowed. While this has certainly been true on occasion, the truth is Tannehill’s escapability is the worst in the league, converting 26.2% of all pressures into sacks. On Sunday the offensive line surrendered a mere 10 pressures and had a cumulative pass blocking grade of +4.8. Tannehill had no one to blame for his erratic performance but himself. The Dolphins’ quarterback finished with the third worst accuracy percentage of all quarterbacks in week 17 (60.5), as he was accurate on just 23 of 38 targeted throws. That’s not going to cut it in a must-win situation.
All That He Can Do
With lackluster performance through the air, running back Lamar Miller tried to make up for it all on his own on the ground. Miller had his best game of the season, breaking three tackles, gaining 2.5 yards after contact per attempt, and finishing with a grade of +2.7. Miller averaged 4.3 yards per carry against a team that allowed a league low 3.4 yards per carry all season long. He did it all despite an offensive line that had a cumulative run blocking grade of -10.3 and struggled mightily to get any movement against the Jets vaunted front three. It was quite the performance after an up and down year for the Miami running back.
The strength of the Miami defense all year long has been their defensive tackles. Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and Paul Soliai all finished the season grading at +10 or higher and with positive grades in both run defense and pass rushing. If you neutralize those three, you have a pretty good chance of scoring points, and that is exactly what the Jets did. Soliai (-2.3), Odrick (-1.8), and Starks (-1.5) combined for three total pressures and five stops. Their absence was big in the running game, but also in the passing game, where clean pockets allowed Geno Smith to avoid getting sacked and scramble for 32 yards on the day.
– The Dolphins missed just three tackles on the day yet still gave up 154 yards on the ground.
– Brian Winters, PFF’s fifth lowest graded guard on the season, had his first game graded above +1.0. He allowed just one hurry and had an overall grade of +2.4.
– Ryan Tannehill was just 8-22 on passes over 10 yards down the field.
PFF Game Ball
Geno Smith was fantastic, but it was his rookie teammate who almost single-handedly shut down Tannehill and the Dolphins passing offense. Dee Milliner’s two interceptions were the difference in this one and he earned this game ball.
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