This past offseason, the Miami Dolphins made a number of additions that had their fan base optimistic for the 2015 season. The club signed Ndamukong Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract and many people expected that the Dolphins would have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but that hasn’t been the case.
Now the Dolphins have crossed the midway point of the season and the year has not gone the way most folks had predicted. The team has a 3-5 record after many expected the Dolphins to be one of the six team in the AFC to make the playoffs.
The start of the season was so disappointing, the Dolphins fired former head coach Joe Philbin after the team's first four games (1-3). Interim head coach Dan Campbell hasn’t done much better in his first four games leading the team (2-2).
So how do the Dolphins grade out after eight games?
At the beginning of the year, many people expected Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to make the next leap in his career and for good reason. In his first three seasons under center, Tannehill’s numbers have gotten better each year.
However after signing a six-year, $95 million contract extension, 2015 appears to be the first year that Tannehill’s numbers have declined from his previous season.
In 2014, Tannehill completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions, all career highs. Through eight games, Tannehill is on pace to throw 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
The lack of production isn’t all Tannehill’s fault. Miami’s offensive line has had a number of injuries, namely to left tackle Branden Albert and most recently Ja’Wuan James. Even without the injuries, the offensive line hasn’t played well, as the Dolphins tied for seventh in the league in sacks allowed with 23.
The brightest spots of the Dolphins' offense has been the play of Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Lamar Miller. Landry leads Miami in catches with 53 and he also has three touchdowns (two receiving, one punt return). After being an afterthought in his first three seasons in the NFL, Matthews has been the Dolphins' second best-receiver with 37 receptions for 554 yards and four touchdowns thus far.
One of the biggest complaints of Philbin was that he never utilized Miller properly in the Dolphins' running game. In the four games since Campbell became the interim head coach, Miller has rushed for 347 yards and six touchdowns.
Miami is averaging 21.4 points per game this season, which is 21st in the NFL. When your defense is performing the way the Dolphins are, that just isn’t going to cut it.
Offensive Grade: D
As much as the Dolphins' offense has had its struggles this season, the defense has been worse. The addition of Suh was supposed to improve the rushing defense, but that hasn't happened.
Miami’s rushing defense ranks 31st in the NFL, which is second to last, due to the 142.1 rushing yards per game allowed. The Dolphins' passing defense has been a little better, as it is ranked 13th (242.4 ypg). But teams are preferring to run the ball down the Dolphins' throat as opposed to throwing it.
Losing Cameron Wake for the season to an Achilles injury is a massive blow, as he recorded seven sacks in his last three games prior to his injury against the New England Patriots.
The only positive of the Dolphins' defense has been the play of Reshad Jones. He has 74 total tackles and two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. Jones is likely one of the few Dolphin players that will make the Pro Bowl.
Defensive Grade: F
It is rare a team has a rookie kicker and a rookie punter at the same time, but that's what the Dolphins have on special teams. Andrew Franks has made six of eight field goals this season, but he has already missed two extra points.
Matt Darr is second in the NFL in punting average (49.1 yards per punt) and 10th in net punting (41.5).
Landry’s punt return against the Washington Redskins was the primary reason the team won its season opener. He is averaging 10.9 yards per punt return, which is the seventh-highest average in the NFL.
Special Teams Grade: B
There have been 15 teams in NFL history to make the playoffs after opening the season at 3-5. The Dolphins aren't likely to become No. 16. When a team’s defense is giving up more points than the offense scores, that isn’t a great sign of future success.
While Miami isn’t likely to make the playoffs, the team could somewhat salvage this season by finishing 8-8 for the third straight year. That could be enough for Dolphins' management to make Campbell the permanent head coach. Anything less than a .500 record and it's likely the team will go in a different direction at head coach.
Overall Grade: D
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.