Grading the Dolphins' roster: Defense and special teams

The Miami Dolphins had an eventful offseason with a series of losses and additions in free agency. With that in mind, here are grades for the current roster.

Let’s examine the defense and special teams:

Defensive line: B

Analysis: The talent is there. However, the production was not last season and that impacts the grade. Miami’s group led by Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Mario Williams should be dominant on paper, especially if other supporting players such as Earl Mitchell, Jordan Phillips and Andre Branch step up and provide depth. But this underachieving group couldn’t stop the run and didn’t make enough game-changing plays. A better scheme and coaching should help get the best out of this talented unit.

Linebacker: D-plus

Analysis: This was one of the team’s weakest areas last year. Starters Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins and Kelvin Sheppard struggled with consistency and/or injuries. The Dolphins replaced Sheppard in the middle via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to land Kiko Alonso. But is Alonso the answer? The Dolphins are putting a lot of stock in expecting a bounce-back year from Alonso after a bad season in Philadelphia.

Cornerback: D

Analysis: The team essentially swapped Pro Bowler Brent Grimes for the inconsistent Byron Maxwell at the No. 1 corner, which is a risky move. The Dolphins are confident Maxwell can bounce back from his shaky 2015 with the Eagles and that he’s a good scheme fit under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. There isn’t much proven talent behind Maxwell. The No. 2 and nickel roles are wide open, because former draft picks Jamar Taylor, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett haven’t shown enough to secure those jobs. The offseason program and training camp will be huge for this trio. It’s also likely Miami will add to this position via the draft.

Safety: B-minus

Analysis: The Dolphins have a Pro Bowler in this group in Reshad Jones. He’s coming off a monster season and is in his prime. They also signed free agent Isa Abdul-Quddus to fill the other starting job, and it will be interesting to see what kind of chemistry he develops with Jones. Michael Thomas is a solid and versatile backup who can help at safety, the nickel and special teams. Walt Aikens also is a young, athletic player with potential to grow.

Special teams: B

Analysis: Second-year punter Matt Darr is the star of this group. He was an undrafted gem last year who averaged 47.6 yards per punt. Kicker Andrew Franks is still a bit of an unknown. He didn’t get many field goal opportunities last year and finished 13-of-16. The Dolphins still need to see more from him. Receiver Jarvis Landry remains the team’s best kick returner. However, with his huge role in the offense, it may be time to find a replacement.

It’s debatable whether this current roster is much better than last year’s team that went 6-10. Vice president Mike Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and new head coach Adam Gase must land plenty of talent next month in the NFL draft to try to get this team over the hump.