While every South Florida media member, their mother and their dog focuses on the negatives from the Miami Dolphins devastating loss to the New England Patriots, I just can’t do it. Read their stuff, enjoy it, but I’m not going to overkill it.
Tom Brady’s 517 yards were incredible. As was his 99-yard touchdown to Wes Welker, the final knife into the side of the Dolphins “defense”. But the 455 yards of total offense by Chad Henne tops it all. Easily.
Was Brady’s night really that out of the ordinary, for him at least? This is a man who passed for 50 touchdowns back in 2007 and a sickening 34-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season.
Brady is a surefire hall-of-famer. Henne is a four-year coulda-woulda who may be turning the corner in what’s been a triple loop roller coaster of a career. Miami fans have struggled mightily with what to make of Henne since he was drafted in the second round back in '08.
It started out with “great potential”. Then it transformed into “We should have taken Matt Ryan”, followed by him showing glimpses and then being bad again. Now he’s on the up. Enough already, Chad. Reveal yourself!
So what do we make of Henne’s Monday night performance in which he was 30 for 49 for 416 yards and two touchdowns through the air? He finished with no turnovers unless you count a late meaningless up-for-grabs interception. He also made an impact on the ground, seemingly out of nowhere, rushing for 59 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. His 8.4 average led all rushers, which included Reggie Bush (3.5), Danny Woodhead (4.9) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4.9).
“The white Vick,” said Brandon Marshall of Henne’s surging ground game. “As long as he doesn’t get hit, just continue to do that because we need that.”
What they need is for Henne to consistently take care of the ball and put pressure on the defense through a revamped offense led by new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Ballerina feet aside, Henne showed several noticeable areas of improvement when I reverted back to the tape. Right from the get-go he displayed no hesitation in getting rid of the ball and appeared more willing to take risks, with the latter something Marshall openly campaigned for towards the end of last season. Both developments are sourced from confidence which has to be as high as it’s ever been in his pro career.
Another major positive contrary to last season is his new found ability to feel pressure and move in the pocket while still looking downfield. I always thought pocket presence was a natural skill, and while he still can get better in this area, it’s significantly better than in years past. Never have I ever witnessed Henne recognize the pressure, dart outside the pocket at full speed and then throw an accurate laser downfield while on the move. Yes, that happened Monday night and it wasn’t while you were dreaming.
What was truly amazing about Henne’s performance was his success behind an offensive line who may as well have had Justin Beiber playing guard. They collectively allowed Henne to get sacked four times, hit on nine occasions, and pressured 13 times according to Pro Football Focus. Comparatively, Brady was sacked once, hit twice, and pressured seven times.
Clearly, there was plenty of quality on the part of Henne in his first game, but not without some struggles.
Most importantly, he needs to improve his accuracy in the red zone where he completed just 6 of his 15 attempts. He especially had issues connecting with Marshall in that area of the field. It’s critical those two develop strong chemistry as the season progresses because he is above and beyond the team’s most talented receiver.
Henne also can avoid potential sacks and interceptions by throwing the ball away. On first-and-goal during the opening drive he took a bad sack which could have deterred Miami from getting six. It’s little plays like that which can define a game, although Miami ended up scoring anyway.
We will soon learn if this new and improved Chad Henne is here to stay. After hosting Houston and then heading to Cleveland the week after, they play tough road games against the Jets and Chargers. These games we will let us know.
Henne’s play in Week 1 has opened my eyes. And I was screaming for Kyle Orton and Vince Young this offseason.
We will soon realize if this first game was mirage or reality. For Dolphin fans and coaches it better be real, or it’s back to square one at the game’s most important position with the last four years being a waste.
Chad, the ball is your hands.