Buffalo perfect spot for Henne to step up

How much Chad Henne has developed since last year is one of the biggest questions in the NFL.

Big improvement means the Miami Dolphins are a threat to win the AFC East. An inability to show he's ready to be the franchise quarterback could bring misery.

"Obviously, there's big expectations," Henne said. "I'm taking it in. I just have to keep at it and keep learning and keep getting better and better each and every day. If things go my way and I'm making good decisions out there, we'll get there someday."

Appropriately, he will open his campaign in the spot of his worst professional game. The Dolphins will play the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The setting will provide a good test for Henne. The Bills have an impressive secondary and a new 3-4 defense that will force the Dolphins into a speculative game plan.

And what better way to demonstrate how far Henne has progressed than versus a team that embarrassed the Dolphins last year?

The surging Dolphins went to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 12. They had recovered from a 0-3 start by winning five out of seven games for a .500 record. They needed to beat the lowly Bills to maintain legitimate postseason hopes.

Miami led 14-7 entering the fourth quarter. Buffalo took a 17-14 lead with 3:40 to play. Henne tossed an interception on each of the next three possessions, and Buffalo won 31-14.

"It was tough," said Henne, who threw a touchdown pass but finished with a 42.5 passer rating. "I think the last bunch of games that we played in we didn't end in the right way and we didn't finish the way we wanted to.

"We just need to concentrate on what is at task. This is our season opener. We want to start fast and really execute on all cylinders."

For the first time Sunday, Henne will throw at Brandon Marshall in a meaningful game. They didn't click very well over the summer. Marshall missed every offseason practice because of hip surgery, delaying their quarterback-receiver symbiosis.

But Marshall's mere presence on the field will diversify an offense that has relied on running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

"It's going to be tough to defend," Henne said. "If you give us on-on-one coverage, we have Brandon out there one-on-one and, obviously, we have other receivers in Devon [Bess] and [Brian] Hartline. If you keep two deep and keep less guys in the box, then we're going to run the ball at you."

With added options come a more complicated offense. That will create more situations at the line of scrimmage and in the pocket that will call on Henne's generalship. He has to be up to the challenge.

"I think what I've learned is decision making and handling the ball the right way and making better decisions out there," Henne said. "I've kind of accomplished more in the preseason and the offseason, but there's still work to be done.

"We obviously have new weapons out there, so just go through my reads and be the quarterback that I am."