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Friday, October 2, 2009
Is Henne too inexperienced to handle Jets?



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Players aren't supposed to look beyond their next game.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The Jets' defense should provide a good measuring stick for Chad Henne.
That doesn't mean we can't.

Next week, the Miami Dolphins will host the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."

Sadly, much of the entertainment value conjured up by Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder and Jets coach Rex Ryan has been nullified by each team's start.

Just as a reminder, here's what Crowder said about Ryan:
"Oh, he's going crazy. He's going absolutely nuts. I know it's his first chance to be a head coach, and I know he's excited about life. But, like I said, I've never played a football game in June in my whole life. So congratulations to him. He's ... the OTA Super Bowl winner."
Looks like Ryan was the champ for September, too. The Jets went an emphatic 3-0. The Dolphins went 0-3 and lost quarterback Chad Pennington to a season-ending shoulder injury.

But what popped into my head first when thinking ahead to the Jets-Dolphins game wasn't necessarily Crowder and Ryan chirping back and forth.

Instead, I couldn't help but wonder how second-year pro Chad Henne would handle the Jets' defense. The fact Ryan will be coming after him only makes the questions more intriguing.

Henne gets to wade into his first NFL start Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Land Shark Stadium. Next week will be a different kind of "Welcome to the NFL" moment.

Ryan's defense makes veteran quarterbacks mumble to themselves. The last time the Dolphins faced a Ryan defense, Pennington threw four interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of last year's playoffs. Pennington had helped the Dolphins tie an NFL record for fewest turnovers in the regular season.

Imagine how much of an eye-opener the Jets' tricky and highly aggressive tactics will be for Henne, who was supposed to serve as Pennington's understudy for one more season but grasps the torch about eight months earlier than the Dolphins would've preferred.

We don't really have a clue how well Henne can read a defense, how he handles heavy pressure, what kind of decisions he makes under duress. We probably won’t know much more after Sunday's game. The Bills' scratch-and-dent defense doesn't remotely resemble the Jets'.

Oh, and another thing: Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace will return from his four-game suspension for the Miami game.

Week 5 will be a great test for Henne and give Dolfans a better hint of what kind of quarterback he can be than Sunday's game will. If he can respectably navigate the Jets' defense, then there will be reason to get excited about what has suddenly become a rebuilding year.

And I'm sure -- in retrospect and given the circumstances -- Henne is thrilled Crowder gave Ryan and his loyal defenders all the more reason to blitz.