AFC East: The Big Question 52510

The Big Question: Marshall's hip slow Fins?

May, 25, 2010
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How will star receiver Brandon Marshall's absence impact quarterback Chad Henne and the Dolphins' offense?

The Dolphins traded for Marshall with the idea he would transform their offense and facilitate Henne's growth into a franchise quarterback. But we learned last week Marshall won't be able to practice until training camp because he had hip surgery.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireHip surgery will keep Brandon Marshall out of practice until training camp.
I wanted to find out how the absence of such a dazzling target, who must learn a new offense that will morph with him, might hurt the Dolphins' offseason plans. So I reached out to ESPN analyst and 13-year NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer for his take.

Dilfer said he generally believes "the offseason is somewhat overrated," but not when it comes to a quarterback developing synergy with a top receiver. Dilfer doesn't like the word "chemistry" because that indicates the teammates like each other, and that's overrated, too.

"You have to have an intuitive feel for what that person's going to do," Dilfer said. "A lot of that's developed in the offseason, in the grass basketball format, when you're in shorts. You get to discuss how you see things, how things look, how you like doing things, what it's like to roll out of a route at a certain depth, how do you like the ball, how you like the speed. The offseason's a great time to develop that. "

Most critical to foster is timing on intermediate and vertical patterns such as deep outs, corners and posts. Henne must get a feel for how Marshall maintains angles and speed and learn his ability to decipher coverages in the second and third levels.

Dilfer insisted excessive reps can make up for lost time in training camp.

"But if Marshall is coming back from a hip injury, then his training camp reps are going to be limited," Dilfer said. "To some degree this will negatively affect Chad and Brandon's ability to develop that synergy they need. It's going to take longer.

"The first part of the season, there'll still be a learning curve for the two. That doesn't mean they can't be effective. But the learning curve will bleed into the season a little bit longer than it should. That's not good, but it isn't devastating."

Dilfer added Marshall "can get away with being a little rusty" because of the style of receiver he is. He thrived with the Denver Broncos on bubble screens, quick slants, hitches and shallow crossing routes.

"He's not a guy that has to get himself open," Dilfer said. "You can scheme to get him the ball in open spaces. That's one of the things that makes him elite. You can get the ball in his hands quick and let him do damage."

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