Friday, April 15, 2011
Pressure Point: Can Henne rebound?
By Matt Williamson Scouts Inc.
After a promising 2009, Chad Henne struggled last season. There were some mitigating factors, but he must cut down on his mistakes for the Dolphins to contend.
A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.
There wasn't a player who disappointed me more in 2010 than Chad Henne. I expected Henne to take a huge step forward as a full-time starter with an entire offseason to prepare for that role, but he did not. In fact, he played terribly.
I made the mistake of projecting Miami's offensive line to be the best line in all of football before the 2010 season. Because of weak interior play, that was far from the case. John Jerry struggled during his rookie season, and Nate Garner missed the season with a broken foot. That hurt the offense -- and Henne -- quite a bit. Henne doesn't handle interior pressure very well, and more importantly, he didn't have the consistent ground game to lean on, which was a strength of the team in previous seasons. The running back play was average at best. But even with all those mitigating factors, I cannot excuse Henne's performance.
Can Henne rebound in 2011? I think he can, but I am not betting the farm on it. Even when conditions were optimal, Henne left far too many plays on the field last season. But there was a reason I was high on Henne a year ago. He can really throw the ball, and he did show a lot of promise during 2009.
This year, I do expect the interior of the line to improve. There will be changes at running back, and Henne should be much more familiar with Brandon Marshall. The Dolphins might have the best set of offensive tackles in the league -- although health was a problem last year for Jake Long and Vernon Carey -- and they have a very solid two-way tight end in Anthony Fasano and an exceptional possession/slot wideout in Davone Bess. If Miami were to add any receiving help, it should be a home run threat (what Ted Ginn was envisioned to be). That would open up room for every other aspect of this offense and allow Henne to use his big arm downfield. Maybe Brian Hartline can step up into this role. I also expect Miami to have one of the elite defenses in football this season.
Year of the Quarterback
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
Although I expect Henne to enter the season as Miami's starting quarterback, he will be pushed this year much more than last with competition and surely will have a shorter leash. There also have been questions concerning Henne's leadership skills and ability to rally his team. He didn't play with confidence last year, and that rubs off on the entire team. That won't do.
Henne needs to be more consistent and stop forcing throws. His ability to read and manipulate defenses was another big problem. If Miami does in fact have an elite defense next season, there will not be an excuse for the 25-year-old quarterback to turn the ball over (19 interceptions) as often as he did in 2010. Henne needs to reel in his aggression a bit and play within a defined system. It would shock me a great deal if Miami's running game didn't drastically improve, and that will be huge for this young man. This is an offense that too often abandoned the running game and put too much on the quarterback's shoulders. There will be a new coordinator for Henne to work with this year. Play-action should be a dangerous weapon in this offense, and the Dolphins will be operating from far fewer third-and-long situations, assuming that running game (minus the outdated Wildcat) picks up.
Henne is still very young. He has a lot of ability, and I expect his supporting cast to be stronger in 2011. But there is no way around it: Henne must play better football for the Dolphins to compete in the tough AFC East.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.