Down to one healthy quarterback following their 29-17 win over the Tennessee Titans and facing a looming Thursday night contest against the Bears, the Miami Dolphins are scrambling to bring in free-agent quarterbacks to fill out their depth chart.
Newly anointed starter Chad Pennington was knocked out after two plays against the Titans, while starter-turner-backup Chad Henne was felled late in the third quarter after taking a helmet to the knee.
Confirmed reports of either player's health are not yet available, although sources say Pennington is likely done for the season with a dislocated shoulder, while Henne's knee could result in a similar fate. Henne is slated to have an MRI this evening due to the urgency of the situation.
Third-stringer Tyler Thigpen, who finished the game with a touchdown pass and no turnovers in the fourth quarter, seems likely to start Thursday against the Bears.
The Dolphins are also wasting no time bringing up potential depth, reportedly contacting JaMarcus Russell and lining up a workout with Tom Brandstater.
The pair will likely be among a handful of quarterbacks brought in by the Dolphins over the next few days.
The first-round overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2007, Russell spent three unimpressive seasons in Oakland before his release in May.
Concerns about his work ethic and motivation, as well as legal issues stemming from drug charges in July, have caused Russell to receive very little interest from the NFL since his release.
Not practice-squad eligible due to the number of games he's played, Russell received a workout with the Washington Redskins on Nov. 2 but was not offered a contract.
A sixth-round pick out of Fresno State in 2009, Brandstater served as the Denver Broncos' third-string quarterback behind Kyle Orton and Chris Simms during his rookie season.
Brandstater was waived by the Broncos upon the arrival of Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow in the 2010 offseason and claimed off waivers by the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite throwing four touchdowns for the Colts in the 2010 preseason, Brandstater was waived during final cuts. He spent most of September on the team's practice squad before being released.
The names the Dolphins are looking at aren't sexy, but the free-agent quarterback market is very thin and the team will need some new bodies for depth with potentially only one healthy quarterback.
Russell is certainly worth a look despite how poorly his professional career has gone to this point. I'm not optimistic he has what it takes upstairs to be a good pro quarterback, but he certainly has the physical skill set to bring in on a cheap contract.
Brandstater is a solid developmental prospect in his own right, but he's not really NFL ready and could be auditioning more for a practice squad role.
Other prospects from around the league include practice-squad quarterbacks Rhett Bomar (Giants), Jonathan Crompton (Patriots), Hunter Cantwell (Ravens), Nate Davis (49ers), Graham Harrell (Packers), Thaddeus Lewis (Rams), Tyler Palko (Chiefs) and Brian St. Pierre (Panthers), who can all be signed to Miami's active roster.
The United Football League also offers a few players with NFL experience, including Brooks Bollinger (Tuskers), Daunte Culpepper (Mountain Lions), Jeff Garcia (Nighthawks), Matt Gutierrez (Nighthawks), Josh McCown (Colonials) and D.J. Shockley (Nighthawks).
Culpepper and McCown have already had previous stints with the Dolphins, while McCown was actually brought in by the current front office to be a short-term starter in 2008 before Chad Pennington became available.
If the Dolphins do lose both Pennington and Henne for the season, they could opt to replace one on the active roster and add a third for depth on the practice squad.
They could also keep Henne on the active roster for the time being if there is a possibility he could return before the end of the season.
Beyond 2010, I'd expect Chad Pennington to strongly consider retirement, while Henne, Thigpen and a drafted rookie compete for the starting gig in 2011.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.