Just as I did last January, I will be grading the Dolphins position by position on a semi-daily basis, starting with quarterbacks and finishing up with special teams some time next month.
The Dolphins' quarterbacks were a big part of the Dolphins' offensive woes in their 7-9 season in 2010, as they ranked near the middle of the pack in yards and completion percentage, but just 27th in passing touchdowns and 28th in passer rating.
Here are how I graded the Dolphins' quarterbacks individually:
2009 grade: C+
2010 grade: C-
Third-year quarterback Chad Henne struggled, with himself partially to blame and the rest of the blame going to offensive coordinator Dan Henning's terrible play-calling and the lack of a productive running game.
Not allowed to audible or change plays by the coaching staff, Henne struggled to create a productive passing attack and often relied on safe, checkdown passes to the running backs. He failed to get into any rhythm as a passer and consistently fell short during big drives late in the game.
I wouldn't say Henne drastically regressed in 2010. His numbers actually improved from 2009 almost across the board. However, a lot of that was due to playing it safe with dump-off passes. There is really no way of knowing how he would have done if the coaching staff had taken the training wheels off.
2009 grade: n/a
2010 grade: D
His lone start was the Dolphins' worst game of the season on offense, as they were shut out by the stout Bears' defense and Thigpen was sacked six times while throwing an interception.
Thigpen showed off his mobility a bit in the wildcat and as a regular quarterback, but he was actually sacked twice as often per passing attempt as Henne. This is often the case with mobile quarterbacks, as they end up trying to use their legs to extend plays and end up running into sacks.
2009 grade: D+
2010 grade: n/a
On Chad Pennington's first passing attempt of the season after taking over for a benched Chad Henne against the Tennessee Titans, he was pushed into offensive tackle Jake Long and re-aggravated his shoulder. He completed his second attempt to Brian Hartline for a 19-yard gain. Then, he promptly exited the game and was on injured reserve by the following Tuesday.
Soon to be 35 years old this spring, the weak-armed Pennington doesn't seem likely to be able to continue an NFL career beyond a backup/mentor role. He certainly cannot be relied upon to start for a team—or even be a primary backup—if his shoulder can't hold up through more than a few hits.
Overall 2009 Position Grade: C
Overall 2010 Position Grade: C-
Dolphins fans were hoping to see the continued progression of Chad Henne in 2010—something to make them believe the search for a long-term answer at quarterback might actually be over.
Instead, they got a regressed offense, a coach more seriously on the hot seat, and as much uncertainty as ever with the current Bill Parcells regime put into place and then left to fend for itself.
While Henne's patience with the fan base has worn thin, I do believe he still has the potential to be a good NFL quarterback if developed the right way and paired with enough talent on offense.
Whether or not Henne gets that chance in Miami remains to be seen. A lot of that will be determined by any veteran acquired to compete with him via free agency or trade, and whether or not the Dolphins use a high draft pick on the quarterback position this April.
Henne will probably get a shot to start in 2011, but he will be on a short leash and his eventual replacement may be added to the roster this offseason.
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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.