Patriots vs. Dolphins: Chad Henne Ready to Take Next Step Against New England
I know what you're thinking: the Patriots are going to cream the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. New England's beefed-up defensive front, with newcomers Albert Haynesworth, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, will give Chad Henne's body a bigger bruising than Miami fans gave his ego when they made clear their preference for Kyle Orton.
Who, by the way, is still in Denver.
While I agree that the Dolphins will probably get their blowholes beaten in by the Pats in South Florida, I'm holding out hope that this might be actually be the first day of the rest of Henne's career, in a positive way.
For one (and feel free to crucify me on this point), Henne has the potential to be the next Drew Brees. Yes, the same Drew Brees who threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers.
As Grantland football guru Bill Barnwell points out, Henne's career arch is almost identical to Brees' through three seasons. Like Brees, Henne is a somewhat undersized quarterback out of the Big Ten who entered the league as a second-round pick. Both spent most of their rookie seasons on the bench before putting up statistically comparable performances in Year 2 and suffering through a disappointing Year 3.
Of course, those resemblances constitute anything but a guarantee that Henne will emerge as a Pro Bowler, but it's certainly something worth considering.
As is Henne's track record against the Pats. The former Michigan quarterback has actually performed admirably in three out of his four career starts against New England, though the fourth was notably negative—6-of-16 for 71 yards and a pick in a 38-7 loss at Gillette Stadium in the 2010 season finale.
Henne should have a bit more success than that in the upcoming edition of Fins-Pats, to say the least. New England's defensive backfield will feature three of the same four players that gave up the third-most passing yards of any unit in the NFL last season.
The only change? Safety Josh Barrett, who missed the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury.
As for the Pats' pass rush, Fat Albert and his buddies should have a clear advantage against rookie center Mike Pouncey but will be hard-pressed to get much of anything going against left tackle Jake Long, who is among the best linemen in the NFL and is quietly putting together a Hall-of-Fame-caliber career.
With all of that being said, I don't think Henne is going to put up Brees-like numbers against the Pats this week. Rather, I expect that he'll have a solid evening while silencing those who think he will be one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league this year.
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