Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2009 Miami Dolphins Position Grades: Quarterback

Over the next month, I'll be going position by position on the Dolphins roster, handing out individual and overall position grades based on 2009 performances.

Here is my tentative schedule for each entry:
  • 1/12 — Quarterback
  • 1/14 — Running back
  • 1/17 — Wide receiver
  • 1/20 — Tight end
  • 1/23 — Offensive line
  • 1/25 — Defensive line
  • 1/27 — Outside linebacker
  • 1/29 — Inside linebacker
  • 1/31 — Cornerback
  • 2/2 — Safety
  • 2/4— Special teams
Now, on to the quarterbacks.

Chad Pennington: D+

Pennington never got much of a chance to get any momentum going, but it was clear he wasn't playing at the same level we saw in 2008.

In the three starts before his injury, Pennington threw two interceptions and fumbled three times while throwing just one touchdown pass.

His decision-making was off at times, and his poor arm strength showed through more than it had the previous season.

Pennington still has the talent to start in the NFL if healthy, but his arm strength can't be getting any better after mounting injuries, and he's probably destined for a veteran backup role most of his remaining career.

Chad Henne: C+

Henne was drafted as the Dolphins' quarterback of the future in the second round in 2008, and he got his chance to take the reigns earlier than expected after Pennington's injury.

Henne showed continued progression throughout the season, acquiring better pocket presence and awareness as his experience grew.

He displayed arm strength the Dolphins haven't seen at quarterback in a decade, and at times showed that he could put a team on his shoulders and air it out for the victory rather than just manage the game.

Henne still needs to work on his decision-making, pocket awareness and touch on short passes, but he has a bright future as the Dolphins' starting quarterback.

Pat White: D-

The Dolphins drafted White in the second round, not as a receiver like many expected him to be in the NFL, but as a true quarterback.

Looking to take their wildcat offense to the next level, the Dolphin periodically used White on offense as a spread-option quarterback.

Outside of a few good runs, the strategy simply did not work. It was routinely stuffed by opposing defenses, White failed to complete any passes out of the offense, and it broke any rhythm Chad Henne had built up during that game or drive.

White finished the season 0-for-5 passing with one sack, and rushed for just 81 yards on 21 carries. He also suffered a serious concussion in the season finale, which won't do anything to calm concerns about his slight build.

Tyler Thigpen: n/a

Thigpen was acquired for a fifth-round pick on Sept. 29 after Pennington's injury. His only appearance with the Dolphins in 2009 was in the season finale after Pat White's concussion, when he went 4-for-8 for 83 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.

A talented prospect who played well as the Chiefs' starter in 2008, Thigpen didn't play enough for the Dolphins to justify a grade. He'll continue to serve as Chad Henne's primary backup in 2009, even if he is listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind Pat White so that White can enter the game to play in the spread option.

Overall Position Grade: C

Chad Henne performed about as well as can be expected from a first-year starter with limited offensive weapons and has a bright future.

The Dolphins also have a quality young backup in Tyler Thigpen, but need to give up on the Pat White experiment despite just being one-year removed from making him their first second-round pick in the draft.

Regardless, the Dolphins' three quarterbacks in 2010 are set, and Pennington is essentially a lock to walk in free agency. It's important to remember that, as good a veteran backup as Pennington might be, he could have starting opportunities elsewhere and there are simply no open spots at the position in Miami.