Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dolphins lose Chad Henne for season, bring back familiar face

Things couldn't get much worse for the 0-4 Miami Dolphins, as it was revealed Thursday that starting quarterback Chad Henne will miss the remainder of the 2011 season after sustaining a separated shoulder on his non-throwing arm that will require surgery.

Through four games, the embattled former second-round pick was on pace for career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, but the team had faltered out of the gate in large part due to red zone trouble, poor pass protection and a defense that had curiously regressed from its No. 6 ranking a year ago.

A free agent in the offseason, Henne may very well have played his last game for the Dolphins. Despite signs of progress in 2011, Henne's lack of production since he took over the starting job two seasons ago has been an issue for many Dolphins fans, and the team may be in position to select an elite quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft if their woes continue.

As for the Dolphins the rest of the way, Matt Moore is expected to take over as the team's starting quarterback, while veteran Sage Rosenfels has been signed for his second stint with the team to provide veteran depth. Undrafted rookie Pat Devlin remains on the practice squad.

Sage Rosenfels

Rosenfels played college football at Iowa State, where he was named the team's Offensive MVP as a senior and led the Cyclones to their first bowl victory.

The Washington Redskins drafted Rosenfels in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season as the team's third-string quarterback behind Tony Banks and Jeff George before being dealt to the Dolphins in the offseason for a seventh-round pick in 2003.

In four seasons with the Dolphins, Rosenfels served primarily as a third-string quarterback, backing up Jay Fiedler and Ray Lucas in 2002, Fiedler and Brian Griese in 2003, and Fiedler and A. J. Feeley in 2004. His biggest accomplishment with the team came in relief if Gus Frerotte against the Bills in 2005, as Rosenfels engineered a comeback with three fourth-quarter scores to erase a 23-3 deficit.

After signing with the Houston Texans in 2006, Rosenfels spent three seasons as a backup and started 10 games over his final two seasons in place of an injured Matt Schaub, accumulating a 6-4 record in relief. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a fourth-round pick in 2009, but did not appear in a game as the third-string quarterback behind Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson.

A year later, Rosenfels was again traded, this time to the New York Giants. He spent the season backing up Eli Manning, failing to throw a pass for the second straight season. Despite a strong performance in the 2011 preseason, Rosenfels was placed on injured reserve with a blood illness and later released on Oct. 4.

Rosenfels is presumably over his illness and would have to have passed a physical to sign with the Dolphins. He will likely immediate slot in as the No. 2 quarterback behind Moore and it remains unlikely Devlin will be promoted at this time. For what it's worth, Rosenfels' old No. 18 is currently taken by wide receiver Roberto Wallace, and No. 2 (which he wore in Minnesota in 2009 when No. 18 was taken) is owned by punter Brandon Fields.


I'm sure there are some cold-hearted and blood-thirsty Dolphins fans happy to see the potential end to the Henne era in Miami, but I personally had always believed in his potential and at the very least it's a shame to see his season end like this. He certainly wasn't the biggest culprit on the Dolphins' 0-4 start and had actually been showing promise in Brian Daboll's new offense.

That being said, the red zone had been a serious issue for the Dolphins this season and consistently failing to get seven points that close to the end zone was a major issue. While I liked how Henne had played overall and I considered him the Dolphins' best option, backup Matt Moore probably doesn't represent a very big downgrade at the position.

Make no mistake about the Rosenfels signing, he is not going to come in and push Moore for the job any time soon. Rosenfels is indeed a quality backup, with loads of experience, more touchdowns than interceptions and a solid 81.2 career passer rating, but Moore has been in the system since camp and should be more than capable of holding his own.

Rosenfels merely provides a second experienced player on the depth chart, as it is obvious the team does not consider rookie practice-squadder Pat Devlin ready to play in the NFL, or even be the primary backup on game days.

While Moore may be able to match Henne's production this season, I'm skeptical he'll be able to turn around the Dolphins season. The pass protection remains a huge issue and the Dolphins aren't going to stop many offenses with no pass rush and a handful of key defensive players producing well below expect levels.

With the Henne era (and possibly by extension, the Tony Sparano era) coming to an end in Miami, it's fair to wonder if the 0-4 Dolphins may in fact be the leaders in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. At the very least, the team seems destined for a Top 10 or even Top 5 pick, and one has to expect the only direction the team could go with that pick is a quarterback.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.

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