Thursday, January 19, 2012

Miami Dolphins 2011 Position Grades: Quarterback

Just as I did last January, I will be grading the Dolphins position by position on a semi-daily basis, starting here with quarterbacks and finishing up with special teams some time next month.

Most of us thought we were going to finally see if 2008 second-rounder Chad Henne was the answer or not (though some fans had decided he wasn't long before), but when a separated shoulder ended his season after just three games, backup Matt Moore took the team the rest of the way and actually ended up playing pretty well. The Dolphins finished the season on a 6-3 run as the team's quarterbacks ranked 14th in yards per attempt, 12th in team passer rating, and 18th in completion percentage.

Here are how I graded the Dolphins' quarterbacks individually:


Matt Moore

2010 grade: n/a
2011 grade: B

Signed as a veteran backup with only Pat Devlin on the roster behind Henne, Moore had starting experience from his time in Carolina and seemed like a solid No. 2 guy at worst.

Much to everyone's surprise, Moore ended up appearing in 13 games (starting 12) due to Henne's season-ending shoulder injury. And while things were rocky for a while, Moore ended up securing the 0-7 Dolphins their first victory of the season (and earning AFC player of the week honors in the process) in a 31-3 route over the Chiefs in Week 9.

Aside from a few bumps along the way, including a poor performance in a 20-19 loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and a concussion suffered in an eventual loss to the Eagles, Moore played very well down the stretch and finished the season with a very solid stat line.

Completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,497 yards and 16 touchdowns with just nine interceptions, Moore compiled a passer rating of 87.1 that ranked him 12th in the NFL and fifth in the AFC, ahead of the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

While I think the team around him ended up playing better as the season went along, I have very few complaints about Moore's performance. He had a couple of bad games and was even one of the major culprits on a few losses, but overall he played very well, making good decisions and throwing a nice, accurate deep ball.

I'm still of the belief that Moore is not a viable long-term starter, but I would say that on a good team, he's a serviceable-enough starter to go 8-8, or even compete for a playoff spot in a lucky year. As the Dolphins continue to look for their long-term franchise quarterback, Moore appears to be a quality stopgap.


Chad Henne

2010 grade: D
2011 grade: C

Handcuffed by poor talent around him and the atrocious play-calling of dinosaur Dan Henning, Henne fell out of favor quickly with Dolphins fans long before the 2011 season began. I was always a bigger Henne supporter than most and felt he still possessed the tools to be a good starter with more time to develop and the right situation.

Despite not getting to see very much of him in 2011, I do think Henne was improving in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's offense and I'm disappointed we didn't get to see him work in the system for a full season. From what we did see, he commanded the offense better than he ever had, he was more decisive and relaxed with his new-found freedom, and he was actually making plays with his legs.

That is not to say he was perfect, as the Dolphins didn't win any of the three games he started and there were a few occasions where he failed to come through at the end of the game, in particular against the Browns in Week 3.

Many people find Henne to be an ideal backup, and I myself believe he could thrive in that role and even compete for a starting job down the line. However, as an impending free agent I think it is unlikely he returns to the Dolphins. My expectation is that the team goes into 2012 with Moore as the starter, a drafted rookie (hopefully a high one) as the backup, and Devlin as the third-stringer. Henne, meanwhile, will probably move on from the franchise that drafted him and look for a change of scenery and opportunity elsewhere.


Sage Rosenfels

2010 grade: n/a
2011 grade: n/a

Rosenfels returns for his second tour of duty with the Dolphins in October after the season-ending injury to Henne. However, he was only on the team three weeks before landing on the non-football injury list. Rosenfels was subsequently released after reports the Texans were interested in him as a backup, but he was claimed off waivers by the Vikings and finished out the season on their bench.


J. P. Losman

2010 grade: n/a
2011 grade: n/a

Losman became the "veteran backup" to Moore after Rosenfels' stint ended with the team, only after fellow former Bills' bust Trent Edwards declined an offer by the Dolphins. He played sparingly, completing of 6-of-10 for 60 yards against the Eagles in Week 14 after Moore went down with a concussion. In that game, Losman was "protected" by tackles Nate Garner and Marc Colombo and was sacked five times, by the end of it looking like he was seriously questioning his career choice.

The former first-round bust and UFL champion has no real place in the NFL and almost certainly will not be back in 2012 now that his contract has expired.


Pat Devlin

2010 grade: n/a
2011 grade: n/a

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Delaware in 2011, Devlin played sparingly in the preseason with just five pass attempts. Despite beating out Kevin O'Connell for the No. 3 job, Devlin was relegated to the practice squad for much of the regular season as the Dolphins rolled with just two active quarterbacks. He was promoted to the active roster (a procedural move to re-sign him for 2012) with two weeks left in the season, but he was not active for a game.

Quarterback-starved Dolphins fans might suggest giving Devlin a shot to play in 2012 in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough, but that's not realistic. Devlin went undrafted and unclaimed on the practice squad all season for a reason, and that's because he's a long-term project with questionable upside. I'd say it's even unlikely he secures the No. 2 job next season and at best he'll be competing for the third-string spot once again.


Summary

2010 overall position grade: D+
2011 grade: B-

In all, Henne played just under a fourth of the season and Moore took it the rest of the way. While he didn't light the world on fire, Moore led the team to a handful of victories and overall played very well. His 87.1 passer rating was the best by a Dolphins' starter since Chad Pennington in 2008 and the second-best since some guy named Dan Marino retired in 1999.

The overall thing to take away from the Dolphins' quarterback situation entering the 2012 offseason is that it's not entirely settled, but it's not a disaster, either. Moore is clearly a capable backup and entering his second season with the team is an ideal placeholder at the position until the team can find a quarterback of the future.

I don't believe Moore will be the starter for years to come and I seriously doubt whether or not he'll ever be able to carry a team, but the Dolphins can be competitive in the coming season with Moore in place and some of the team's other holes filled in the offseason.


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