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A breakdown of Miami's passing game troubles

The Dolphins passing game is in trouble and not just because inexperienced quarterback Chad Henne is taking over this week.

The Dolphins passing game the first three weeks of the season is ranked 30th in the NFL, averaging a paltry 155.7 yards per game. The Dolphins have only four pass plays of 20 yards or more and only St. Louis has fewer. The Dolphins have zero pass plays of 40-yards or more and that ties them with eight teams for the fewest.

It is no small wonder the Dolphins are struggling now because in today's high-flying NFL, where most teams throw more than they run, the Dolphins aren't throwing the football very well.

Many people believe that will change with Henne at quarterback because he has a strong arm that Chad Pennington did not even before he went on the injured reserve list Tuesday.

I've been telling you and will continue repeating it -- yelling from the mountain tops if I must -- that Miami's receiver corps is more the issue than the QB.

I gave the rundown of Miami's receivers yesterday and intend to do so again today to make more clear to you why this group is not good enough to give the Dolphins an excellent pass offense.

Look at it from a scout's perspective. As Nick Saban used to say, every position has "critical factors" that a scout should weigh to decide if a player can play the position successfully. Since there are no perfect players, no one achieves all the critical factors. But the blue chip players come close.

The critical factors for receivers?

They need great hands: A receiver is nothing if he cannot grasp and hold on to the football.

They need great speed: A receiver must be able to threaten the defense and not only close distance between himself and a backpedaling DB, but then create separation from that DB.

They need great quickness: A receiver must be able to turn and change direction quickly.

They need great ball skills: A receiver must be able to come down with the football when it is in the air and he is being challenged for it by another player, or often, two other players.

They need football intelligence: A receiver must be smart enough to learn the offense, learn the philosophy behind the passing game, learn defenses and recognize coverages. Then he must put all those together instantly on the field -- sometimes before the snap -- so he can adjust and overcome situations accordingly.

They need toughness: Football is a blood sport and everyone has to gut things out at one point or another. A receiver needs to stay on the field when he's hurt. He needs to be willing to block, because a great blocking receiver can turn 12-yard running plays into 62-yard running plays. He needs to be willing to expose his body against bigger players across the middle of the field when necessary.

So let's go to the elite, the best of the best, and see how that kind of player sizes up. Let's break down Andre Johnson, who I believe is among the best if not the best WR in the NFL today. He's also a fellow alumnus of Miami High and the U so I have to show him respect for that.

Hands? Johnson has good hands. Yes, he's had a couple of fumbles in his career, but never more than one per season. He typically catches with his hands and not his body and when the ball touches his hands, it typically sticks. 

Speed? Johnson runs in the low 4.4s He has no issue getting behind defenders. He never gets caught from behind.

Quickness: Despite his size, he can change direction and it does not take him forever to get started, something a certain Miami receiver has issues with.

Ball skills: Seldom is there a ball in the air that he must fight for, that he doesn't claim. Ask Yeremiah Bell about that one on that fateful fourth-down play last year.

Football intelligence: The Hurricanes ran a pro-style passing game and he had no problems picking it up. The Texans run a fairly complex pass game and Johnson is nails at recognizing adjustments and blitzes. He gets it.

Toughness: Johnson has had some injury issues, but not lately. The guy is 225 pounds of chiseled flesh that imitates granite. His downfield blocking is one reason rookie Steve Slaton gained 1,282 yards last season. And yes, Johnson goes across the middle and often initiates the contact with defenders.

So that's the breakdown of an elite guy. Now let me give the breakdown of Miami's top three receivers so you can understand why the Dolphins are struggling with their passing game and desperately need upgrading here.

Ted Ginn Jr.

Hands: Good until this year, but lately inconsistent. He dropped two touchdowns vs. Indianapolis, including the game-winner and let two balls get into his body, rather than catching them with his hands vs. San Diego. Those resulted in drops. So this season he's average here at best.

Speed: Ginn has elite speed and easily breezes through the 4.3 range. But it takes him a while to get going. He's a long-strider.

Quickness: Very little here. Ginn doesn't change direction like, say, Davone Bess. Study them together. The gulf in quickness between them is startling.

Ball skills: Offensive coordinator Dan Henning said something telling last week when he claimed Ginn would come down with the game-winner vs. Indy "five out of 10 times." You want a receiver who is better than 50 percent. You want 70-80 percent.

Football intelligence: We are in Year 3 and Ginn is said to still be perfecting the art of running routes. Enough said.

Toughness: If you've seen him play, I don't need to say anything here, you know the deal.

Davone Bess

Hands: The guy caught 293 passes in three seasons at Hawaii. He had 54 catches as a rookie and there was never a complaint about how he caught the ball. Great!

Speed: Bess is a 4.6 to 4.7 guy in the 40-yard dash. And that is the reason he's not an elite receiver. He will catch every ball and make somebody miss. But he can't run away from defenders.

Quickness: I just told you he'll make somebody miss. That's because he can change directions on a dime. Very good.

Ball skills: Above average in that Bess comes down with his fair share of contested passes.

Football Intelligence: Ace again. He's human and he misses some reads, but the guy knows to find an open area in the defense.

Toughness: Bess was a street kid, so he obviously doesn't back down from people. But his size limits his blocking. He's got the want-to, though.

Greg Camarillo

Hands: Ace here. Camarillo will catch the balls he's expected to catch and catch some balls that are improbable catches.

Speed: The big flaw again. He ran a 4.6 on a really, really good day before his knee surgery. He won't often get caught from behind, but he's not often behind the defense to test that.

Quickness: OK but not great. Camarillo can change direction but he is taller and lankier so it takes a millisecond longer to get that body moving in a different direction.

Ball skills: While there is no defining catch over a defender that I can remember, neither can I remember a moment Camarillo failed to come down with a catch he had a chance to make. So good enough.

Toughness: He never stops. He's always chugging. He fought back from a serious knee injury and is starting again in less than one year. And he has the desire to block and isn't afraid to run routes across the middle.

There you have it. Miami's top three receivers have traits that keep them on the roster and make them effective in some situations. They are all complementary players. But none is elite. And none is likely to become elite because they all lack important critical factors for that to happen.

Miami needs to add one elite receiver to this group of complementary players to turn this receiver corps from average or below average to very, very good.


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Don't ask us to stop picking on Ginn when the proof of his lameness is right in front of us on TV. The man is in his third year and he needs to step up NOW. He could have been the hero against the Colts, TWICE, and he blew it. It pisses me off that I see a journeyman WR in Greg Lewis catch a game winning TD in Minnesota, yet our #9 draft pick can't catch DUNG if it hit him in the hands.

Against San Diego, I saw two back to back instances of him dropping the ball. Elite WRs make difficult catches. I don't want to hear this B.S. about him "using his body to catch." That is horse poo.

So..to Ted Ginn:


To the Dolphins brass....make the tough decisions...give up a draft pick or two to bring in a top-flite WR. We need a Marshall or a Boldin like yesterday.


At least the Dolphins fight song doesn't have to suck!!!

Dolfan's have a voice!!!!


i hate to break the news to you, but no boddy here cares about the darn fight song when there is nothing to sing about get it.

Turner needs to get a chance.

I'm glad Henning had a chance to coach Jake D. in Carolina. A good QB with a very nice arm. He'll know how to use Henne.

I really don't care to hear about the leadership that Pennington brought to the team, etc., etc. He has always been accurate because, yes, he is a smart football player, but also because he drops 5 and 10 yarders 95% of the time. We need to win games. Proof of that is what happened against a good Baltimore D' last year. What about the first 3 games? Such frustration to see him use his weak arm for small gains only. I know his receivers are a factor, as well. However, I have also been watching all the games, and I HAVE seen receivers open (happened a lot during pre-season), and he prefers to play safe. That's just ridiculous. Take some chances man! I am certainly glad that Henne is taking over. I understand that this will be a learning period (no excuses), but you'll see him taking shots down the field. Guaranteed.

Fasano caught a TD during pre-season on a so-so executed play that fooled the second team secondary. Other than that he was invisible. I wondered, at the time, if they were saving something for the reg. season. Well, he didn't have any more catches until the two touches (fumbles) during the first 2 games of the season. Nothing after that. So are we really that far?? I mean, no real threats at TE and WR, below average safeties and no MLB. Crowder? It was kind of surprising when they signed him back. You just need to watch any other game to see that MLB's fly to the ball. They don't make many mistakes. Look at Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, Bart Scott, etc, etc. They need to find a real MLB. Soon.
The outside LB's also need to do a better job applying pressure to the QB. I know there are a couple of sacks around there but that is not quite enough as you can see. Now you can blame the secondary and big plays all you want, but if you give a good QB time to throw, you've seen what happened on the first 3 games. Rotate more often. Give Anderson, Wake, Moses more chances to rush the passer. The DLs are doing a nice job of applying the pressure. It should come from every side, though. And consistently. Not for 1 have of football.

Marvin Harrison!!!!He's a vet. he's available he's can be had cheap!

Getting people to go to the stadium only represents less than one tenth of one per cent of the population, actual attendance is only benefical to the the owners of the stadiums because you have to have a place to play. You need TV. NFL schedule influence is the only way the NFL can control the outcome of the game better than 50/50 percent and they use that to control the TV market to earn the billions. Miami does not have a very good chance of being successful this year, New England, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, San Diego(which includes the Los Angeles Area)do. Pittsburgh is the sentimental favorite of most of the US and always has been so they have to be considered the bib television draw also.

No more vets....if they are not playing now there's a reason.

I would like to see this team use this time to evaluate their players, including Ginn.

I'm not worried about winning-I rather win some and lose so we can get a good draft pick. But more importantly evaluate everybody on this team and see what we really need and dont need at the end of the year.

Maybe Ginn has a turn-around with Henne; maybe Hartline steps-up; maybe they let Wake, Turner, Moses, and the others play. And if they suck, including Henne, then we know what we need to do.

I'm not against trading Ginn, releasing Wilson, keeping Taylor on the bench; just not right now.

Sounds like you hate Ginn and love Bess. Be careful not to let the price paid (1st round pick vs undrafted free agent)affect your judgment. Fins won't get the 1st round back if they give up on Ginn. His speed makes most general managers drool and can open up the field if the defense actually beleives he will be thrown to deep. So far, all the deep balls have been well overthrown.

Regardless, I give you credit for some of the evaluations of Ginn. He has been a disappointment this year - but QB play will affect the passing game. Let's see if some one can throw a deep ball on target first

Wr's are not the tell all factor morons .
Great receivers did not play in new englands championships , pitts recent championship ,eagles every year except this one ,green bay pack recent champ , denvers back to back ( dont give me rod smith-very good player ) and the lack of wr core of lets say recent seahawk sb team and even the tampa sb team.
Proof lies in a strong armed qb with the awareness and accuracy down the field who is also clutch in big games.
note the qb's on those teams.
Brett Farve
Jon Elway
Tom Brady
Donnovan Mcnabb
Ben Roethlisberger etc.......

I think you did a decent analysis here yet are just looking at the receivers in a vacume.

What about the quarterback scrambling to gain some time for the receivers to get open? Camarillo and Bass have proven they can run away from people and break some tackles yet having an older immobile quarterback and coaching staff that does not call roll-outs is hurting the passing game.

Ginn needs to take a seat for a while in the Buffalo game until he can prove his fingers still work and he keep get his his damn head in the game.

do you call 6 mill cheap. Marvin Harrison is a great vet. but no one has signed him because he wants big money.
But if you ask me he is worth as much as he is asking for. He would help Henne alot.

henne will be just fine with meaningful practice time. if henning would dial up the passing game hartline could be killing d's on 20-30 yard routes. bess 15-25. ginn could become one of the most deadliest deep threats in the league, just let the kid run and him and henne could look like culpepper and moss back in the day. another note henne looks more mobile than i thought he was.

Offense: Rushing Attack is currently ranked 3rd Behind Dallas and New Orleans. Wear teams down like we did the Colts, keep the score low, and cut down on turnovers, along with receivers CATCHING the BALL, = 3-0 start this year, no matter who is behind center. Brown, Ricky, and Cobbs are getting it done on the ground. I know, i know Henne has the "deep ball", but doesn't matter if no body catches them.

Defense: Please stop somebody. We have the 3rd best Run-D, Behind Baltimore and Tennessee. But can't stop anyone from passing. Trent Dilfer would look good passing on this D right about now. All this $$$$ tied up to a secondary that cant stop anybody.

You hit the nail on the head Mando..Good story...

Here's why I believe Bill Parcells may not have had a sense of urgency in drafting/trading for/signing as a free agent
a star wide receiver:

Mr. Parcells won 2 Super Bowls in 1987 and 1991 without having a star wide receiver. He won using a crushing ground attack (supplemented by an outstanding tight end) and a stellar defense.

Perhaps Parcells feels a team can be outstanding without a dominant wideout. I don't know. The NFL has changed alot in 20 years.

I watched Saturday Night Live and Megan Fox sure is pretty, but I wonder what she would look like without all that make-up. Probably even better.

Henne will be good on sunday and all crying and worry will stop

Probably still too early to say about Hartline, but, I'd be interested to see the same analysis applied to him. He seems like a vacuum around the ball. As far as Bess and Ginn, maybe we could find a doctor that would attach Ginn's legs onto Bess to get a #1 receiver.

Put Pat White in as a starting wide receiver and keep Ted Ginn Jr. on the sidelines as our third string, emergency quarterback which is a position he played in college. They would have to perform better in that situation than the roles they are playing right now. Ted sucks at wide receiver and Pat seems lost at quarterback so what have we got to lose? Are you feeling me Trifecta? Sincerely, Dolomofo.

I was at the game Sunday and saw plenty of opportunities to throw down field but it was always check down, check down, check down. Penny just doesn't have enough velocity on the ball to get it down field and squeeze it in there. Henne does but he still seemed to miss opportunities and do the same CHECK DOWN dinkn and dunkn. I think everyone in the Stadium saw that INT way before the ball even left his hand. Overall Henne looked pretty good but they really need to start taking some chances down field. Hartline is my guy and Ginn gets two big thumbs down I saw Ginn get pushed down like a little school girl it was pretty funny.

Wake Played Sunday against the Chargers. He was even in on the first series.

Let's not candy-coat the analysis of Ted Ginn. He sucks. It was part of a cruel joke that Scam Cameron played on us.

Ginn needs to go at end of year if he does not play better...

If we keep losing we will have a strong shot at Dez Bryant or the WR from Minn in the first round.

I still think Hartline has most upside...Get him out there STAT!

Ginn vs Pat White at receiver?..... I'll take my chances w/ Ginn. We've yet to see Pat White do anything at receiver. Needs more in-game reps. At least we know what to expect from Ginn, speed/drops/big plays and all.

I keep hearing about Pennington having the second highest completion rate in league history. Great accomplishment. Only problem with this stat, is they should have crowned the king of Dink & Dunk. The 3 & 5 yard dinks that made him infamous. Sure it runs out the the clock, but your offense gets gassed taking 9 minutes off the clock, only to score field goals. The Mild Cat is a joke also because they cant run a "conventional" offense with the receivers they have. And somebody please tell me why they drafted Pat White. This guy weighs a buck fifty and he wont run around in this league like he did as a Mountaineer. He wont last. Bottom line, phins are a bad joke and gave you all a false positive last year by beating a bunch of patsies. Phish are shot. Go Pack Go!

I guess Armando forgot about Ginns 8 fumbles the first two seasons when he says good hands before this season...although we lost only 1 out of the 8 he still fumbled 8 times


" Put pat white at starting wr ". And the stupidity continues.....

Ginn, who we know is clearly not a #1, still has to line up against #1 corners and the opposing team's best corner. If we play the eagles, Ginn's matched up with Asante Samuel. The Raiders, Namdi Asumough. The Broncos, he's going up against Champ Bailey and he also has a safety playing over the top on every play, so a guy who is clearly not an elite WR, has to line up against the Elite CB's and Safeties so of course he is going to get eaten up by these guys. Bess is going up against the 3rd best corner/slot DB on the other team, i LOVE DAVONE BESS, but he benefits from Ginn taking up the best corner, if Bess lined up as the #1 and had to play against the Rashean Mathis, Marcus Trufant's, Namdi Asamough's, Asante Samuel's of the NFL, he would be invisible too, i think both BESS and GINN are good #2 guys who would both blossom if we had an Andre Johnson. The slot WR usually always has more catches and first downs, they are the go-to-guys for most QB's and esp. on 3rd downs, Wes Welker gets more balls thrown to him and gets more first downs than Randy Moss. Ginn, like alot of vertical threats in the nfl, is the decoy downfield that keeps the safety honest so the underneath is opened up for bess and cammy. Again i LOVE BESS, there are a lot of things he does better than Ginn but u have to take in to count who they are being matched up against.


Ron, the next time you insult my longtime personal friend, Armando, you'll have to deal with me.

Consider this my good faith effort to resolve the problem of your obvious deficiencies in social intercourse (among your other intercourse deficiencies)


I saw P.Turner at USC. Not a burner but a huge target and wins everything thrown in his direction. Didn't he lead the recievers in the pre-season until he got into the dog house? Is it his attitude? I'm not a Plaxico fan and he was a project his first few years in Pittsburgh. Turner reminds me of him the way he uses his body and feel for getting open? Some players don't practice great. The team looked completely different with a big target like him in there. O. Gadsen wasn't a speedster or a top round pick...P. Turner reminds me of him as well?

Bottom line......
1. Passing offense is 30th in the league.
a. Running offense is 3rd! Hard to be rated very high in both categories.
b. Receivers are above average but not excellent. I've seen numerous plays where they were open but "Checkdown Chad" threw it to a RB or slot receiver. I respect "Checkdown Chad", but we have to open it up now with Henne. Even just a little bit.
c. QB checks down too much to avoid the risky long pass. B and C are a combination effect. If Henne doesn't checkdown as often as Pennington, he should have some open receivers....IF HE GETS SOME FRIGGIN PROTECTION!!!

After a few weeks, we are finally going to learn the answers to several questions that have been lingering for over a year now.
1. Is Chad Henne the man or are we F'd and need to draft another QB?
2. Can Ted Ginn be a force with a strong armed QB or is this his last year with the Dolphins?
3. Do we have some decent young receivers in Hartline and Turner?
4. Is the Bell-Wilson tandem going to gell or bust? If bust, what about Clemons??????
5. Do we have ANY young OLBs that can pressure the QB (i.e. Wake, Anderson)?

No matter what, it should be exciting watching and evaluating. woohoo


Just want to win! Spend the money! Draft the right pick! Get-er-done! Tired of watching this crap! They pay these idiots in management how many millions and Mando has to tell them how to get it done? Buy the time we get some “explosive play makers” Both D & O line will be so old we won’t be able to win in the trenches! Time for Management to earn their money! Get it done by any means necessary!! Sorry, Bad day at work...

Please do not poull your pants down and expose you brains any more.

I am sorry! I get carried away when I read something that actually detracts from life and makes me feel dumber for reading it.
I meant to say "....pull........your"

I wonder if that 3 second buzzer that was so brilliant in training camps is hurting this team.

I was at the Indy game and counted off during pass plays. Penne got that ball out within 3s almost every play. The receivers going downfield needed 2-3 seconds just to get past the press into the 2nd level. They were just breaking open and Penne would be looking for the checkdown.

Furthermore, how can an oline learn to sustain blocks if they are being whistled off at 3s?

One thing I did like from Henne. He stood tall in that pocket and stepped into the heart of the line to pass. He didn't look timid to stand in there. The great passers all step forward into pockets and let it develop around them. I'm not saying he is or will be great, but at least he wasn't dancing and fumbling like Beck.

Posted by: doug | September 29, 2009 at 09:54 AM

Our receiver have been open and overthrown quite often this season. We have to nail the timing down. I think it will be a good day for Henne, Ginn and Brown on Sunday.

Interesting post...enjoyed your insights.

I can never get over the fact that we wasted a #9 pick on Ginn. Just like Parcel said :" If they don't bite when they are puppies, they don't bite". Well, Ginn never bite at all during his 3 years here. I think deep down Parcel or Sparano know they can't rely on this guy anymore.

I beg to differ Henry- I think Ginn still has a lot to offer with his game changing speed. I think he will reach his potential with Henne who will bring a vertical threat which is better suited for Ginn rather than the 10 yard out pattern. I can recall at least six time this early season when Ginn was either overthrown/or missed for huge gains or touchdowns. Yes he has made mistakes but I feel he still has great potential which will be realized starting this week.

Bess and Ginn are the best two by a mile.

Armando: why no Hartline? He's the only one that I can say has all of those things.

Hands: Only guy that I haven't seen a drop from.

Speed: Pretty fast. Faster than Camarillo and Bess from what I've seen. Probably not elite speed, but certainly enough.

Quickness: Pretty damn quick. He's not Bess quick, but definitely no problem here.

Ball skills: Have seen more diving/jumping catches from him in preseason/early season this year than I have from any receiver in the past 3 years. Very good here.

Football Intelligence: From what I've seen and heard, smartest on the team

Toughness: Easily the toughest WR on the team.

Seems like the obvious most likely to succeed WR on the roster, no? Turner has the size, hands, even the quickness, but he lacks the speed, toughness and intellegence. Ditto for Ginn +speed - quickness. The other WRs just aren't fast or quick enough to be anything more than nice slot guys.

So what do you think Armando? Hartline the most promising WR on the roster?

like i stated before receivers are overated. miami problems at the receiver position is because they were running 5 yard curls because of cp arm strength, so when a blue moon came and they ran downfield they would never beleive the ball was coming cause cp cant make that throw. ei. week 16 or 17 last year ginn had 10 yards on the corner and had to stop catch and immediately was tackled. now there gonna excpect the ball coming with henne cause he can make all the throws. Finaly i can watch balls thrown downfeild with zip and get excited instead of the last decade of dink dunk garbage overated qb com % stats.

The Dolphins need to give Pat White more opportunities to use his skills, not just hand the football off on the option on a couple of plays per game. Remember, it typically takes 2-3 years for a QB to develop....Matt Ryan excluded. It took a couple of years for Brett Favre and Drew Brees to be successful.
Speaking of Drew Brees, he is only 6' and 209 lbs and is currently one of the best QB's in the league. Pat White is 6'1" and 185 lbs. A few more lbs. and game experience and he'll be fine.

HAHAHA,you can thank me for getting Mando back on here,and oh yeah,i have a life Mando,i was at my fav. sports bar watching the game with my friends,not a live blogger here! :)

Perfectly said and interpreted as trade Ginn - the "missing link" in the dolphin offense evolution is "the big play receiver".

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