The line between a really good NFL quarterback and a JAG (Just A Guy) is so thin you often cannot see it with your own eyes.
Think about that.
That line has to be studied. It has to be viewed on tape. You have to capture what happens in a millisecond and slow it down to understand it.
That is my intention here.
You know I've been hard on Chad Henne for failing to become a good quarterback at the end of last season after 27 NFL starts. But I assume you also are aware it is not personal. When he plays well, I tell you. When he plays poorly, I tell you. Unfortunately for him and Dolphins fans, the guy has more often played poorly than well. And so much of what I've written about Henne has been critical.
The truth, however, is the truth. It is a great sword and a mighty shield.
Well, the last two weeks you've read and heard from me that Henne has improved. He played much better against Carolina than he did in the preseason opener against Atlanta. Did he play great? No. He played well enough.
Then last week against Tampa Bay, Henne played better than he did the week before. I would tell you he played good against Tampa Bay in completing 10 of 13 passes for 175 yards and one TD. It was more progress.
But did Henne play great?
His rating (143.9) and completion percentage (76.9) suggest he was great. The pictures say otherwise.
To rise to the level of great, you see, a quarterback needs to maximize his opportunities. And at no time this preseason has Henne done that with consistency. He's missed open receivers on a handful of occasions. And he's missed almost certain touchdowns on at least three plays that I can recollect off the top of my head.
Against the Bucs he had one one play -- on third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 4 -- where he missed two open receivers for a TD. Yes, he missed two receivers open for a TD. On the same play.
Here is the first picture:
As you see, Henne has time to throw. The Dolphins are in maximum protection with all five offensive linemen working on Henne's behalf as while tight end Anthony Fasano and running back Reggie Bush also are protecting. That's seven guys blocking for Henne against four rushers.
Henne has time.
And he has Davone Bess open in the end zone. Henne knows this because, as the picture above clearly shows, Henne is looking directly at Bess!
But the Miami quarterback doesn't pull the trigger. He misses the opportunity. He never even attempts the TD throw.
The next picture will show that Henne didn't just miss Bess.
As you see here, Henne has given up on throwing to Bess, even though he is still open. And he has given up on the pass play altogether. That means he is now missing the fact Brian Hartline has come wide open in the back corner of the end zone. What makes this frustrating is that Henne knows he has maximum protection and the pocket (indicated by the circle) is clean.
Henne has time. You can see that only one second has ticked off the play clock.
Yet Henne puts his head down -- ignoring a still open Bess and a now open Hartline -- and scrambles instead. He gains 1 yard on the scramble. The Dolphins' chance at a TD is wasted even though the protection is good and receivers are open in the end zone.
Everyone does their job except Henne.
So Miami kicks a 21-yard field goal instead.
Does this make Henne a bad QB? No. But it means he has miles to go before he's a good quarterback. You see, this was only a preseason game. It didn't count. The Dolphins lost this one 17-13 and no one cares. But what if this missed opportunity had happened in a real game. We just watched four points Miami should have had not get scored because Henne didn't pull the trigger.
Four points, a TD instead of a field goal, is often the difference between victory and defeat in today's NFL.
And this is just one play. He had Hartline open for a TD at the goal line against Carolina but threw a checkdown to Daniel Thomas instead. He had Brandon Marshall open -- as in nobody was covering him -- open for another TD against Carolina, but threw an incompletion to Hartline instead.
I, along with everyone else, still spoke of those performances against Carolina and Tampa Bay as outings where Henne improved from a year ago. And, to his credit, he has improved.
But he's got a long way to go yet.
Props to Manny Suarez for e-mailing me the photos.