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Dolphins close but not quite there in the red zone

I was watching Monday Night Countdown on ESPN the other evening when Trent Dilfer and Steve Young began talking about Sam Bradford and his struggles in the red zone. And, of course, I brought the conversation home to South Florida.

To Chad Henne.

To the Miami Dolphins' offense.

And to their red zone problems so far this season.

"You don't make your money in between the 20s," Dilfer said of playing QB. "You make your money from the 20 in against pressure."

Young, a Hall of Famer, agreed.

"The easiest thing to do is go between the 20s [but] inside the 20s is graduate work," he said. " .. you got to realize that for a lot of players that's the final step for them -- how to put it in the end zone. Because nobody is really ever open in the red zone. It's not just against the blitz but also zone.

"A lot of times young quarterbacks will say, 'Read the defense, do a nice job, drop the ball down, and kick a field goal.' And after about 16 field goals in a row you realize that's not the job. You have to throw somebody open."

Again, they were talking about Sam Bradford. But it all applies to Henne and his play so far in 2011. He's had relatively high success moving the team up and down the field between the 20s. But inside the 20s, the Dolphins are ranked No. 31 in the NFL with an unacceptable 60 percent scoring percentage.

Henne has to learn to throw receivers open. He has to learn to make precise, accurate throws and make them with anticipation -- something he's struggled to do at times. Against the Texans, Henne completed 3 of 8 passes inside the opponent 20 yard line for 16 yards and 1 TD. Not very good.

So there is that.

But ...

Miami's struggles in the red zone are not all Henne's doing. Not by a long shot. The Dolphins have struggled the first two games to rush the ball when it counts most. That is very frustrating.

And Dolphins' receivers haven't exactly helped Henne, either. No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall has had two opportunities in the end zone that have hurt his team because he had two drops of potential touchdowns -- one against New England and one against Houston.

One of those at first to me seemed like a late throw by Henne. I said as much on the live blog. But I was wrong. Looking at the throw in the following series of screen shots sent to me by reader Justin Reader, it is obvious Henne threw an amazing pass to Marshall from the 16 yard line in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

Miami was trailing 16-10 at the time. Matched against former Dolphins DB Jason Allen, Marshall is in man-to-man coverage:

Marshall drop 1
Marshall beats Allen (no surprise) and the ball is in the air with about eight yards to spare between the players and the end line.

Marshall drop 2
Ball's almost there. Five yards to spare between players and the end line. Allen is watching helplessly.

Marshall drop 3
Marshall's got it. The ball is in his grasp. Now he must hold on and get both feet in bounds. He's got about four yards to work with.

Marshall drop 4
Still looking good. He's got three yards to secure the ball and get his feet in bounds. Allen? Helpless.

Marshall drop 5
This is now looking like a TD. Just hold on, Brandon Marshall!

Marshall drop 6
Whoops! Ball is no longer in Marshall's grasp. He basically flipped it away as he was trying to secure it.

Marshall drop 7
Yup, this is not going well. Now we have to hope Allen doesn't catch the rebound for an interception.

Marshall drop 8
Incomplete pass. Marshall had it in his grasp. He would have had room to tap his feet in. It could have, should have been a touchdown that put the Dolphins ahead 17-16.

Instead Dan Carpenter had to kick a 34-yard field goal to make the score, 16-13 in Houston's favor.

Marshall completes this catch, the game changes. The mood changes. Momentum shifts. Miami's red zone results change.

Instead, I'm writing about the team's red zone problems. Bottom line:

Somebody's got to make a play. Miami's playmakers have got to make a play. If they don't, we shouldn't call them playmakers any more.


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DKM, did you watch the game against philly and the game against the giants? Braford did not look like a Frachize QB. I'm not saying he won't become one but he's not there yet. I actually think he regressed when they brought in mcdaniels to be the OC.
He took the team close to playoffs last year because of their schedule and the fact that NFC west is like a BCS league instead of NFL.

I realize that fantasy points don't matter...but Henne is ranked 7th on the QB list with 45 pts. just behind Rodgers & Fitzpatrick.
But ahead of Vick, Rivers, Sanchez, Ryan, Flacco.

Point being, statistically Henne is having a pretty good year.

But in reality, he still sucks in the red zone when it matters.

Craig I agree. I don't think Bradford looks any better than henne right now and neither are frachize QBs right now.

Marshall has been making Henne look bad for 2 years now. Blown routes, drops, dirty looks, not getting open. Marshall is a playmaker? Yeah right. More like whiner, crybaby, diva that cannot live up to the hype. I will take a 40 y.o. Terrell Owens right now over this POS.
Chad Henne outta grab him by the facemask the next drop pass or dirty look he gets. And Chad, do it on national tv. Marshall is garbage.

Jeez do you see the receivers Bradford throwing too. No one! TE No one! O line! Worst than Dolphins! I wouldnt take Bradford over Henne right now, but he will be a pro bowler is 4th season. MArk my words!

NJ fins, you hit the nail on the head.

Our Alfa receiver shows spirts of a low tier #1 WR,

But most of the time shows he is at best a good to average #2.

I think he can be a real good #1, but he needs to follow the game plan, or work on hand signals with his QB if he is breaking routes.

After the Cleveland game they should fly straight to San Diego and get ready for the Chargers, and no time off, keep them in the film room until they all know there jobs.Can't do it, time to find a coach who will demand that they get there head out of there.... and see the sun. Bill

The Dolphins look like a bunch of individuals not a team. No one on either side of the ball elevates anyone else. Henne's obviously trying but he may be more of a B than an A. Thought JT would be the defensive glue, and he may help down the road but not yet. Have generally been a Sparano backer but am starting to waiver.

DKM, I think Bradford is a franchise QB also.

And some of the things you said are true. Bradford has a far better line than we do, but our receivers are better, our TE is about the same, and our running back here are worse than there.

the point is, Bradford also has red zone issues. And it is more the talent around him that makes that difficult. It is the same story with Henne is what most are saying.

the point is, there is not reason to doubt Henne can be a franchise guy, but the pieces around him would not allow God himself to be a franchise QB here in Miami.

Who cares about Sam Bradford. QB is not our problem. When you can't punch the ball in from the 5 with 4 plays, your alpha receiver drops TD passes, and your placekicker screws the pooch on a couple of chip shots, it doesn't matter what your QB does between the 20's or anywhere else.

This team is not prepared to compete.

Is Sparano really calling plays now? Does anybody know this for a fact? Dog help us...

What's Marty Schottenheimer doing? I don't care how old he is. At least we'd get IN TO the playoffs.

Here's a nightmare...you want to talk about Cowboy castoffs? Let's go get Norv for HC after he gets canned this year. That'll be another 3 years lost from my life.

go fins.

Boulder, totally agree. Neither is a 'franchise' QB at this point.

DKM, respectfully you're simply buying into the media hype on Bradford and nothing else at this point. I like the kid and I think he has a chance to be good but he's not there yet and to simply annoint him that is foolish.

You mention 'Bradford had better numbers in his rookie year than Henne had in his 4th'. Huh? How is that evern possible? Henne hasn't even played 4 years yet. This is technically his 4th year, although he did sit on the bench his rookie year, so I'm not sure what you would have liked him to have done that season. Games played Henne is just reaching the two year mark. So your boy Bradford is only about 14 starts or so behind him....just so we're talking about things accurately.

DKM, go back and look at Bradford's numbers closely last year and compare them to Henne's. Really not a huge difference. Certainly not enough to CLEARLY say one guy is franchise, the other guy is not. A reminder, both teams finished 7-9 last year and both teams are 0-2 this year.

Bradford's numbers are exactly the same as Henne's...They are both 0-2.

Craig M,

I meant his third year jeez I would think your smart enough to realize this. Anytime a rookie QB stats are comparable to a 3rd year player at QB thats a problem. I dont care about media hype I like to form my own opinions because I know and love football thank you very much!

What are we? The team that rebuilds with old has-been players from Dallas. Come on Ross grown some. Get rid of TS and Ireland and we're ready for some football.

Henne is obviously good enough to start in the NFL or he would have been gone after last year.
I see good energy between him & Daboll on the sidelines...unlike old father time who stayed up in the booth.
...but, there is a difference between good enough to start in the NFL & being an alpha leader who brings out the best in those he leads.

Brady does it, so does Rodgers. Their god given leadership abilities inspire others to give 110%.
IMO, Henne cannot inspire to that degree and therefore will never ascend to the upper level of QB play needed to carry a team deep into the playoffs.
Sorry guys, its my opinion and I'm sticking to it.


Like Ive been telling everyone on here Henne just a servicable guy.


the element of surprise allows for an average team to play spoiler or create an upset and makes good teams unbeatable. right now no one is expecting miami to be really good, that would be a surprise, so would better tackling, better play from the recievers and all around better defense. right now miami needs the element of surprise in the form of unexpected play calling and formations. it wasn't a big surprise that brady ran the hurry-up, but it was a big surprise that they practically used it the whole game as they also did with the triple tightend set. this wasn't expected and therefore made a good team(the pats) unbeatable. the fins playing up to their ability would be a big enough surprise in istelf but that's currently NOT an option, so we must resign ourselves to the fact that we are an average team that needs trickery to pull off the upset. maybe after we master the more complex issues like a successful hurry-up, using players correctly to exploit their talent, our version of the triple tightend set(which other teams are already starting to impliment)just maybe after that we can work on the basics like tackling and coverages. nonetheless the exploitation of a successful gadget used unpresedently will reap rewards as did the pats in game 1.

DB, the end zone fade is a depth/timing/spot play. Henne's fade pass was awful in NE, and to boot it was thrown to flatline.

Posted by: Poizen | September 21, 2011 at 09:16 AM

Poizen, 4-5 goaline fades/jump balls in that game. 3-4 to Marshall. 2 of em in a row that sailed out of bounds. Stop focusing on the 1 to Hartline, which also sailed out of bounds.

Kris, with that said, of course Marshall deserves some criticism! Sometimes he plays like Ginn, dropping the game winner on Monday night vs. the Colts. I felt the same way watching Marshall drop that ball. He gets payed big money to make those catches.

Aside from that drop, I think he has played well though. He had the drop on the goalline vs. NE but he was also blanketed on the play. He & Henne had a miscommunication on another goaline play where henne threw in & Marshall expected out & almost got picked.

Realistically, it's a new offense, 1st game, those are to be expected.

I don't know which picture of Henne you're referring to. I actually tried to convince people to not buy into the ravings of how good practices were & how they looked in preseason. You see all the jumping ship & discontent now?

None of this should surprise anyone with 2 eyes & a fully functional brain.

Coaching & managerial incompetence coupled with a roster with 48 mediocre players & 5 very good players equals a sub .500 record. We're right on schedule!

I see the Browns are 2.5 half point favourites this week. That sounds about right to me. The 'Phins should continue to be under-dogs until they show something different.

However, I'm going out on a limb and saying they will win the game this week. First time I have picked them all year. I'm expecting a different team to show up Sunday. I think this truly is a MUST win game. Lose this one and I don't believe there is any hope they can save their season. I'm optimistic they will be better as a road team and that Daboll will know how to attack the Cleveland defence. Call me a fool for thinking this but I just can't believe this team will go out and lay an egg every single week.

henne is a pro bowler on belichicks team RIGHT NOW as is Marshall....its all about the coaching and the schemes...Marshall would be the beast he is supposed to be in NE...fire the coach...talent is there....motivation from sparano is not....he is not a leader

would be nice to continue to be pleasntly surprised by d thomas.....a breath of fresh air hard running and a nice burst....like i said the talent on this team is much better than its collective performance week in and week out,,,, COACH NEEDS TO GO

djrob...with all due respect there is no way Henne is a pro bowler on the Pats.
He cannot make the reads that Brady can...and as we established this morning, he cannot make the throws needed (or the calls) in the red zone.
Henne is a middle of the pack, average QB who may get a bit more effective in the correct system, but not "pro bowl" better.


I'm coming to that realization also. I belive that day is coming. This team can't continue to be mediocre and expect things to remain the same. Nobody can say at the end of Sparano's time that he wasn't given every opportunity. The results just aren't there and that means change.

Yes, BM sometimes drops catchable balls. On the bright side, he wasn't dropping many passes in the corner of the end zone last year. Progress!

Yeah Marshall droped that catch..But what about the other drop that hit him in his hands..He's a QB and team killer.He seems to have a mental block.

What about the fade they threw him in the endzone..Why run a quick stop and go with a WR thats 6'4..He dosen't have the ablity to get out quickly after the stop?

im just saying that Jeff Fisher, Rex Ryan even Chan Gailey would have the O playing much differently than Sparano has these guys playing...you cannot argue that Sanchez has better tools than Henne...he throws two picks a game and no one says boo up here because he is put in position to recover both by the staff and the Dee....Once you lose the locker room and JT has to roust the team out of real practice BS, its over...hate to say it cuz i couldnt wait fo rhte opener i was bullish on this team, but they seem to have mailed it in already....cant tackle, cant catch...then you cant win games

guys, go read crowders comments on the ss joe rose blog if you haven't yet.

How many times do we have to hear/read those agonizing words "Henne has to learn to...."For crying-out-loud!Checkdown Chad has been a starter long enough that inexperience can no longer be an excuse for incompetence.Sure BM drops too many passes(perhaps he should be docked for each drop),but Henne is more to blame for the lack of scoring.And another thing that infuriates me--the Fins passed on several opportunities to upgrade the TE position,but again failed miserably to help this offense.Would someone please call Palmer's agent?

henne is beyong horrible

Bottom line this team cannot win in this division when you look up and see Belicheck, and Ryan leading better teams against us. Brady and Sanchez are also both leaps and bounds ahead of Henne, say what you will of Sanchez but he has total control of that offense the guys respect him and he is a leader. I wish Pennington never fell into our lap 3 years ago Sparano wouldn't he here now and we'd be markedly better team now. That year screwed us. Everyone drank too much kool aid and now here's the hangover. Folks season over, hope that some young guys can get playing time and get better because entire staff is gone by 2012. 3-13 is a clear possibility, we are a bottom 5 organization. Truth sucks and hurts but it is what it is and the truth is this team doesn't believe in it's coach and most of the guys play without heart. New attitude needs to be brought to Miami.

Sorry, you can't blame Henne for dropped TD passes or missed FGs and that was the difference in the Houston loss. You also can't pin DT's fumble on Henne. Too many mistakes across the entire team for Henne to overcome by himself.

Zero accountability and poor coaching are to blame. Pointing the finger anywhere else is just a diversion.

This team has the talent to win but doesn't. That's a coaching issue, pure and simple.


Its almost like the Dolphins don't have any redzone plays. They think their playbook works between the goal lines all the time.

When are you going to get it through your head this team has no MANAGEMENT worth mentioning.

Heck, didn't they take a day off instead of working on their red zone offense? They always talk about the HUMP but never do anything about the HUMP. A HUMP to me means SPENDING the money to get someone to help us get over the HUMP.



I have an assignment for you and your crack staff.

How many times has Marshall been targeted in the redzone? Should be easy to figure out. Sparano keeps stats on everything including how many times a player needs to take dump.

Mando: "Tony, how many times has Marshall been targeted in the redzone"?

Tony: "We haven't had the chance because he's plus two on the taking a dump numbers".

I might be wrong but I don't remember that many times Marshall was even targeted in the redzone. If I am correct then why isn't our best WR being targeted in the redzone? If I am wrong then its been some quiet targets.

@I'm Chaos

So who do we blame besides Henne? Is it your position everyone is to blame EXCEPT Henne?

Are you Jeff Ireland?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

If we were 2-0 you would be thanking Henne. So why is it if we're 0-2 Henne is not the blame?

@Finsfan Ralph

Exactly!!! How many times must we hear how Henne needs to grow? How many games must we hear how Henne needs to make those throws? How many YEARS must we hear Henne needs to prove himself?

Too many times, games and years for Henne to get his stuff right. Yet, here we are AGAIN going over the exact same stuff we've been going over for the last 4 years.

Joe Rose: "What do you see as the biggest problems, from general manager to coach and on down"?

Channing Crowder: "All the moves they made, all the changes the genius Jeff Ireland, quote-unquote genius, that he's done... they haven't showed it."

Its the truth Mando. Its the truth...

Back @ Tony Suckrano

You can blame Henne for the things he's responsible for. But you can't blame him for things that I mentioned. Once he lets go of a pass somebody has to catch it, once he hands off someone has to carry it without fumbling.

Once he drives the team within FG position, somebody has to kick the field goal.

Are you saying all of those responsible for those things are off the hook because they're not the QB? I'll never agree. EVERYONE has to do their job. And right now, they aren't.

"Against the Texans, Henne completed 3 of 8 passes inside the opponent 20 yard line for 16 yards and 1 TD. Not very good."

Now account for the pass that was perfect that Brandon Marshall flat out drops and he's 4 of 8 for 32 yards and 2 TD's. That's excellent. Amazing how 1 dropped pass from the supposed best WR on the team takes the QB from Excellent to not very good.

what is henne like 5 and 25 on 3rd downs.?.
u ain't winning chit with those #'s.

The ball was a little overthrown. Look how far away from Allen the ball is in the 1st picture. Does it really need to be thrown that far, at the very limit of Marshall's reach? Granted it's "catchable" but Henne didn't help Marshall much and the OL probably didn't help Henne much. All around poor teamwork that falls on Sparano's shoulder. It's a domino effect with all fingers pointing to the ring leader, Sparano.

We will be in the running for a new head coach this year as I just don't believe this team will do any better than 9 and 7 and could do as bad as 6 and 10. Niether one of these results would ensure Sparano keeps his job. I honestly think the phish should turn over every rock in looking for a new head coach rather than just signing Cowher or Fischer because they have big names. Different sport but great example of a leader is Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon was by no means a big name signing by the team but they evaluated him and decided he would be the right man for the job. He coaches a small market team in a division with two of the biggest spending teams in the MLB. Every year Maddon brings his 56 million dollar roster up against Red Sox and the Yankees. These teams triple the amount of money spent by the Rays on talent. How can the rays win in this division? His players don't make errors play good defense and he knows which pitcher to put in against which hitter. He knows his teams strengths and other teams weaknesses. His players believe in him and it shows on the field. Rather than sign another big name FO and coach Ross god help him should actually dig deep and find the right man for the job not the big name for the job. Who the hell was Shula when he got to Miami? Who the hell was Shula when he left Miami? A hall fame winningest coach in the NFL. Think smart not big.

I like the no huddle but when the quarterback completes only 12 of 30 passes hard to run it consistently.

Hi guys

Been reading but not posting a lot...I agree with CraigM a lot...these red zone problems are COACHING issues....ive been saying it a while...the team is collectively very very good....but the coaching is poor...I really think Sparano is limited...he has shown that as he hasnt been able to even sort out the Oline of which he is an expert ( supposedly).
I reckon he is a ra ra guy and not much else...basic drills...basic practices....says a few obscure things etc...

He is not getting the BEST out of this group at all....its COACHING.!!!!

Don't forget that Clyde Gates dropped that pass going across the middle around the 15-yd line that would've easily gone for a first down if not all the way to the end zone - can't anyone make a catch on this team when it counts?

Plain and simple Henne was forced to play it too safe until this year and is timid on the fade routes. He waits a split second too long out of fear the receiver won't be open, and he leads them too much out of fear of the interception. Despite this obvious weakness, he looks much better and showing toughness by standing in there time and time again after getting drilled due to another missed block. If there is a young QB available next year who is a clear long term upgrade then we should take him. I applaud Ireland for not succumbing to pressure to overpay a washed up veteran who may get us to 500 at best. How bad would Hasselback or Mcnabb look behind this blocking. The TE has developed into the #1 weapon for most teams, but we have to keep ours in to help the worst RT in the league. God decision to tap the Cowboys rejects hall of fame on that one and hand him the starting job Sparano/Ireland. Please move Carey back to tackle and play somebody , anybody else at guard. Carey wasn't great at tackle, but clearly better than Columbo. And he sucks as a guard.

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