Should I Stay or Should I Go
Now that the New York Jets have been eliminated from the Playoffs and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, it’s time to think about what’s next for the Miami Dolphins. Let’s take a look back at where it all went wrong in 2010 and make some very early predictions for 2011 (presuming we’ll actually have an NFL season). In the coming weeks, I’ll break down key free agents who’d look great in aqua and orange next season.
Anyone who watched even a handful of series doesn’t need to look at advanced metrics to know Miami’s offense was dreadful. The Dolphins, expected to be a dominant run-first team after having the fourth-best rushing offense in 2009, tied for 29th in rushing TDs (8) and 21st in rushing yards (1,643), while also coming in 27th in passing TDs (17) and fourth in interceptions (21). While WRs Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline, as well as TE Anthony Fasano (signed to an extension through 2012), form a solid and dependable aerial attack, the same can’t be said for just about every other member of the offense. So who should and likely will be back in 2011?
Chad Henne, QB
2010 Prediction: 4,161 passing yards, 25 TDs, 13 INT
2010 Statistics: 3,301 passing yards, 15 TDs, 19 INT
It turns out I – as well as everyone who threw away money on a Henne jersey – was wrong about the supposed QB of the future. After showing promise at the end of the 2009 season and having a Pro Bowl WR at his disposal, Henne was expected to take a step forward and improve his decision-making. After throwing three picks in a crushing loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, Henne was benched in favor of Chad Pennington, and was then once again pulled for Tyler Thigpen in an embarrassing season-ending loss to the Patriots. Over the last 12 games, Henne threw 12 TDs and 18 INTs, and posted a QB Rating under 60.0 in four of his final eight appearances.
While most Dolphins fans never want to see him on the field again, it’s almost a given that Miami will keep the still 25-year-old QB for another year. It’s even possible that he’ll get a chance to compete for a backup spot with a veteran QB – Kyle Orton? Donovan McNabb? Er, Brady Quinn? – in training camp if the team doesn’t draft a QB in the first round of the Draft. Either way, it’s become clear that Henne is not the long-term solution as the Dolphins starter.
2011 Prediction: 1,127 passing yards, 5 TDs, 6 INT
Tyler Thigpen, QB: Thigpen was horrendous in his lone start against the Bears, a 16-0 shutout at home (albeit he was missing half of his offense), and finished the year with 435 passing yards (53.2% completion percentage), two TDs, and two picks. While he has mobility and can make plays out of the pocket, he’s unlikely to receive anything more than a training camp invite from Miami.
2011 Prediction – signs with Tennessee Titans: 1,630 passing yards, 9 TDs, 7 INT
Chad Pennington, QB: I wish Pennington all the best with his return from a fourth shoulder surgery, but considering that he played two snaps in 2010 before getting hurt again, the odds aren’t in his favor. In an ideal world, he’d become the Dolphins’ QB coach, but I have a feeling he’ll go back to where it all started and take Mark Brunell’s clipboard job in New York.
2011 Prediction – signs with New York Jets: 110 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Ronnie Brown, RB
2010 Prediction: 893 rushing yards, 135 receiving yards, 7 TDs
2010 Statistics: 734 rushing yards, 242 receiving yards, 5 TDs
On the surface, my prediction looks fairly accurate, since Brown gained only 58 fewer yards from scrimmage and managed to play all 16 games for only the second time in his career. The problem is that Brown averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt, didn’t have a single 100-yard rushing game, and his 45.9 yards per game were the lowest of any player with at least 200 carries. The soon-to-be-30-year-old is an unrestricted free agent who hasn’t been offered a contract by the Dolphins and has probably already cleaned out his locker
2011 Prediction – signs with Cincinnati Bengals: 697 rushing yards, 213 receiving yards, 4 TDs
Ricky Williams, RB
2010 Prediction: 906 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards, 9 TDs
2010 Statistics: 673 rushing yards, 141 receiving yards, 3 TDs
No one expected Ricky to even come close to matching his gaudy 2009 numbers (1,121 rushing yards, 13 TDs), but 2010 was certainly a disappointing season for the 33-year-old running back. Still, Williams averaged 4.2 yards per carry and busted off a 45-yard scamper, showing he has plenty left in those legs. After he recently bashed Coach Sparano and the organization, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back in Miami next season either, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t sign with the Jets or Patriots just to stick it to the Dolphins.
2011 Prediction – signs with New England Patriots: 479 rushing yards, 96 receiving yards, 3 TD
Patrick Cobbs / Lex Hilliard / Lousaka Polite, RB: Forget what I projected — guess who was the Fins’ third-leading rusher last season? Yep, Thigpen with a whopping 73 yards. Short-yardage specialist Polite managed to get 62 rushing yards and his first career TD, while Cobbs and Hilliard played mainly on special teams and combined for exactly zero rushing yards on four carries. The coaching staff reportedly loves Cobbs, and Polite converts on third-and-one situations as well as anyone in the league, so their roles are unlikely to change in 2011.
Hilliard, however, could opt for more playing time, especially with the impending return of the speedy Kory Sheets.
2011 Prediction – signs with New Orleans Saints: 132 rushing yards, 160 receiving yards, 2 TDs