Dolphins Watch

September 30, 2009 2:16 AM

It's Henne time in Miami

A bad start for the Miami Dolphins got even worse with the news that starting quarterback Chad Pennington has a torn capsule in his right shoulder and will be lost for the season.

With Pennington gone, Miami loses the ultimate game manager, and one of the players most responsible for last season's 11-5 record and AFC East division title.

Pennington passed for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and quickly became the leader of a young Dolphins offense. It's no coincidence that the Dolphins turned the ball over a league-record low 13 times in a 16-game season, a testament to Pennington's ability to make good decisions under pressure.

So far this season though, Pennington's struggles had mirrored the Dolphins'.

Through 2 1/2 games prior to the injury, Pennington had thrown just one TD pass, and an uncharacteristic three INTs. He also was the 27th highest-rated quarterback in the NFL.

Now, with the season on the brink of going off the rails as Miami faces a possible 0-4 start, it's Chad Henne's time.

Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano are going to see exactly what Henne has in the first extended action of his NFL career.

The second-year pro will make his first NFL start Sunday, after completing 10-of-19 passes for 92 yards and a key interception in last week's 23-13 loss to San Diego.

Last year, Henne played sparingly, hitting 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards in parts of three games.

He had a so-so preseason, though he was anointed as the starter in 2010.

Dolphins fans and the coaching staff will now get to see how Henne performs in the pressure of an NFL game, where the outcome hinges on his performance.

He has a stronger arm than Pennington, so maybe the Dolphins will be able to take the deep shots Pennington seemed to largely avoid so far this season.

And maybe Henne will be just the tonic Ted Ginn needs to break out in this, his third season.

Henne missed on a couple of passes to Ginn last week, as the Dolphins' top receiver did not make a single catch a week after torching the Colts for 11 receptions for 108 yards.

The most important thing Henne must do is avoid the traps a young quarterback faces: Not looking off defenders and failing to read coverages.

He didn't to do that last week, when he telegraphed a pass that safety Eric Weddle ran back for the clinching TD in San Diego.

Henne must show he's more like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning -- three quarterbacks who excelled in their first seasons.

Whatever happens, this is likely Henne's audition for 2010.

Will he make the grade?

That depends on the last 13 games of this season, a season that is quickly slipping away for Miami.

For added insurance, the Dolphins traded with the Kansas City Chiefs for third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen, giving up an undisclosed draft pick next year.

Last season, Thigpen, 25, started 11 games for Kansas City and completed 232-of-420 passes for 2,608 yards. He threw for 18 TDs and 12 INTs.

Thigpen will be the most experienced quarterback for Miami, with Pat White a rookie who has played sparingly in the team's first two games.

(Photo: Yahoo Images)

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