Henne faces former team in Dolphins
Chad Henne wants to show he has become a more dynamic player since leaving Miami, where his tendency to opt for safe passes earned him the derisive nickname "Checkdown Chad."
Rookie Ryan Tannehill wants to show he's not backsliding and remains the Dolphins' quarterback of the future, allowing them to focus on addressing the many deficiencies in his supporting cast.
The Dolphins never expected Tannehill to become the next Dan Marino. They just don't want him to become the next Henne.
The matchup between the two quarterbacks lends an intriguing aspect to a mostly meaningless game Sunday, when Henne and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) face Tannehill and the Dolphins (5-8).
Henne will play in Miami for the first time since departing last winter as a bust after four seasons. He's still trying to make the case he deserves a No. 1 job.
"To Miami, I don't think I have to prove anything," Henne said. "I think I have to prove something to the Jacksonville Jaguars and something to my teammates - that I can help win, and go down the stretch in winning terms."
Miami's Bill Parcells-Tony Sparano regime invested heavily in Henne, a second-round draft pick in 2008. He went 13-18 as a starter and, with Parcells and Sparano long gone, was allowed to leave in March via free agency.
"Obviously you want to win more games, but whether I would've or should've really wouldn't change anything," Henne said. "There's a big learning experience that I had there. I enjoyed my teammates. I enjoyed being a part of the community. So I just took it as an experience and built upon it and improved myself as a quarterback and as a young man."
Henne said he keeps in touch with a lot of Dolphins players, and they said they root for him - except for on Sunday.
"I'm sure he's not going to throw the ball any softer," Miami sack leader Cameron Wake said, "so I'm not going to hit him any softer."
Henne signed a two-year contract worth nearly $6.75 million with the Jaguars, won the starting job last month and has had mixed results.
Replacing Blaine Gabbert during a game at Houston on Nov. 18, Henne became the first quarterback since 1987 to come off the bench and throw for four touchdowns with no interceptions. But his passer rating has declined in each game since, and he endured a dismal day in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets.
While the Jaguars will likely undergo a significant shake-up this offseason, Henne has a shot to return as the starter in 2013, coach Mike Mularkey said.
"Our guys are drawn to him," Mularkey said. "He is definitely in the mix."
Tannehill's status as the Dolphins' starter remains secure, even though they've lost five of the past six games, with modest scoring the primary culprit. The offense has totaled three touchdowns in the past four defeats.
A comparison of the current and former Miami QBs shows Henne has the superior statistics, with a 77.4 passer rating to Tannehill's 72.5, which ranks 33rd in the 32-team NFL. Henne has eight touchdown passes in 182 attempts; Tannehill has eight in 396.
A sputtering ground game has at times complicated Tannehill's task, and the lack of a deep threat remains a chronic problem. The Dolphins' wide receivers have combined for three scores, and Tannehill threw long several times in last week's loss at San Francisco without success.
"What we were thinking about and talking about the past few weeks is we have to find a way to get a few more explosive plays," Tannehill said.
The Dolphins are on the verge of their fourth consecutive losing season, and first-year coach Joe Philbin blames poor play in the fourth quarter. Five defeats have been by a touchdown or less, and in the past two weeks, late rallies fell short.
"We haven't finished games off," Philbin said. "You know we've been in a position to win a bunch of these games, but we haven't played well enough in the fourth quarter to win."
Tannehill's partly to blame; his final five passes at San Francisco fell incomplete. But his passer rating is highest in the fourth quarter, when he has thrown five of his eight TD passes.
"I see all of the hard work that the guys put in throughout the week, and the hard work I put in, and to come up short, it's frustrating," Tannehill said. "We just have to keep grinding and find a way to make a play at the end."
Philbin praised Tannehill's progress, but acknowledged growing pains.
"It is certainly an educational process," Philbin said. "He's done a lot of good things. We're very pleased with him overall. And I think he would be the first one to tell you that offensively as a unit, we feel a sense of urgency for all of us to improve and be more productive."
Shades of the Henne era. While the Dolphins have a new quarterback, some things haven't changed.
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