Earth to Dan Henning


The most disturbing trend over the last six quarters of Dolphins football, in my mind, has been the mental vacation that Dan Henning has seemingly embarked on. In the last six quarters of football the Miami Dolphins, who entered last week as the number-two rush offense in football, have run the ball just 28 times.

It’s almost as if Chad Henne’s performance against the Jets prior to the bye week gave him the notion he had a new toy to play with, whatever the reason, Miami has been airborne far too much over the last two games. When Miami came out against the Saints in the first half they did so with a solid offensive identity, they were the essence of a smash mouth running attack and they were able to run in that vein to a lead of 24-3. Then the second half came around and Miami had its share of adversity hit it with turnovers and quick scoring by the Saints, but Miami also abandoned its identity and fell out of its game plan.

Yesterday that problem continued. The Jets entered the game without their all-pro Nose Tackle and despite that Miami ran the ball just 20 times (not counting three scrambles by Henne). When Miami did run they preferred to attack the Jets laterally which served no purpose because Miami’s strength is power football. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Miami needed a drive to milk the clock and go up by two scores that they turned to a power running game. Incidentally they averaged 5 yards a carry on that drive and scored a touchdown on a Joey Haynos play-action pass.

Right there, everything the Miami Dolphins offense is in terms of identity was posited on that drive. When faced with 3-and-2 Miami turned to the Wildcat and gained 13 yards on a Ronnie Brown run. On a third a long they ran a draw with Ricky Williams up the middle for a first down. Inside the 30, Williams began to churn and grind like he had in his youth during the 4th quarter and then on 2nd and goal Miami hit the Jets with a play fake for a touchdown. That’s how Miami wins offensively. But when you only run the ball 20 times, it’s difficult to get into rhythm and be an effective power-rushing offense.

Instead of focusing on that and trying to exploit the loss of Kris Jenkins though, Dan Henning was trying to throw out of the wildcat and have Chad Henne drop back. I understand and in many ways appreciate trying to diversify what the Wildcat can do, but at its core it’s a power running formation and when you have Brown attempt to go laterally it doesn’t help anyone. The last time Miami beat the Jets, Henne played strong because he rarely faced obvious passing situations (and thus, heavy pressure) and could drop back comfortably on play fakes. All of that starts with running the ball, the passing game is posited on the run.

One day Miami may be able to have Henne drop back and throw 30 plus times a game but in the meantime you have a young quarterback with a team full of possession receivers. Anthony Fasano seems to have taken the year off (or crueler, tricked us all last year) and Miami lacks a true threat at receiver, not to mention Chad Henne still has happy feet and sometimes hangs on to the ball too long. The passing game is a work in progress, but the run game is there. And Henne has proven he can play when the playfake is working.

Last week there was a story mid-week on about how the Saints may have provided the blueprint for stopping the Wildcat. I’m sure that this week that story will evolve a bit more after the Dolphins had such a poor offensive output on Sunday. But next week would be a perfect opportunity to return to the core of what makes the package effective, creating one-on-one matchups and a power running game, at the birthplace of the Wildcat. Miami can’t win if they don’t run the ball and there’s no bigger part of their power running game than the Wildcat package. So Earth to Dan Henning. Run the ball!