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Henne Finally Gets His Chance

When the Miami Dolphins
selected the talented Chad Henne in the 2008 National Football League Draft, it
seemed like a foregone conclusion that he was the designated franchise
quarterback who would help lead the team back to respectability following its miserable
1-15 showing in 2007. Henne, however, disappeared off the fantasy radar when Miami acquired veteran
free-agent Chad Pennington, who had been released from the New York Jets
following their famous Brett Favre trade. The surprisingly durable Pennington
bested Henne for the No. 1 job and played well, leading Miami to a surprising 11-5 record in 2008,
which represented one of the most dramatic one-season turnarounds in league
history. With Pennington (shoulder surgery) now out for the remainder of the 2009
season, the 24-year-old Henne is finally getting a chance to settle into the
job that many thought should have been his from the beginning. Although it has
happened a little later than expected, Henne is officially fantasy relevant.

THE HENNE FOOTBALL HISTORY

Chad Steven Henne was
born July 2, 1985, in Wyomissing,
Pa., and he is the son of a
junior high/high school football coach. Henne, who grew up idolizing NFL Hall
of Famer and fellow Pennsylvanian Joe Montana,
played high school football at Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pa. He set the state’s District III all-time
passing and touchdown records. During Henne’s senior season, he went 147-for-249
(59 percent) for 1,743 yards with 19 touchdowns, and he rushed for 450 yards
and five scores. As a junior, Henne completed 64.4 percent of his throws for
2,088 yards, 23 touchdowns and three interceptions, and rushed for more than
600 yards and six touchdowns.

Henne spurned overtures
from popular in-state football powerhouse Penn
State to play for the Michigan
Wolverines, becoming the first true freshman to start at Michigan (2004) since Rick Leach (1975).
Henne also was the first true freshman quarterback in Big Ten history to lead
his team to a conference title, and he finished as the top true freshman,
statistically, in Michigan
and Big 10 Conference history. In addition, Henne tied a school record for
touchdown passes in a season (25), which he shares with Elvis Grbac (1991).

CHAD

HENNE — MICHIGAN PASSING STATISTICS

Year

GP

GS

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Lng

TD

Int

Rat.

2004

12

12

240

399

60.2

2,743

69

25

12

132.6

2005

12

12

223

382

58.4

2,526

54

23

8

129.6

2006

13

13

203

328

61.9

2,508

69

22

8

143.4

2007

10

8

162

278

58.3

1,938

65

17

9

130.5

Total

47

45

828

1,387

60

9,715

69

87

37

133.9

Henne kept the starting
job for four seasons, graduating with school records for career completions,
attempts, passing yards and touchdown passes. He compiled a 33-14 record,
tossed at least one touchdown pass in 42 of 47 games played, threw for an
average of 206.7 yards per game (No. 2 in school history) and threw for at
least 200 yards in 26 starts. In addition, Henne’s 87 career touchdown passes
ranks No. 2 all-time in Big Ten Conference history behind the 90 touchdown
throws compiled by Drew Brees (Saints), who had played college football at
Purdue.

Because of an
injury-marred senior season (2007), Henne was passed over for consideration for
most of the major collegiate quarterback awards. The Pennsylvania native was hindered by a knee
sprain and a separated right (throwing) shoulder that forced him to miss a
combined three games and portions of seven others. Although Henne was revered
among Michigan fans, he earned the unpopular
distinction of being the first Wolverines quarterback to go 0-4 against
archrival Ohio State. A healthy and rested Henne
enjoyed the best game of his career — it was also his last outing in a Michigan uniform — in
the Capital One Bowl (2008), going 25-for-39 for 373 yards with three touchdown
passes and two interceptions to lead the Wolverines to a 41-35 victory over the
Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators.

HENNE’S NFL YEARS

It may surprise you to know
that some NFL Draft publications had ranked Henne right behind Matt Ryan
(Falcons) and ahead of Joe Flacco (Ravens).

The Henne Pre-Draft
Profile

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 230
pounds

40-Yard Dash:
4.85

Wonderlic: 22

Positives: Typical
dropback passer, has very good arm strength; can make all the throws, can throw
on the run, is quick enough to escape the rush, has experience in a pro-style
offense, has the right size and build, gritty, tough, willing to play hurt,
mentally tough, has solid football intelligence, has great leadership
qualities; won over teammates when starting as a freshman.

Negatives:
Throwing motion (his “windup”) is a little slow, occasionally struggles with
accuracy; passes sometimes sail high and off target, average-at-best mobility,
sometimes struggles with pocket presence and takes unnecessary sacks.

The Dolphins drafted
Henne in the second round (pick No. 57 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft, and he
was the fourth quarterback selected behind Ryan, Flacco and Brian Brohm
(Packers). Henne agreed to a four-year, $3.5 million contract. His chances of
earning the starting job were dashed when, as mentioned, the Dolphins signed Pennington.
The veteran Pennington easily earned the starting gig while Henne won Miami’s No. 2 quarterback
job.

Henne made his
regular-season debut September 14, 2008, in mop-up time with the Dolphins
trailing 31-3 to the Arizona Cardinals. He went 7-for-12 for 67 yards with no
touchdowns or interceptions but led his team to its only score of the game,
which was a 1-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Brown. Henne did not receive any
additional playing time that season.

In March 2009, the
Dolphins announced they were going to groom Henne to take over as the starter
by the 2010 season, which obviously meant that Pennington was on a short leash.
Facing the San Diego Chargers in Week 3, Chargers linebacker Kevin Burnett
knocked Pennington out of the game with what turned out to be a season-ending
right (throwing) shoulder injury. Henne played the rest of the game, going
10-for19 for 92 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. With the No. 1
job now officially his, Henne made his first regular-season start in Week 4 at
home against the Buffalo Bills, going 14-for-22 for 115 yards with one
touchdown and no interceptions to help the Dolphins notch their first win of
the season. For you trivia buffs, Henne’s touchdown pass — the first of his
career — went to rookie wide receiver Brian Hartline.

Henne’s impressive second
start, as you surely know, happened this past Monday against the New York Jets,
grabbing the attention of fantasy owners. Trailing New York late in the game,
Miami had to turn Henne loose and let him throw, and the second-year pro impressed,
going 20-for-26 for 241 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions to
lift his team to a 31-27 victory and win No. 2 on the season. Two passes that
Henne threw in critical game situations stand out in my mind:

1. The 53-yard
touchdown bomb to Ted Ginn
— It happened with close to 10 minutes left in the game. On first
and 10 from Miami’s
47-yard line, Henne used a play-action fake to freeze the defense briefly,
dropped back and threw a perfect rainbow to Ginn, which obviously demonstrated
Henne’s arm strength and touch.

2. The gutsy
third-down pass to seal the win
— With 1:06 remaining in the game, Miami was facing third and 10 from the Jets’
16-yard line. Taking the snap in the shotgun, Henne rolled right and fired a
12-yard strike to Greg Camarillo on a comeback route that iced the game. The
pass clearly demonstrated Henne’s mobility, decision-making, patience and
poise.

WILL HENNE SHINE IN
2009?

What should we expect
from Henne for the rest of 2009? Keep one thing in mind: Although Henne looked
impressive against the Jets, he has started just two career regular season
games. Henne has most, if not all, of the necessary skills to succeed. He also
has a superb rushing attack and a solid group of pass-catchers to lean on, so
Henne does not have to carry the offense. After backing up Pennington for a
season, Henne should have a strong command of the offense. On the other hand, Miami will remain a run-first team — the Ronnie
Brown/Ricky Williams-led ground attack is the bread and butter of the Miami offense. Henne also
has some growing pains ahead of him due to his lack of playing experience.

Henne’s fantasy forecast
depends on his progress from this point forward. Worst-case scenario, Henne
will be inconsistent and too risky to start. In a best-case scenario, I see
Henne as a QB2 matchup play. Following a Week 6 Bye, Henne will face three
challenging matchups: the New Orleans Saints (Oct. 25), at the Jets (Nov. 1)
and at the New England Patriots (Nov. 8). I think Henne’s performances in those
three contests will give us a proper gauge for his fantasy stock. Following
that three-game stretch, Henne will have two softer matchups against the Tampa
Bay Buccaneers (Nov. 15) and at the Carolina Panthers (Nov. 19). Henne then
will face two challenging games versus the Buffalo Bills (Nov. 29) and New England again (Dec. 6). For the fantasy playoff weeks
(Week 14, Week 15 and Week 16), Henne has favorable matchups: at the
Jacksonville Jaguars (Dec. 13), at the Tennessee Titans (Dec. 20) and the
Houston Texans (Dec. 27).

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