Chad Pennington’s season likely over

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington’s season is likely over after he suffered a torn capsule in his right throwing shoulder in a loss on Sunday to the Chargers. Pennington is seeking a second opinion, but it looks like Chad Henne will be the full-time starter now in Miami.

The team has not yet confirmed the severity of the injury. But Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano told the AP earlier the team was preparing to move on with backup Chad Henne.

“We’re going to have to go out there with Henne, who is a lot less experienced,” Fasano said. “There is definitely going to be a learning curve for Henne. He can learn as much as he wants in a classroom, but until he’s out on the field, in-game experience he’s not going to learn.”

Rookie Pat White, who’s seen action in the Dolphins’ Wildcat package thus far, is the only other QB on the roster.

White would be an intriguing option to start, but he doesn’t have any experience running a pro style offense because he played at West Virginia, which ran a spread option attack. So the Dolphins are essentially forced to start Henne and keep using White in the Wildcat.

This is a massive blow to Miami’s season. Pennington was limited as a passer, but he’s one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game just based on his ability to read defenses and get the ball out of his hands quickly.

Unless Henne turns out to be the next Tom Brady off the bench, the Dolphins are going to struggle to even going .500 this year. They’re already 0-3 and play in one of the toughest divisions in football.

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Dolphins completely blow final series in loss to Colts

I’ll get to the greatness of Peyton Manning in a second, but first I’d like to know what the hell the Dolphins were thinking on the final series of their 27-23 loss to the Colts on Monday night.

For three and a half quarters, Miami’s game plan was executed to perfection. They ran the ball well, grinded out the clock and kept Manning and the Colts’ potent offense on the sidelines.

But once Manning led Indy on one of his vintage drives late in the fourth quarter to put the Colts up 27-23, Tony Sparano and his coaching staff didn’t make any adjustments. The Dolphins played their final offensive series like it was their first drive of the game. They ran the ball, they wasted time by not getting to the line of scrimmage quickly and on least two occasions, they called play action passes.

Now why, in the name of all that is holy, would you run play action in an obvious passing situation? Did offensive coordinator Dan Henning think that he would get the Colts’ safeties to bite on the run with 36 seconds left and Miami needing a touchdown to win? It’s wasted time for Pennington to mimic a handoff to his running back when he could have used it to find open receivers. He should have been in the shotgun or at the very least in a five or seven step drop so he could survey the entire field. Play action doesn’t do Pennington any favors in that situation.

And I’m sorry, but if Ted Ginn Jr. wants to be a No. 1 receiver in this league, then he’s got to come down with that pass in the end zone on 3rd and 10. It wasn’t an easy catch by any means, but he out jumped the defender and Pennington put the ball in only a place where Ginn could get it. I know he had a good night (11 catches, 108 yards), but Ginn has to come down with that ball and give his team a chance to win.

I don’t have the numbers, but I’ve never seen a team win in the NFL by only running 35 total plays like the Colts did tonight. For the Dolphins to execute their game plan for 58 minutes and lose in such a way at the end should piss Sparano off. And if it doesn’t, then maybe Bill Parcells made the wrong choice for head coach a year ago.

As for Manning – he’s a freaking machine. The way he read what Miami was trying to do on that 48-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon was pure Peyton. I love watching Tom Brady play in a tight ball game, but I don’t think any quarterback is smarter than who the Colts employ under center every week.

Ten Surprises from Week 1 in the NFL

Who would have thought that Jay Cutler’s debut for the Bears would go so poorly? How about Jake Delhomme picking up right where he left off in last year’s playoffs? The 49ers beat the Cardinals on the road?!

Below are 10 surprises from Week 1 in the NFL. Feel free to add what surprised you in our comments section.

1. Cutler’s atrocious Bears debut.
When Chicago acquired quarterback Jay Cutler from the Broncos this offseason, fans immediately started believing that their Bears were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. After all, the only thing that had held this team back over the years was not having a franchise quarterback. Now that the Bears had one in Cutler, the sky was the limit. Given the lofty expectations that fans had for the Bears, Cutler’s debut Sunday night in Green Bay was startling. The numbers were bad enough: 17 of 36, 277 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs. But it was Cutler’s demeanor during the game that was most troubling. He constantly threw across his body into traffic, was rarely on the same page as his receivers and it appeared as though he flat out stopped trying after throwing his third pick of the night. Granted, there’s still a lot of time left. But nobody expected Cutler to get off to this bad of a start.

2. Miami shoots itself in the foot.
Even though Atlanta’s defense rose to the challenge on Sunday, it was still quite surprising to see the Dolphins routinely beat themselves with costly turnovers and dumb penalties. Early in the second quarter, Miami drove to the Falcons’ 16-yard line only to have tight end Anthony Fasano fumble after receiving a bone crunching hit from Mike Peterson. Cornerback Brian Williams returned the gift 53 yards and Atlanta capitalized with a Jason Elam 36-yard field goal. Midway through the third, the Dolphins again drove into Atlanta territory, but quarterback Chad Pennington didn’t see Peterson waiting in the flats and was picked off by the linebacker. The Falcons again capitalized, this time on a Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez 20-yard touchdown pass to give them a 16-0 lead. On Miami’s very next series, Fasano fumbled again, only this time Elam missed a 38-yard field goal. Later in the fourth, the Dolphins had a touchdown taken off the board after offensive lineman Vernon Carey was called for holding. This was a Miami team that won the AFC East last year because they did all the little things right. They never hurt themselves with mistakes and always capitalized on their opponents’ miscues. But the opposite happened on Sunday and considering Tony Sparano’s team isn’t talented enough to overcome turnovers and penalties, the Dolphins can’t have what happened in Atlanta become a routine occurrence.

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Dolphins make crucial mistakes in loss to impressive Falcons

In 2008, Tony Sparano’s Dolphins did all the little things right. They took care of the football, they didn’t beat themselves and they didn’t self-destruct. Thanks to those things, Miami was able to win the AFC East and make an improbable playoff run under a first year head coach in Sparano and an underrated, yet limited quarterback in Chad Pennington.

But in a 19-7 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, the Dolphins did the opposite. They turned the ball over, they shot themselves in the foot with costly penalties and they didn’t do the little things right offensively.

The Dolphins turned the ball over four times on Sunday (as opposed to the Falcons, who didn’t turn the ball over once) and committed four penalties, one of which cost them a touchdown. They were also just 4 of 11 on third downs, which is staggering given that Atlanta’s defense struggled mightily in getting off the field on third downs in preseason.

Speaking of Atlanta’s defense, the unit was fast, aggressive and tenacious today. The Dolphins made plenty of stupid mistakes of their own, but the Falcons’ defense deserves credit for harassing Pennington (who was sacked four times and never looked comfortable in the pocket) and delivering bone-crushing hits whenever Miami’s players got their hands on the ball. For such a young, inexperienced unit, Atlanta’s defense was awfully impressive.

Head coach Mike Smith has to be pleased with the overall effort he got from his defense on Sunday. Even though Matt Ryan threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns and six different receivers caught passes (including Tony Gonzalez, who made an incredible catch in the first half and also caught a touchdown pass), the Falcons’ offense wasn’t as sharp as it could be. They’re going to start clicking eventually and if Atlanta can get the same defensive effort this season as it did today, then the Falcons go from being a playoff contender to a Super Bowl contender.

2009 fantasy football is coming soon—a look back at 2008 QBs

Remember when we were instructed to draft running backs with our first two, and in some cases, our first four, fantasy football picks? Yeah, that was so 1999. Heck, that was so 2004 or 2005 when LT and Shaun Alexander were dominating the gridiron. But a funny thing has happened. Running backs by committee are not only keeping legs fresh, they are wreaking havoc on fantasy rosters. Also, a recent trend toward pass-happy offenses is making quarterbacks and receivers more valuable. Last season, QBs were dominating — here is how the Top 10 QBs finished fantasy-wise in 2008 (your league may have scored differently than mine) and what you can expect from them in 2009:

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—Brees fell 15 yards short of Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record, finishing with 5069 yards, along with 34 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Is he going to match that? There’s no reason to believe he won’t.

2. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers—I had LT last year and one of the reasons his stats suffered was because this guy kept throwing the damn ball. Rivers threw for 4009 yards with 34 TDs and just 11 picks. This year, will they go back to more of a run-first offense? Probably not — not with LT a year older.

3. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals—Ah, the Fountain of Youth is a beautiful thing. Warner drank from it often, and of course when you have guys named Boldin and Fitzgerald to throw to, it can make you look good and feel ten years younger. Still, who expected 4582 yards and 30 touchdowns with 14 picks and a trip to the Super Bowl? Not me. This year, Warner may not have Boldin, who just keeps whining about his contract, but don’t think the QB’s numbers will suffer all that much.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers—Brett who? You certainly won’t hear anyone blaming the Packers’ 6-10 season on Rodgers. It was in fact their defense that failed them, because Rodgers passed for 4038 yards with 28 TDs and 13 interceptions. And just for kicks, Favre’s numbers with the Jets were 3472 yards, but 22 TDs and league leading 22 picks. Going into 2009, Rodgers’ stock has to be even higher.

5. Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos—On what planet does 4526 yards and 25 touchdown passes get you run out of town? In Denver, where new coach Josh McDaniel screwed up and tried to trade for Matt Cassel. Oops. Cutler is now in Chicago, so that means his fantasy stock automatically drops a few notches.

6. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts—The Colts got off to a horrible start and in fact didn’t win the division for the first time in years. But Manning finished strong, with 4002 yards, 27 TDs and just 12 picks. Marvin Harrison is no longer catching his passes, but that doesn’t mean Manning doesn’t have weapons.

7. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles—It was a roller coaster season in 2008, but the Eagles came within about a quarter of reaching the Super Bowl. Somehow McNabb held it together (what, they have ties in the NFL?) and wound up having a great season, passing for 3916 yards with 23 TD passes and 11 picks. He only had 147 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores, but that’s what Philly has Brian Westbrook for. McNabb is getting long in the tooth, but he’s smarter and as accurate as ever.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys—Okay, so there may be trouble in paradise and there is no T.O. anymore, but Romo is still a very good fantasy QB. His 3448 yards and 26 TDs were a bit off his 2007 pace (4211, 36 TDs), but part of that is because he missed a few games with a thumb injury.

9. Matt Cassel, New England Patriots—With zero pro experience and almost zero college experience, who would have thought Matt Cassel could come in for Tom Brady and have the season he did? Okay, so he is no Brady, but Brady is in a class of his own anyway. Cassel’s 3490 yards with 21 TD passes and just 10 interceptions were good enough to land him the starting job in Kansas City. How that will affect his fantasy stats remains to be seen, but don’t expect too much of a drop-off on an improved Chiefs’ team.

10. Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins—You know Chad is still gloating after being pushed out of New York by Brett Favre, and then leading his Dolphins to the division title. Pennington is always risky as a fantasy QB because of injuries and inconsistency, but 3653 yards and 19 TDs is not shabby, nor was his microscopic total of 7 picks. If he stays healthy, Chad should have another good season.

The other name you’ll have to consider in 2009 is Brady. He missed the final 15 ¾ of the season after getting knocked out of the opener against Kansas City, but early reports are that Brady is looking and feeling great and will be at full strength in 2009. Randy Moss is salivating, and so will fantasy owners, though they will do so skeptically.

Are you ready for some football? I know I am and feel great just talking about it!

(Next week: Wide Receivers)

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