Good morning. Before we quickly look ahead to the weekend, a bonus question: What is the real-life equivalent to the sports-life experience of watching an NFL Sunday when your team is on the bye week?
Place your answer in the comments section. The best response wins Breer’s 2007 and 2008 Ohio State football national championship rings. (He’s a proud alum.)
The Patriots will practice at 1 p.m. today, and we’ll be back then with an update. For now, here’s three issues to keep in mind looking ahead to Sunday.
1. Will Tony Sparano single cover Randy Moss? Last year, the Dolphins surprised the Patriots in Miami when they chose to cover each of their receivers – including Randy Moss – with one defensive back. Moss responded with eight catches, three touchdowns, and 125 yards in a 48-28 Patriots win.
“I don’t know why Coach disrespected me like that,” Moss said after the game, meaning Sparano. “I think they disrespected me today by giving single coverage. If I see single coverage, man to man, I think I can beat anybody in this league.”
Even with Moss having fought some injuries this year, it seems less likely the Dolphins will give him the same coverage. First, they’ve seen what happens. Second, the Patriots’ have yet to find a reliable third receiver (it might be Brandon Tate, but it’s too soon to say for sure), which should allow them to shift more coverage to Moss.
2. Which Chad Henne will show up? Holding the first pick in last year’s draft, the Dolphins took offensive line cornerstone Jake Long, passing on potential franchise quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Their reasoning, in the wake of Chad Pennington’s season-ending injury, has become evident: They believed in Chad Henne.
Since Pennington went down in Week 3 against the Billis, the Dolphins handed Henne the offense. His numbers are pedestrian – 60 percent passing for 154.2 yards per game – but with Henne guiding the huddle, Miami has gone 3-1 in games he started.
Henne has a big arm, and an up-and-down career playing under a harsh spotlight at Michigan gives him poise beyond his professional experience. On Sunday, the Jets proved he can be rattled. In their first game against Henne, in Week 5, they sacked him zero times, and Henne threw for 241 yards on 20-of-26 passing. This week, they held Henne to 112 yards on 12-of-21 passing while sacking him six times.
Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees said after the watching the film, Henne missed some open receivers who had beaten the secondary. Putting pressure on the young quarterback may decide the effectiveness of the Patriots defense.
3. Why the heck don’t defenses drill the quarterback when he splits out wide in the Wildcat? We’ll let Bill Belichick take this one:
“Well, it does happen at times,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t have a quarterback in the game, sometimes they do. There have been teams that have gone out there and tried to, on a snap of the ball, go attack the quarterback and hit him and all that. Of course the downside of it is that they put a player out there who really can’t block, and he’s eliminated one of your players because you’ve chosen to take him out of the play to go hit him. You’ve sacrificed a player that you could actually gain into the play because that quarterback is not really a threat to do much blocking, so you’ve given up a player that could actually help you on the other aspects of the play. So that’s probably why most teams don’t do a lot of that.”
It could be moot. In a lot of instances when they use the formation, the Dolphins simply take the quarterback off the field now, which is an interesting evolution. Teams keep the quarterback in as a wideout in order to not give away their running of the Wildcat through personnel changes. When the Dolphins started taking their quarterback off the field, what they were saying is this: We don’t mind that you know we’re running the Wildcat, because we believe it works as an offensive tactic even if it does not surprise you.
Also, the Dolphins can now use a quarterback as a quarterback when they run the Wildcat. Rookie Pat White, who ran the similar spread-option offense at West Virginia, is usually inserted a couple times each game. He’s tricky because he can run the Wildcat plays or any of the Dolphins’ regular offense.
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On covering Randy Moss, considering Chad Henne, and clobbering the quarterback in the Wildcat.