Henne, Marshall shine in Dolphins’ scrimmage

The potential has always been there. Well, ever since the Dolphins sent two second-round picks to the Rocky Mountains for Brandon Marshall, pairing one of the most talented receivers in the league with a quarterback who had all the tools but was in dire need of a go-to threat.

A year has come and gone, and while Chad Henne was the arm behind most of Brandon Marshall’s 1,014 yards receiving in 2010, the connection that began the year with so much promise, certainly left something to be desired by season’s end.

Henne and Marshall just never really seemed to get on the same page. An overthrown pass here, a misread there. Most of the blame was placed on Henne, and a lot of that was justifiable, but Marshall dropped his share of catchable balls, further complicating the matter.

But that was 2010. This is 2011. And while positive signs in a scrimmage a week into camp aren’t going to answer any questions, if confidence was built today progress was made.

Surely, confidence was built today in the Henne/Marshall connection that was responsible for three touchdowns, or as many scores as Marshall registered in all of 2010.

There were no official stats kept, but ESPN 760’s Ken LaVicka scored Henne as 10-15 for 145 yards, the three touchdowns to Marshall, and one bad decision- a 99-yard pick sick courtesy of Karlos Dansby- away from a near flawless afternoon. Marshall, meanwhile, managed one more catch besides the three scores to rack up an unofficial 4 receptions for 75 yards.

What will all of this mean when the Patriots come to town on September 12th? Well, nothing. Henne and Marshall are going to have to duplicate success like this when it actually means something to finally put some of the pressing questions we have about this offense to rest.

Today was a refreshing step in the right direction, though. Particularly in Henne’s case, if his confidence is beginning to grow, something that clearly held him back in 2010, playing well in a simple scrimmage may carry a little more weight than you would think.

Tough sledding for running game
Since the Dolphins don’t tackle to the ground much in practice, leaving us somewhat in the dark as to how the new-look running game is progressing, today’s live scrimmage shed some light onto the Daniel Thomas/Reggie Bush running back tandem.

Having said that, the Dolphins have themselves a dominant defensive line. I fully expect Mike Nolan’s defense to come close to, if not lead the league in yards allowed on the ground. So when the Dolphins’ offense struggles to get their running game going, as they did this afternoon, that makes it difficult to decipher if those struggles are a product of outstanding D-line play or a ground attack that needs some work.

Second-round pick Daniel Thomas reportedly ran hard with his five carries, and even managed a would-be touchdown reception that was called back by penalty, but only managed an unofficial 13 yards, or less than three yards-per-carry. Reggie Bush picked up four yards with his only two rushing attempts, but his presence was certainly felt in the passing game, taking two Chad Henne checkdowns a combined 37 yards.

Jason Taylor looking like an ageless wonder
So much for JT coming back home for a situational pass rushing role. It’s still early, but it looks as though we have ourselves a heated competition at strong-side outside linebacker. After two consecutive practices of lining up with the first-team defense, Taylor looked explosive getting after the quarterback today.

He didn’t register a sack according to most unofficial box scores, but he was apparently providing frequent pressure. He answered this question splendidly in ’09, but I still worry how he’ll hold up containing the edge against the run.

Koa Misi did an adequate job of that as a rookie, but if JT continues to excel getting after quarterbacks, he’ll begin to distinguish himself as the starter. At his age (36), however, even if he starts, his reps will be monitored. Koa Misi will spell him early and often, especially on first and second down.

Will Allen out again
Make that three straight practices with no Will Allen. We still have no explanation as to why Allen is missing these workouts, but unless something changes soon, it’s looking more and more likely that he won’t be a part of this football team. That’s a shame because a healthy Will Allen would have been a significant upgrade at nickel corner.

Vontae Davis surging
On a positive note regarding the cornerback front, Vontae Davis just keeps improving. His counterpart, Sean Smith, was beaten twice by Brandon Marshall for touchdowns. Brandon is a beast, so we’ll give Sean a pass there.

That didn’t stop Vontae from holding his own against Marshall, though. Davis didn’t yield a completion to Marshall and reportedly had an impressive breakup in the end zone. All of that falls in line with the sentiment that Vontae is in the midst of a stellar camp. Could he be on the verge of emerging as one of the league’s elite corners?

Reshad Jones may have upper hand in free safety battle
Tony Sparano has hinted that the starting free safety competition will be decided by play-making ability. Advantage: Reshad Jones. But until today, Chris Clemons was holding down first-team reps. Jones got in on the action with the staring defense in today’s scrimmage, though, confirming that he’s right on Clemons’ tail, if not in the driver’s seat to win the job.

Lydon Murtha not going down without a fight
Many have been penciling in Marc Colombo at the right tackle spot, but keep your erasers handy because Lydon Murtha has been making a statement the past few sessions. He received first-team reps at right tackle today, while Marc Colombo filled in for the injured Jake Long on the left side, where he pancaked Jason Taylor for the second or third time in the past few days.

In related news, Vernon Carey has been getting some work at left guard. Sparano has said he wants to see how versatile his lineman are, so it’s unclear if the coaching staff is actually considering playing Carey on the left side.

Sources: Ken LaVicka, Armando Salguero, Omar Kelly