Following last week's 27-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins are nearly mathematically out of the playoff race and sit in a tie for last in the AFC East at a record of 5-8. With the Dolphins already exceeding the expectations set for them prior to the season, they must switch their focus to closing out the year on a high note which must start against the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Although this matchup isn't an appealing one to the average NFL fan, it will have some added significance for Dolphins fans and players as Chad Henne returns to Miami. Drafted by the Dolphins with the 57th overall pick back in the 2008 draft, Henne was never able to amount to the franchise quarterback that he was projected to be. Throughout his four year career in aqua and orange, Henne had a 13-18 record as a starter with 31 touchdowns and 37 interceptions over that time. He particularly struggled at home in Sun Life Stadium as he lost 10 of his last 11 starts for a record of 5-11.
Henne took over the Jaguars starting quarterback job midway through the campaign when Blaine Gabbert was placed on season ending injured reserve. In seven games with the Jaguars including a 1-2 record as a starter, the 27 year old has thrown eight touchdowns and five interceptions to go along with 1,217 yards passing for a rating of 76.2.
Despite the fact that Henne has impressed as a Jaguar, he still has many of the flawed tendencies that ulimately resulted in his departure from Miami as a free agent. As many familiar with the Dolphins would know, Henne does not perform well against the blitz and that is already on display this year. When facing the blitz, Henne completes 11.7 percent fewer passes compared to when their is no pass rush, and his passer rating is also 9.9 points lower. This should bode well for Kevin Coyle's defense which has sent additional rushers on nearly 40 percent of snaps this season. Expect the Dolphins defense to repeat their style of play from the past two weeks and get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Cameron Wake should be in store for another huge performance against arguably the weakest offensive line the team has played.
On the other end of the field will be Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill who is bound to be judged on his play Sunday in comparision to Chad Henne. Miami's offensive play calling has been noticeably conservative throughout the course of the season with a lot of short and intermediate throws. With only pride to play for at this point, expect Tannehill to have more freedom in the remaining three games as the coaching staff evaluates his consistency with deep passes. Against the 24th ranked passing defense in the league, Tannehill is primed to have the best game of his young career thus far.
The Dolphins are a better all round team than Jacksonville and should have no problem putting up points and taking care of business. However, if the Chad Henne led Jaguars manage to leave Sun Life Stadium with a win, it will add another disappointing chapter to a frustrating season in Miami.