Tuesday Thoughts: Talking receivers & more

When I sat down to write this, I couldn't pinpoint one single topic I wanted to highlight today. So I figured - what the hell - let's make this post a little bit of everything.

Quick thoughts on the receivers
For the first time this year, the Dolphins won a game through the air. Miami's receivers did come up very big on Sunday. And it made me realize - this receiving corps needs a legitimate number one receiver.

Huh?

Let me explain.

Did anyone notice how most of Chad Henne's completions on Sunday came on slants, drags, curls, and comebacks? Part of the reason for that is because the Dolphins - outside of Ted Ginn, who we know isn't the most reliable receiver - don't have any receiver who can get behind the defense. Translation? They're slow. Well, maybe that was harsh. But they're certainly not fast.

With that said, though, just imagine how good this group could become if the Dolphins had that true number one receiver. Just think about how effective Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo would be with a real threat playing on the other side of them. Or how good Davone Bess would be working the slot week in and week out like Wes Welker does thanks, in large part, to having a teammate like Randy Moss. That one singular addition of a real number one receiver would instantly change this receiving corps from an "average to below average" group to a "good to great" group.

Speaking of Bess, though, let's spend a moment on him. Just how good has Davone been since being an undrafted free agent last year out of Hawaii? Well - he's been really, really good. Some like to call D-Bess a "poor man's Wes Welker." But through their first two seasons, Bess has actually been better than Welker. And let's be honest - if Bess, right now in just year two of his career, was swapped out with Welker and played in that offense with those teammates, he'd be every bit as productive as Welker, if not better.

In his first two seasons, Welker caught 96 balls for 1,121 yards and a touchdown. Bess, meanwhile, has 113 catches for 1,102 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Bess has a chance to catch Irving Fryar for most receptions in their first two seasons as a Dolphin. Fryar caught 137 passes in his first two seasons in Miami. Second on that list, meanwhile, is Mark Duper - but with an asterisk. His first season was technically 1982. But Duper was only active for two games that year and never even touched the ball. In '83 and '84, Duper caught 122 passes. Bess is only 24 receptions short of Fryar's mark and just nine from Duper's mark.

You'll have a hard time finding any receiver in the NFL who is more efficient than Bess, too. In fact, only six wide receivers in the AFC have a higher catch percentage than Bess. And one of them is a teammate of his. Below is how the Dolphins receivers have done catching the football:

Player Rec. Tgts. Catch %
Greg Camarillo 32 45 71.1%
Davone Bess 59 84 70.2%
Brian Hartline 21 37 56.8%
Ted Ginn 27 61 44.3%

A little '08 draft talk
Watching Joe Flacco make mistake after mistake on on Monday night, I got to thinking about the top quarterbacks in the 2008 draft class. The Dolphins were heavily criticized by some (Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock come to mind first) for passing on Matt Ryan and drafting Jake Long/Chad Henne instead. But now that Henne has nine career starts under his belt, let's compare the numbers of those three quarterbacks (Henne, Ryan, Flacco) through their first nine starts. And yes - some will say it isn't a fair comparison because Henne had a year to sit and learn. My rebuttle is simple. Ryan and Flacco had better supporting casts around them - especially Ryan in Atlanta.

Let's go to the numbers:

Player Comp/Att Comp % Yds YPA YPC TD Int W-L
Chad Henne 163/282 57.8% 1,755 6.2 10.8 9 7 6-3
Matt Ryan 149/250 59.6% 1,909 7.6 12.8 10 6 6-3
Joe Flacco 151/243 62.1% 1,649 6.8 10.9 7 7 6-3

You cna make whatever judgments you want from those numbers above. But here's what I know. At this point, there's no reason to think that Henne won't be as good, if not better, than either of the other two quarterbacks. And when you couple the selection of Henne with the selection of a franchise left tackle like Long, I think it's fair to say that these "draft experts" should prepare to dine on some crow in the not-to-distant future.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - to this day, I still draft Jake Long over Matt Ryan. Chad Henne is just an excellent little bonus.

AFC Playoff Picture
I'm not a fan of projecting too far into the future in terms of playoff positioning. But this does deserve a quick examination.

Here are the facts. The Dolphins are currently in 8th in the AFC, only one game behind the final wildcard spot that is currently held by the Jaguars - coincidentally, the Dolphins' next opponent. In fact, Miami's final four opponents are all against teams in the AFC playoff race.

So what happens if the Dolphins win their remaining four games and get to 10-6? Well that would mean that the Jaguars, Ravens, and Jets would all have at least six losses to go along with Miami. Thanks to Miami's two game sweep of the Jets, New York is a non-factor if the Dolphins win out. So that would bring us to the Dolphins, Ravens, and Jaguars.

The first tie-breaker for three teams and one wildcard spot is if any of the teams have defeated both of the other teams. In this scenario, no team would have accomplished this. The next tie-breaker is conference record. In this scenario, with the Dolphins and Ravens winning out and the Jags winning all but their game this week against the Dolphins, Jacksonville would only have three conference losses while both Miami and Baltimore would have four - giving that final wildcard spot to the Jaguars.

But the Jaguars still face the Colts at home and the Patriots in New England. So I don't think it's likely we see the Jaguars end the season with only three conference losses. And if they were to lose to New England or Indy, then that would give the Jags seven losses - eliminating them from this particular discussion in which we are examining what would happen should the Ravens and Dolphins win their remaining games.

So that would leave the Ravens and Dolphins. The next tie-breaker after conference record would be each team's record in common games. In this scenario, with the Dolphins and Ravens winning their remaining games, the Ravens would be 3-2 in games against common opponents (which are SD, NE, Ind, Pit) while the Dolphins would be just 2-3. Hence - the Ravens would get that final wildcard spot.

What's this all mean? It means that the Dolphins do not control their own destiny. But it also means that they have got to take care of their own business if they even want to worry about these playoff scenarios. And that continues this week in Jacksonville.

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