There is one characteristic us Dolfans share; We always think, talk, eat, #u"k, and drink either in Past Tense or in Future Tense. Its always about number 13 days, about those sundays in which Surtain and Madison would fly around the field, about a tiny linebacker who would become a sure HOF. Or more recently, about how Chad Henne will be throwing touchdowns let and right all the time, how our CBs will dominate or how the trifecta will build a sure fire Super Bowl contender for decades to come. But what about now? What about the 2009 season who will follow one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of sports? After all, these are all the same guys, who not surprisingly, are again being ridiculed and minimized by the fans and the media. These are all the same guys, just angrier and hungrier, and a bit more talented. So lets take a break from all these memories and hopes for the future, and talk about this season. Specially about one of the guys, who according to his teammates and coaches, made 2008 possible; Chad Pennington.
These are, in my opinion, 10 Factors that will play a major role in CP10 having a great season.
1- Improved running game:
Last year, our offense became something of an improvised west coast scheme because of the circumstances. First of all, we had a couple of young and unexperienced receivers running around, but most importantly, we had: a) A patched Offensive Line who was not strong enough to run the ball and b) Our stellar running back coming of a torn ACL injury.
This offseason though, these last two went from being a negative to a positive in a few days time.
a) We signed Jake Grove, who is a dominant beast at the point of attack and who, in case of staying healthy, will provide a huge upgrade in the running game.
b) Ronnie Brown is entering his second season since the injury, and as Matty always emphasizes, a running back coming of an ACL usually returns to full speed on the second year since the incident. So Ronnie should have a monster year.
2- JL experienced-
Last year Jake Long, 2008's #1 overall draft pick, allowed 2.5 sacks and was able to block quite successfully when running to the left side of the line. However, he was not selected to the Pro Bowl and more importantly, many people around the league questioned if Ryan Clady -who allowed .5 sacks-, not Jake Long should have been the #1 overall pick of the Dolphins. Many said he was good, but not great.
This year, Long will have one year experience under his belt, plus more importantly, 2 full off seasons under the Dolphins military like workout regime. He will be quicker and stronger. This year he will be great, not just ok. With the addition of Jake Grove and Justin Smiley's recovery, he should be top notch at pass protection and really set the pace at run blocking. Sure fire Pro Bowl selection.
Long will be that great LT that just makes a QB much better.
3- Ginn's third year-
Last year Ted showed flashes of the great receiver we are all expecting to see this season. He was great not only on long routes (Jets Dec) but also catching the ball over the middle between tough coverage (Seahawks, Jets, Buffalo) But he always seemed to disappear during most games and was never able to be that number one guy Chad can rely on crunch time.
2009 , Ginn will be entering his third NFL season. Its widely believed that a wide reciever reaches its true potential in the NFL during his third year in the league. This will not only be Ted's third season in the league, but it will also be his second season in a row with the same qb, head coach and offensive coordinator. There is every reason to believe that Ginn will come around starting next September and will be a lethal weapon for Pennington.
4- Acquaintance with teammates and playbook-
Last year Chad came in in the middle of Training Camp. So it was only natural that our offense was not only sort of reduced and limited during the first couple of games of the season, but that the connection with his wide receivers wasn't the best. However, as the season progressed there were flashes of a true connection being made specially with both Fassano, Bess and sometimes Ginn. Nevertheless, last season there were times were you couldn't help but wonder how in the world these guys were pulling this off and times were one had a feeling that these guys could be making more things happen if they just were more aquatinted with each other.
This year, with a full off season and training camp under their belt, these guys are going to be much better.
5- Strong defense-
Last season, there were some games in which Chad played amazingly but the defense just kept messing up everything the offense achieved. For example, in the game against New England in Dolphin Stadium, the offensive side of the ball had a game for the ages, one of their best of the season even though we lost. However, we all know that Chad doesn't posses the arm strength to lead a fourth quarter 20 point comeback. However, he is in the top 3 in the league at game managing as we all saw against San Diego in Miami or Denver.
This year, our defense will be much improved. This will not only mean that we won't have to trail all the time during tough games (say Indy), but that there will be more turnovers. This not only means that Chad will get to play to his strenghts, but that he will have the chance to come around in crunch time.
6- Camarillo back-
Last year Greg immediately clicked with Penny. Greg is a great route runner with soft hands and as coach Sparano stated "he is QB friendly". Well he sure was until he went out for the season against New England. Right after that, our offense as a whole had a couple of really rough games. Either because Ginn did a la David Copperfield and disapeared or because Bess could only do so much being 4"10, there was something missing.
This year, Camarillo hopefully will be back and I'm sure he will again be that sure fire target Pennington loves so much. Cam is a class act by the way, and man the guy really comes to play in crunch time. Remember against Denver? Hell can't wait for him to be back.
7- More tools-
Last year, specially after Camarillo went down and Wilford decided to forget how to play football, Penny had very few weapons on offense. He sure lacked that big possession receiver in the Red Zone, a long threat and a medium range wideout.
This year, the FO drafted USC's Patrick Turner to be that red zone threat and big physical wideout. Then, as we stated before, Ginn will probably come around and be that long and over the middle threat we are wishing for, and Camarillo and Heartline along with Bess will be the most reliable receivers for short shardage.
Last year there was a special trend. Pennington would have great games against tough opponents (other than Baltimore), such as New England and 5-0 Buffalo, not to mention San Diego, but would kind of flunk against mediocre opponents like the Raiders and the Rams. There are a lot of athletes made that way, and he seems to be one of those. Which in my opinion is great because he comes around under pressure.
This year we have the toughest schedule in the NFL, and I like it. There is a very, very specialy difference between playing Indianapolis and New Orleans than playing Baltimore. Yes, they are all top notch teams, however, the first two have average defenses at best, while Baltimore's defense is amazing and completely destroyed Pennington last year. (Wich also had a lot to do with our non existent running game and, again, non existent defense). The point being that Pennington loves playing under pressure in tough games, and most of the "elite" teams we play this season, happen to have mediocre defenses at best, while the true elite defenses we play this year will have a rookie qb ( tampa) and will probably sit their starters ( Steelers) in week 17.
9- Wildcat 2.0-
Last year, as coaches have already recognized, the wildcat was engineered to make up for some deficiencies our offense had. Either being lack of experience and talent in the WR position, injuries in the O-Line or aqcuantance and arm strength in the QB position, the wildcat was meant to be a gimmick.
This year however, the wildcat will be part of our playbook just as the I-Formation or the Shotgun, just much, much better. We not only have an improved O-Line and healthy running back, but a true "Elite" addittion to the formation in Pat White.
10- Contract Year-
Last year Chad came in being in one of the worst situations a professional athlete could possibly be in. He was thrown to the fire without even knowing the playbook or most importantly, his teammates. Sure, he was palying with a chip in his shoulder and being the true professional he is, he gave a 100% and ultimately took the team to the playoffs.
This year, however, Chad is in a contract year, meaning that his deal with the Dolphins finishes this season and will probably not be renewed in favor of Henne. Pennington is the ultimate competitor and will not settle for a back up role with the Dolphins. So there are two possibilities, if he wants to remain the starter of the Dolphins for the 2010 season, he has to take this team deep into the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl, to even make the FO consider pulling a fast one on Henne, or, he has to have an MVP season so he can sign a multi year deal with the Vikings on 2010, hopefully for us, he will.
Thanks for reading,