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Talking Dolphins' Passing Attack

I wanted to take some time to talk about the Dolphins' passing attack through 5 games - which, by the way, is ranked 11th in the NFL.

Bur first, just a quick final thought on the trade that sent Roy Williams to Dallas.  What the Cowboys gave up is a ton.  But for the Cowboys, it works.  Those who were hoping against hope that the Dolphins would make a play for Williams shouldn't have actually expected it to happen.

First off, the Dolphins were never even mentioned as a possible suitor for Williams.  It was all a media-driven craze created by the writers of the 3 major Miami-area newspapers who thought raising the idea of a potential trade would generate more hits to their websites and blogs.  It worked, didn't it?

But more importantly, the Dolphins shouldn't have even considered it - and fans should never have expected it.  We knew from day one that this new regime in Miami would build through the draft - with some free agents sprinkled in.  They are still in the business of collecting draft picks, not trading them away, despite their early season surprise success.  The important thing to remember is that Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano are building some here - something potentially special.  It is, without question, a three year process.  So trading for a big-time receiver and surrendering draft picks during year one was probably never an option.

Just be patient - our patience will be rewarded.

Now onto the Dolphins' 11th ranked passing attack.  Who would have thought?  Did you know that if the Dolphins were to end the season in the top 10 in passing, it would be the first time they've accomplished that feat since 1998?  It's been a while.

And how about the season Chad Pennington is having!  Right now, he ranks 3rd in the AFC with a passer rating of 98.8.  He's completing 68.6% of his passes and is averaging 8 yards per attempt, both of which rank 2nd in the AFC.  If he keeps this up, could Chad be Honolulu bound?

I think that part of the reason for Chad Pennington's success through the air is thanks to some solid play calling on 1st down.  Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have combined for 66 rushing attempts on first down and are averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.  This has opened up the passing game for Pennington because defenses are thinking too much about the run.  Pennington, on 1st down, has completed 35 of 50 passes (70%) for 411 yards - an averaging of 8.2 yards per attempt.  What this tells me is that I'd actually prefer to see a little more passing on 1st down - but not too much.  You can't forget about Ronnie and Ricky.  That would be a sin.

Of course, the knock on Pennington has always been his arm strength.  And this season, he's only thrown the ball more than 20 yards in the air 7 times - completing 2 of them.  But I honestly have been pleasantly surprised with how strong his arm has seemed when he throws the ball between 11 and 20 yards through the air.  In that range, Pennington is 20 of 37 for 325 yards (8.8 ypa) and 2 touchdowns.  More importantly, his throws have had good zip on them - for the most part.

One thing you have to love is how well Pennington has distributed the ball.  Below is the breakdown of how Chad has targeted each player:

Ted Ginn - 16% Ronnie Brown - 9%
Greg Camarillo - 22% Ricky Williams - 9%
Davone Bess - 7% Patrick Cobbs - 5%
Derek Hagan - 4% Casey Cramer - 1%
Ernest Wilford - 2% Anthony Fasano - 13%
David Martin - 12%

It's an interesting breakdown to say the least.  Typically, QBs target their wide receivers about 60 to 70 percent of the time.  But the Dolphins' receivers - who are mediocre at best - are only being targeted about half of the time.  Meanwhile, Miami's tight ends and running backs are each seeing about 25% of the targets respectively.

And while we're at it, let's take a look at each players' catch percentage.  This is simply a player's reception total divided by the number of targets they've seen.  Note that I haven't included Ernest Wilford or Casey Cramer because they don't even have at least 5 targets:

Ronnie Brown - 77% Ted Ginn - 67%
Anthony Fasano - 75% David Martin - 67%
Davone Bess - 73% Greg Camarillo - 64%
Ricky Williams - 71% Derek Hagan - 50%
Patrick Cobbs - 71%

Two things jump out at me here.  First of all, Chad Pennington is a damn good decision maker who is very accurate.  He clearly isn't trying to force the ball and he seems to be giving his pass catchers a good opportunity to make a play on the ball in most situations.  That's why these percentages are so high.

Secondly, I think we now know what Tony Sparano meant when he called Greg Camarillo "quarterback-friendly."  Often times, the most targeted receiver on a team will have a lower catch percentage simply due to the fact that they've seen the most balls come their way.  But Camarillo's 64% rate is damn impressive.  He really would make a terrific complimentary receiver.  It's just too bad he can't be used properly right now due to the lack of talent currently on this team's roster at the WR position.

So tell me, what jumps out most to you when thinking about and analyzing the Dolphins' passing attack so far after 5 games?