If you would have told me earlier in the week that Chad Pennington was about take over this offense once again, I would have probably called you crazy. Nevertheless, here we are- less than 15 hours away from CP10's first start since September of last year. There was a lot of shock and disbelief among Dolphins fans when the news initially hit the airwaves and because this compromises the future of this franchise, I have sided with those fans that disagree with the decision.
I have to say, though, as we inch closer and closer to gametime, I am starting to become more and more confident about this team's chances with a smart, resilent leader like Pennington under center. But I guess tommorow will tell all in what could end up being a do or die game for this football team. Here are my three keys to a big Dolphins' win.
Contain Chris Johnson
After thinking about what this Dolphins' defense struggled with in the first-half of the season, I'm getting a little more concerned about what Chris Johnson is capable of doing tomorrow.
The Dolphins inability to set the edge was exposed pretty heavily early on in the season, and even though they have made monumental strides in doing so as of late, they haven't exactly faced a back with world class speed like Chris Johnson. That means everything needs to happen quicker for Miami's front seven.
But they better be careful, though. Like I said yesterday, when you put so much effort into containing the perimeter of the defense, you leave yourself vulnerable to cutback lanes for the back, especially when that back is Chris Johnson. Opposing running backs have found leaks in the defense by cutting it back up the middle because the Dolphins tend to over pursue at times.
One thing that could eliminate the dilemma all together, though, would be some consistent penetration from Miami's front three that would limit Johnson's options.
Be productive on first and second down
The biggest downside to starting the physically limited Chad Pennington is that Dolphin drives will essentially be over once this offense hits third and long. If you remember back to 2008, the Dolphins rarely converted many third and longs.
Reason being, Chad just doesn't have the arm strength to fit the football into tight windows when defenses have the luxury of dropping back into coverage. That's why it's going to be crucial for the Dolphins to pick up positive yardage on first and second down to make things manageable for Chad's capabilities on third down.
To do that, the Dolphins are obviously going to have to run the football better. I believe this offensive line is getter better and better each week as they begin to develop some chemistry together, it's just going to take a little bit of commitment from Dan Henning to remain balanced.
Protect the football
If you take a look at this Titans' team from top to bottom, outside of Chris Johnson, they really don't do anything exceptionally well. In fact, they are pretty ordinary, if not borderline bad in the passing game on both sides of the ball. Having said that, this Titans team shares first place with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South and surprisingly leads the league in points per game (28).
Their offense isn't prolific by any stretch of the imagination, but they have manufactured points by creating turnovers. The Titans are currently tied for third in the league with 19 forced turnovers, and more importantly, they have done a great job of capitalizing on the opposition's mistakes.
That, once again, brings me to Chad Pennington. The same Chad Pennington that led an offense that set an NFL record in 2008 for the fewest turnovers in a season. I know Sparano probably intends for Pennington to finish out the season as the starter, but on paper anyway, this looks like the perfect game to welcome back ol' #10.