After a disappointing home loss, the Bills look to regroup against Miami with a secondary potentially missing three starters to injury and needing a division win?a feat they have failed to accomplish since the 2007 season. Getting the replacements comfortable with the game plan is hard enough, but now the defense also has to prepare for a new quarterback.
The Dolphins placed starting quarterback Chad Pennington on the injured reserve Wednesday with a shoulder injury. Making his first NFL start is Chad Henne, who served as the third quarterback in the first two games of the season, but replaced Pennington in the third quarter against San Diego completing 10-of-19 passes for 92 yards and an interception.
In his second year, the Bills know he?s a young and inexperienced quarterback. But, in terms of getting a read on Henne?s strengths, they only have film of the last quarter in San Diego and preseason games to judge his abilities.
?You just watch the preseason film, get a feel what they like to do with him,? defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. ?You?re not always right, but try to be close as you possibly can be.?
Although regular season games give better indication to a player?s tendencies compared to the preseason, Fewell said he noticed the Dolphins? confidence in Henne.
?Trying to get him grouped in the offense, seeing what he did well?they just ran the offense with him. So, there are a lot of factors you can base it off of. I think they will take a smart approach with him and hand off to the two backs.?
Fewell is referring to Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, catalysts of a Dolphins running attack ranked third in the league with 4.7 yards a carry and 161.3 yards per game. Taking direct snaps or misdirections from the Wildcat formation and other gadget plays, the Bills are expecting a heavy dose of both to simplify Henne?s transition.
?They have been so efficient these first few games, more so with the quarterback change," said Ryan Denney. "The guy (Henne) doesn?t have a lot of experience with the offense, and making him comfortable they will try to run it as much as possible.?
?I don?t see them taking the ball out of their hands,? Fewell said of the Brown-Williams tandem.
If the Bills find a way to slow the ground game, it creates a situation where Henne will be forced to make plays.
?Any time you get a young quarterback you want to try to confuse him," said Marcus Stroud. "But you want to stop the run first and force the young guy to beat you."
Henne is known for his above average arm strength, a limitation that forced Pennington to rely on his accuracy and high completion percentage. But Denney said he wouldn?t be surprised if Henne is limited to throwing short to immediate passes and high percentage throws while adjusting to the offense. In the end, however, he lacks Pennington?s veteran makeup and the Bills want to take advantage.
?Everyone is aware of what a new quarterback indicates with short passes and relying on the running game. So, we need to prepare for that, but at the same time any pressure we put on him we can offset his rhythm,? Denney said. ?Chad (Pennington) drops back and has all the confidence in the world. He knows where his reads are and when the pressure is coming.
"Regardless of how good the new quarterback may be eventually, he?s not going to have the confidence and experience. If we can throw some pressure at him, hopefully we can cover his receivers and make him go to the next read. I think that will really shake them up.?
It?s a critical game for the 0-3 Dolphins as they not only hope to get the zero out of their win column, but learn whether Henne can be a difference maker this season. His fourth quarter interception returned 31 yards for a touchdown by the Chargers Eric Weddle in 23-13 loss last week wasn?t a good start.
?I think Chad made a couple of mistakes in there. One of the mistakes was an interception?.that is a mistake he can learn through this whole thing,? Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. ?I thought his look and demeanor for going into the game at that point was very good and his handle of the offense was pretty good. I think everyone on board here knows certainly Chad Pennington?s leadership and all those things are going to be missed, but everyone here has great confidence in Chad Henne.?
Henne said his main focus is to follow his coaches? lead and execute the game plan.
?I think they feel confident and I feel confident in myself with knowing the playbook and knowing how to execute it. I don?t think we are going to limit anything on offense,? Henne said. ?[The coaches] are going to pick out what they feel like they can attack with Buffalo. That is all I can ask for. Whatever is in the game plan, we are going to run and execute it well.?
Of course the Bills are taking the same approach as two AFC East rivals will both be desperate for their first division victory.
?We know they?re going to simplify the game plan with him not having much experience,? said safety George Wilson. ?But at the end of the day, we just have to play our assignments.?