Deep Thoughts

Although Coach Tony Sparano is a huge proponent of dominating the time of possession, he would like to get yardage in bigger "chunks." Miami's three opponents have had six passing plays of 30 or more yards to none by the Dolphins.

If something positive came out of Chad Pennington's season-ending shoulder surgery -- which could also be career threatening -- it's that his inexperienced successor, Chad Henne, has a much stronger arm. The idea is that Henne's throwing arm could wake up Miami's comatose vertical passing attack.

Pennington's longest pass of the season was a 27-yarder to running back Ronnie Brown in the loss to San Diego last week, and that was completed only because Brown made a juggling, circus catch along the sideline.

However, Sparano said it's not that he hasn't called for deep passes downfield to speedy receiver Ted Ginn Jr., it's just that coverage has dictated that Pennington check down. He said offensive coordinator Dan Henning has called for about six deep passes in three games to Ginn that had to be changed at the line.

"If (Henne) goes out there on Sunday and he just tries to throw the ball to one guy, regardless of coverage, he's going to come off the field with 10 interceptions and everybody around here is going to wonder, 'what the heck?' It doesn't work that way," Sparano said.

Pennington overthrew an open Ginn downfield on the first play of the Chargers' game. Against the Colts, Ginn got his hands on two long passes that would've gone for touchdowns, including a game-winner in the final minute. With the Bills' secondary limping in to South Florida, including a season-ending fibula break for Leodis McKelvin, safety Donte Whitner's broken thumb and safety Bryan Scott's sprained ankle -- expect Henne to target cornerbacks Drayton Florence and Reggie Corner, while also getting slumping tight end Anthony Fasano into the picture.

The Bills have also been hurt by big plays. They've given up nine pass plays of 20 yards or more, including five going for touchdowns.

"I hope so," Brown said of going deep. "I think Buffalo's going to give us those opportunities and put a few guys in the box and hopefully we could get a few plays down the field and get some big plays on them and hopefully loosen up and spread it out a little bit."

Ginn has 13 catches for 134 yards and no touchdowns, with a 21-yarder his longest reception.

"We all know (Henne) has a stronger arm, but it's not a big difference," Ginn said. "Just go out and make the throws and make the catch. ... I'm just going to go out and continue to play hard and play tough."

Henning took offense when a reporter's benign question about improving the vertical attack was misconstrued as a shot at Pennington's arm strength.

"Let me address this misnomer," Henning said. "There wasn't anything wrong with Chad Pennington throwing the vertical ball. If you saw the first pass of the game (Sunday) he threw that ball far enough. We have other issues to concern ourselves as to whether we get the 'vertical ball.' We better protect before we could throw the ball vertical because we tried to do it we get hit a few times, we just lost a quarterback on a play we were trying to go vertical. And we got Henne sacked on a play we were trying to go vertical.

"It isn't just the quarterbacks ... receiver ... the protection. Sometimes we get the protection we don't get the route. Sometimes we get the route we don't get the throw. Don't think we're not trying to be vertical. We're trying to move the football with the best and prudent methods that we can with the tools we have, and last year Chad Pennington was way over seven yards per attempt. ... We need to get that up.

"It's not easy to do. If it was easy to do everybody would be doing it and they wouldn't be paying me so much money to try and do it."


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