Brandon Marshall is going to have a major impact in Miami next season from a production standpoint. He can beat press coverage, he can stretch the field, and in one-on-one matchups he can use his rare combination of size and speed to take advantage of defenders in the intermediate passing game.
But the real winner in Wednesday’s trade that sent the wide receiver from Denver down to Miami will be quarterback Chad Henne — because having a top-five WR alters defensive game plans.
Think about Miami from the preparation standpoint of a defensive coordinator. Your first priority is to limit the combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, figure out a way to prevent explosive plays when Brown runs the Power O out of the wildcat, and force this offense into third-and-medium or third-and-long situations.
Because that’s where you used to be able to hurt this Miami offense.
Force Henne to drop back and challenge your secondary with vertical routes that you can stop by playing Cover 2, 2-Man or sending pressure because your free safety can play an honest alignment in the middle of the field. He doesn’t have to lean to one receiver.
This changes with Marshall — in every situation. Even down to who opposing teams select to wear his jersey on the scout team throughout game week.
How do you scheme against an offense that can run the football and now can use Marshall to draw safety attention on every down? Do you sacrifice your eight-man front to play a form of Cover 2 to keep a safety over the top of Marshall — and try to stop the running game with seven in the box? Or do you play forms of Cover 1, Cover 3 so that you can drop the strong safety down into the front — and take your chances outside against Marshall?
This is where Henne comes into play. I like his game, but I also understand that he’s still developing as an NFL QB. He needs to be quicker with his reads, and he also needs to understand how to make more plays in the red zone. But he has the NFL arm, and now he also has a true No. 1 WR.
We’ll begin to see his overall game advance from a football standpoint and a production standpoint with Marshall aligned outside the numbers. He can take more chances down the field, and when he needs a play, Marshall will be his No. 1 read when he sets his feet in the pocket. And he can do this with the comfort of having one of the better rushing attacks in the league. Expect his numbers to go up.
On third downs? More of the same. Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline will see more situations where they will draw one-on-one matchups. In fact, those third-down sub packages for the Dolphins offense will be more creative and more advanced for opposing defense to stop. And Henne will have more options in the game’s most crucial situations.
This is why you make big moves like this. Certain players have a dramatic effect of what you can do as a football team and how it reflects in your opponent’s preparation.
And in the AFC East, putting together a defensive game plan to beat Miami is going to change.
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