Not-So-Wild Cat: Miami Dolphins Tame Without Ronnie Brown?

Angel MelendezCorrespondent INovember 18, 2009

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 15:  Running back Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins runs past linebacker Barrett Ruud #51 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Land Shark Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins offense just went from being a punishing wildcat to a cuddly, yarn batting kitten.

Or has it?

Today's news that star RB Ronnie Brown has been put on IR for the remainder of the season after suffering a foot injury in last Sunday's Tampa Bay game, couldn't come at a worse time. 

Not that there is ever a good time to find out that your best player is out for good, but when a team finds less than 48 hours before their next game, it surely messes with the dynamics of, well, everything. 

The Dolphins (4-5) are heading into a Thursday night's match-up against the Carolina Panthers (4-5) who just came off a big win against their division-rival Atlanta Falcons. Both teams have had disappointing starts to their seasons considering these were playoff teams a year ago. 

Even so, Miami has shown that although they've already reached their loss total from 2008, they weren't done and were going to punch every team they played in the mouth. The left fist, Ricky Williams, softened them up and the right fist, Ronnie Brown, delivered the knockout blow. 

It's been a great combo and even with only four wins, the Dolphins season thus far could still be seen as successful considering they have the toughest schedule in the NFL (Colts, Steelers, Falcons, Chargers and twice against the Patriots, just to name a few.) 

All that's changed now with Brown gone. 

But how it'll change things, that's the question. 

Asked a very similar question, Coach Tony Sparano responded with: "Who knows? May not even run it. Never know."

Actually, I do. We all do. Expect to see the wildcat against the Panthers and against everyone else for the rest of the season.

As fantastic as Ronnie Brown (648 yards; 8 TDs) has been this year, Ricky Williams (558 yards; 6 TDs) hasn't been far behind. Even though he's 32, and Williams has taken "breaks" from football, he has never let his conditioning slip. He looks especially rejuvenated this season, running with purpose and conviction. 

That's not to say that the Dolphins will continue to run the wildcat at the same frenzied pace as they did, say, in the Colts game. It will suffer and it will be scaled back.

And so, in order for the Dolphins to be successful, they'll run a more conventional offense and they'll need second year QB Chad Henne to mature rapidly. He's already shown flashes of brilliance but has been stymied from making any leaps forward in progress by a poor receiving corps.

Miami's leading receiver, Davone Bess (40 catches, 334 yards) has been solid but boasts no TDs and he's a complimentary receiver at best. As far as Ted Ginn Jr., if you've watched more than one Dolphins game this year, you know he's not the answer either (unless he's returning punts and kicks only ).

Miami will be tempted to use rookie QB Pat White more often, but unless they start effectively executing college-style option plays, it's hard to see White making much of an impact. Then again, this Miami coaching staff has shown they are a brave bunch (see Miami's early meeting against the Jets in an epic Monday Night Football game).

I can't wait to see what kind of creativity this team comes up with to deal with the loss of Brown. After all, they gave us the wildcat formation and made it work. Who saw that coming?