You Would Be Wrong, Chicken Little - The Dolphins Will Run The Ball

The PhinisherCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2008

In 2007 the storyline coming into the season, and through the first two weeks, was that Ronnie Brown would have every opportunity to finally demonstrate whether or not he could be a franchise running back for Miami.

Coming into the third week of 2007 Ronnie Brown was averaging less than 3 yards per carry and couldn't get much past the line of scrimmage at times. Fans, newspapermen and former Dolphins were questioning Brown's work ethic and god given talents.

In the Sun Sentinel's Q & A series a former Dolphins running back, Bernie Parmalee said that Brown lacked elite tools. He had very poor vision and little fire in his belly.

Fans echoed these sentiments. Darren McFadden's name was beginning to get mentioned from time to time.

"You will see, as a florida state fan I can tell you that he will impress you more than Ronnie."

That quote is taken from uber Dolphins fansite Finheaven. The quote is by a Dolphins fan explaining to another who has just defended Brown's abilities that in fact the recently drafted Lorenzo Booker (hence the FSU bit) would be the big story of 2007. Here, check out the forum for yourself.

This year it is a much hyped (still am) Ricky Williams that has suffered now from these doubtful slings and arrows.

Fans and newspapermen (less former players this time) are calling for Brown to become the primary back and Williams to be relegated to backup. This is of course instead of them essentially splitting carries as they do now.

The reason? Well, Brown has out performed Williams so far, right? No. You would be wrong. Just like you were last year. You, of course, is referring to the Chicken Little in all of us.

The Dolphins running game was supposed to be vaunted and unassailable this season. So far it has been paltry at best. The line is getting beaten up and the backs are getting hit in the backfield. Ronnie and Ricky are breaking tackles only to get a couple of yards. If the Dolphins can't run the ball then they won't be able to win a game. Period.

Then I remembered something. This is exactly how I remembered last year starting. Only last year we had terrible quarterbacks who would turn the ball over as soon as Ronnie got it on the oposition's side of the 50 yard line. So hold on here...

I never backed up calling Chicken "Ricky sucks" Little a wrong-headed fool.

Here's your evidence.

Ronnie Brown has carried the ball 17 times for 48 yards. Earning him a 2.8 yard average.

Ricky Williams has carried the ball 21 times for 52 yards. Earning him a 2.5 yard average.

Ronnie has carried the ball more times than Ricky in the 3rd and fourth quarters. Both of these guys are big backs that need to wear down defenses to start getting longer runs.

Ricky's numbers look bad right now. I couldn't possibly argue against that idea. The bottom line is that Ronnie isn't setting the world on fire either. So that leads me to the newspapermen and radio hosts (790 The Ticket's Sid Rosenberg, I am looking at you). These stalwarts of suspect statistical awareness have pronounced that the running game will be either completely lost this year or that switching the roles will solve the problem.

So, let's look at the Dolphins overall situation before we go off the deep end and join them.

Maurice Jones-Drew has carried the ball 12 times this year for 30 yards in his first two games. Good for a 2.5 yard average. That includes a 22 yard run.

Fred Taylor has carried the ball 23 times for 67 yards. That's a 2.9 yard average.

Larry Johnson has carried the ball 34 times for 96 yards. That's only a 2.8 yard average and he too has a 22 yard run in there.

All of them have logged two games. Their teams need a solid rushing attack to win and both teams have, like the Dolphins, lost their first two games.

None of them are impressing, but does anyone actually think that Maurice Jones-Drew will average 2.5 yards a carry this year? I hope not.

So the season has started slowly for some running backs. So why is it in the case of Ricky and Ronnie that it is less an issue of a slow start and more of a possible loss of ability. It's only natural, I guess. Ronnie Brown is coming off knee surgery and Ricky is not a spring chicken and, despite his physical gifts seeming undiminished, he may have lost a step. What if it is just a slow start?

There is an aspect to this discourse that casts the fans and media's responses to early failure in a somewhat poor light.

The issue is looking at the ball carriers over their careers.

In 2005, when Ricky was reinstated he carried the ball 5 times for 8 yards in his first game. He followed up that break out day with a 6 carries/ -1 yard performance. Negative one yard. He finished the season with a 4.4 yard average, multiple hundred yard games and was a key component in that team's 6 game winning streak that closed out the season.

Ricky's prior stats from 2002 and 2003 are ridiculously impressive. In 2002 he was averaging over 5.5 yards per carry after two games and over 4 yards per carry in 2003. So he might not be fully explained here.

How about Ronnie Brown? If this guy is consistent at something it is certainly that he starts slow. Fantasy vultures ought to memorize these numbers.

Ronnie Brown in 2005: Carried the ball 22 times for 57 yards in the first game. That's a 2.6 yard average. He followed that up with a breakout 12 carry/35 yard masterpiece. Lifting his first two game average to 2.75 yards per carry.

Ronnie Brown in 2006: Carried the ball 15 times week one. He got 30 yards. I won't do the math for you on that one. The next weekend he had a respectable game. Carrying the ball 15 times for 70 yards. Good for a very healthy 4.7 yard average. Still, he averaged 3.33 yards per carry over the first two games.

Ronnie Brown in 2007: Game 1 against Washington Brown carried the ball 11 times for 32 yards. That's a 2.9 yards per carry average. The following game was a much improved 11 carries for 33 yards. Yes, 11 multiplied by 3 is 33.

My point here is that you can't write off players or a whole team (even a team with as many struggles as the Dolphins) by week 3. Yes, they're going north this week to face the New England Patriots. Yes they just got blown out by the Cardinals. No, Ronnie and Ricky won't continue to play poorly. No, I'm not crazy (hopefully) and yes, the numbers tend not to lie.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this as a breakout game for one of the two running backs. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dolphins lose anyway. They've been pretty good at finding ways to do that despite breakout days by their running backs.

Just stow the Chicken Little routine for a little longer. The sky may fall yet again this year, but it hasn't yet.


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