After Ronnie Brown's impressive week 3 performance against the New England Patriots, it would be easy to say that Ronnie is now healthy enough and talented enough to take center stage in the Dolphins offensive gameplan. Five total touchdowns against a team that previously hadn't lost a regular season game since 2006 certainly makes a statement, and it's only natural for many to wonder why Ricky Williams needs to see 50% of the touches if Ronnie is having this kind of success.
But that kind of statement ignores Ricky Williams' largely unrecognized but almost equally impressive week 3 performance. He quietly averaged 6.1 yards per carry that Sunday, and had nearly as many carries (16) as Ronnie Brown (17). In short: expect to see Ricky and Ronnie continue to split carries.
Remember, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano used a two-back job share in Dallas with Marion Barber and Julius Jones while he was managing the Cowboys running game. As time went on, many questioned why this was necessary given Barber's success and Jones' less than impressive performance. To put it into perspective, Barber had 4.8 yards a carry last year, while Jones had 3.6, and yet despite having almost 400 more rushing yards, Barber only received an average of 2.5 more carries per game than Jones. While on the surface it doesn't make sense that they should receive relatively equal amounts of carries, there are numerous advantages to a two-running back system.
First, and this especially applies to Ronnie Brown, cutting down on the carries your "premier" back receives will keep him healthy longer. Ronnie is still recovering from his torn ACL and was considered injury-prone well before that. In his 4th year in the league, he has not yet made it through an entire 16 game season. When healthy, Brown has the potential to be one of the best backs in the league; Last season he proved that by leading the league in total yards from scrimmage before his injury. Even more incredible, he did this while playing on a win-less team with no other offensive weapons the defenses had to respect. Keeping him healthy is essential to the Dolphins success this season, and giving Ricky Williams 50% of the carries will cut down on the wear and tear to Brown's body.
Second, having Williams pound the rock means that Ronnie can take a seat on the bench and rest up while the opposing defense is chasing another pretty good back all over the field. When Ronnie steps back on the field, he's fairly well rested. The defense, on the other hand, is already exhausted. Ronnie Brown should win that match-up just about every time.
Third, when the Dolphins put both of them on the field at the same time, as they often do even when they're not in the single-wing "Wildcat" formation, you want defenses to respect both of their abilities. You want the defense to be scared enough to commit extra men to both of them so that it opens up everything else in your offense.
The Dolphins are lucky to have two running backs who don't mind splitting carries. Ricky and Ronnie were workout partners in the off-season, and Williams calls Brown his "little brother." The two-headed monster had more success than anyone could have predicted against the Patriots; if you've got a good thing going, why put an end to it?
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