Miami Dolphins: Is Larry Johnson Signing a Signal of Desperation?
The Miami Dolphins' running game has undergone serious work this offseason.
With Chad Henne at quarterback, the team has relied on its strong running game in recent times as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams repeatedly carried the offense from season to season.
This year Brown is an Eagle while Williams is backing up Ray Rice in Baltimore. The fact that neither player found a starting role through free agency can be seen as a good thing for Dolphins fans, as they likely made the right decision in letting them go.
However, Tony Sparano has taken a risk in whom he chose as their replacements.
Reggie Bush was a college star and an overly criticized player in New Orleans. When used in the right situation Bush can be an influential offensive piece that will turn football games in the Dolphins' favor. However, he is not an every down back.
He doesn't have the durability to consistently take the ball between the tackles and has shown throughout his career that playing a full 16-game season is a stretch. Bush needs a power back to be his complement in the Miami backfield.
The Dolphins obviously have a plan. The NFL is a copycat league and they have copied the plan for their running game from the Kansas City Chiefs. They were looking for Bush to play the Jamaal Charles role while rookie Daniel Thomas would act as their Thomas Jones.
In Kansas City, the Chiefs used Jones to wear down defenses and punish defenders that attempted to bring down the abrasive back. Daniel Thomas was considered to be a similar player coming out of college and was drafted by the Dolphins to fill that role.
However, relying on rookies at any position is always a risky proposition in the NFL. Thomas has shown to be hesitant and not as effective as the team had hoped to this point.
The likelihood is that the 23-year-old is simply going to have to adjust to the pace and physicality of the NFL. For this reason the Dolphins' signing of Larry Johnson is not a signal of desperation, rather, it is an astute addition.
Johnson, 31, hasn't been an effective back since the 2008 season with the Kansas City Chiefs. He didn't last on the Washington Redskins' roster last season and has spent the last year out of football.
Much like the Ricky Williams re-signing a few seasons ago, Johnson could benefit from his time away from football.
Johnson has had 1,426 carries in his nine-year career, but only 373 of those have come in the past three years. In his prime, Johnson was the perfect Thomas Jones type of player. He was an abrasive runner who violently hit the defensive line between the tackles.
He may not have the burst to be an every down back anymore, and he will offer nothing in the receiving game, but he could be a very effective role player.
The Miami Dolphins need one thing: a bruising back to wear down defenses. Larry Johnson may not be that player anymore, but does the team really lose anything from bringing him in? Had the New England Patriots made this type of signing, it would have been celebrated rather than criticized as desperation.
And hey, if he doesn't work out....there's always Tiki Barber to try next...
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