The future at running back may be a little hazy, but there are few teams in this league that can boast about having two backs as talented as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Sure, Ronnie has had his injuries, and Ricky has had his drugs, but when both are on the field together, they have been brilliant.
The studly one-two punch has been given the nickname R&R Express, and in order for the Dolphins to do what they want to on offense in 2010, that train is going to have to keep on rolling all season long. The addition of Brandon Marshall gives Dan Henning the resources to open up the offense a bit, but in reality, having a legitimate threat at receiver for defenses to scheme around, opens up more space than ever for Ronnie and Ricky.
Teams can longer stack the box to stop the run. Dare I say this will be their most successful season, together? First things first though, Ronnie is going to have to stay healthy. Something he has only accomplished once in his career, which just happened to be the magical turnaround of 08'. Secondly, Ricky can't start showing any signs of slowing down. Even though he's now 33, that isn't so far fetched, considering he spent nearly three whole seasons out of football, and he has spilt carries with Ronnie for the majority of the second half of his career. Still though, he could hit the wall any season now.
This time next year, the running back position may be completely up in the air. But for now, at least, Dolfans can relish in the fact that Miami has two of the most talented in the business.
Ronnie Brown: This could be Ronnie's last season in Miami, but there's no question he's got top ten talent at the position. He makes the wildcat what it is, and has an excellent combination of power and athleticism. The durability issue has almost single-handily cut his career down, however. Has it just been a misfortunate case of bad luck, or is he really this injury prone? Whatever the case, hopefully he's due for a full-sixteen game season, because the running game and the offense as a whole, takes a huge hit when he can't go. Let's not forget he still has been rehabbing the foot that suffered the Lisfranc fracture, but all signs point to him being 100% by the end of the month.
Ricky Williams: How much longer can he keep this up? Many backs stumble to mediocre status once they hit the dreaded age of thirty, but Ricky is still running strong at thirty-three. He probably can't carry the load by himself anymore, which was evident by the way he wore down in the last few games of the season, but if Ronnie can stay healthy, and the Dolphins can manage to keep both players' workload relatively even, he still has the potential to be arguably the best complimentary back in the league.
Patrick Cobbs:The return of Patrick Cobbs may be more significant than you think. He's the ultimate utility player. He returns kicks, lines up at receiver, executes reverse plays out of the wildcat, and steps in at his actual position when called upon. Many argue that he's Sparano's favorite player, which is consistent with the way he gushes about Cobbs in press conferences. It's still uncertain if he will be able to return to his old-self a year removed from an ACL tear, but at the end of the day, he does too much for this football team to not find a spot.
Lex Hilliard:This is tricky. The Dolphins surprisingly kept four backs last season, and many think that's exactly what they will do this time around, as well. Even if they keep four, Hilliard is no guarantee to make the roster, despite having a phenomenal preseason in 09', and flashing some promise in limited action after Ronnie went down. Mainly because of who is nipping at his heels. Kory Sheets is an intriguing possibility, with elite speed that could translate nicely to the return game. If the Dolphins base this decision on who has the better chance of developing into an every down back when Ronnie and Ricky are no longer in Miami, then you would think Hilliard has the edge, because he fits this regime's big back prototype. If it comes down to who has the better chance at making an impact in 2010 though, Sheets appears to be the more appealing option.
Kory Sheets: Like I just mentioned, Sheets has the speed to replace the departed Ted Ginn as the team's kick returner. If the Dolphins keep four backs, he will be battling with Hilliard for that final roster spot, but his biggest competition may come from outside the position. Ryan-Grice Mullen also has some potential as a kick returner, with solid speed and some experience with the craft in the CFL. If Mullen can carry over some of the success he had in Canada, then Sheets may be in serious trouble, because Mullen can contribute more at receiver than Sheets can as a fourth-string running back. If that's the case, Sheets is going to have to prove he can do more than just return kicks.
Tristan Davis: Davis was signed to the practice squad last season, and faces a likely impossible task at making the 53-man roster. The quality of depth in front of him is simply too much to overcome. It would probably take season-ending injuries to two of guys above him in camp, for that to become a possibility.
Ronnie Brown vs. Ricky Williams: This is almost irrelevant considering that both spit carries with one another, but it will be somewhat interesting to see who gets on the field first. In my opinion though, when Ronnie is healthy, Ronnie is the starter. Then again, this coaching staff doesn't tolerate injuries, so they could start Ricky as a reward for not getting hurt. At the end of the day though, they're both going to get their carries, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal.
1A: Ronnie Brown
1B: Ricky Williams
3. Patrick Cobbs
4. Lex Hilliard
A Quick Look at Fullback
Lousaka Polite: Polite established himself as one of the best fullbacks in the game last season, whether the media is willing to admit it or not. He's literally unstoppable on third and short, or fourth and short, and clears holes for Ronnie and Ricky like a truck.
Rolly Lumbala: The Dolphins may have brought over another CFL guy, with Lumbala, but given the emergence of Polite, he will only be fighting for a spot on the practice squad, as there is no need to keep more than one fullback.
1. Lousaka Polite
Countdown to Camp: 23 days