As the Miami Dolphins continue their search for the next offensive coordinator, they will soon begin making the necessary changes to their roster that they feel will make them successful in 2011. One area they are sure to address along with QB, is their current situation at running back. Miami finished the year in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing in 2010, not good for a team with an offense predicated on running the football.
Much of the blame has been cast on the poor play of the offensive line. What was once a strength of the Miami offense in the past couple years turned into a weakness for them this year due to a lot of schuffling and injuries along the offensive line. Tony Sparano’s strength when he got hired was as an offensive line coach. In 2010 big problems came about with the special teams and production of the offense which I believe caused Tony to point his focus away from the O-Line, which slowly deterioated as the year went on. If Miami can land a good OC, Sparano will be able to put more focus on overseeing the O-Line next year. But along with doing that, Sparano and the Miami Dolphins will have to address the running back position in the offseason.
Bad play by the offensive line was evident as you watched them as the season went on, but you couldn’t help but notice the play of the running backs either, as they didn’t provide much help for the line with their lack of big play ability. In my opinion Miami needs a huge upgrade at running back next year if they hope to challenge the Patriots and Jets. As much as I like the combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, it was clearly evident they are no longer explosive as running backs. At no time this year did I feel they could take one to the house more than 5 yds away from the endzone, and even when they were that close, scoring a TD was challenging for them.
Ricky Williams has already stated that he wants to play elsewhere next season. He went public with his displeasure of Sparano’s coaching style, and that along with his age will likely seal the deal that he won’t be back next season. He did play well at times, but he is clearly past his prime. Even as a third down back, Miami will have better luck giving someone else a chance.
Ronnie Brown is also likely on his way to a new team, and I wish him luck. The fan favorite who took the NFL by storm with his execution of the Wildcat offense back in 2008 will become a free agent once a new CBA is agreed upon, and I don’t see him coming back to Miami unless he agrees to a reduced role, as well as a reduced salary. Another thing that hurts Brown’s chances of making a return is the direction the Miami Dolphins are going with their offense. Gone is David Lee and Dan Henning, which also gives way to the possibility that the Wildcat offense has finally become extinct in Miami. Sparano is slated to interview former Vikings coach Brad Childress over the weekend, if he becomes the new OC, he will surely implement his version of the West Coast Offense. This will call for a more explosive and dynamic running back who will catch a lot of passes out of the backfield in the mold of Brian Westbrook 5 years ago, something I can’t see Ronnie Brown doing at this stage of his career.
Patrick Cobbs is a favorite of Tony Sparano and will likely return next season. He is a special team’s captain and a hard working role model for any young back Miami brings in. Look for him to continue his leading role on special teams, while potentially seeing a limited role in the offense. Miami still has Lousaka Polite as fullback, but his blocking ability really took a turn for the worst last year. He ranked near the bottom of the league in regards to his blocking ability, though he was still almost automatic in short yardage runs. Whether he comes back or not will depend on the style of offense Miami chooses to run next year, but he can easily be upgraded. Lex Hilliard beame a staple for the Miami Dolphins on special teams, but after a good showing in 2009 subing for Brown and Williams, he didn’t receive 1 carry in 2010, and is likely to test the free agent market for a chance at more playing time.
Kory Sheets is another running back Miami had in camp last year, but he was put on IR with an injured achilies. He had an inside track to earn the KR job before the injury. His speed is his best asset, but that may be hampered with the setback of a torn achilies tendon. He will likely make another trip back to training camp but has a tough hill to climb to see the field in 2011.
Look for Miami to completely overhaul their backfield this offseason. They are likely going to bring in a proven veteran, one who still has a couple years left in the tank. With free agency on hold until a new CBA is reached, Miami doesn’t have a clear idea of which veteran running backs will be available. Possibilites do include Willis McGahee and Ahmad Bradshaw to name a few. Look for Miami to draft a running back this year. It’s not a guarantee they will take one early on in the draft, but look for them to take one at some point. Personally, I would like to seem them wait until day 2 or 3 to take a back. Recent history has shown that running backs are a dime a dozen, and with the beating they take week to week, it’s just not worth the investment to take one early in the draft, unless the team is set in all other areas. Having an elite running back won’t take a team to the Super Bowl, and I’m sure GM Jeff Ireland realizes this.
Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw Brad Childress Brian Westbrook Dan Henning David Lee Jeff Ireland Kory Sheets Lex Hilliard Lousaka Polite Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings Patrick Cobbs Ricky Williams Ronnie Brown Tony Sparano Willis McGahee