2010 Preview: Running-Backs


The quarterbacks were easy to preview for the upcoming season, the running backs may seem to be the same…on paper.  The truth is there are just as many questions surrounding the RB’s on the Miami Dolphins current roster as any other position except maybe safety.

From Ronnie Brown’s injury, to Lex Hilliards progression, and Ricky and Patrick mixed in for good measure.  What will this seasons running game hold?

With that, here is the 2010 RB preview.

For starters: It should be noted that the Dolphins offensive line gets a tremendous amount of credit for the success of the Dolphins running game last year.  The down side of that is the fact that the Phins employed yet again a “Wild Cat” attack that netted a lot of chunk yards.  Either way, one thing seems to be certain.  The offensive line has gotten better.  We will cover that later in our Oline preview…just keep it mind.

Ronnie Brown: There is little question that Ronnie Brown is the starter heading into the season, provided he signs his tender and recovers from his Lisfranc injury.  When healthy, and that is something that curtails him every year, Brown is as physical as any other running back in the league.  His problem lies with his decision making.

Brown is not a quick hole hitter and still tends to dance around too much before finding the right pocket to roll through.  While he can be explosive up-field, it’s at the point of attack that he tends to get beaten.  Something he has tried to work on since coming into the league.

The 2nd problem is his lack of contract extension.  Some still believe that the Dolphins could move him come training camp for a pick next year if the price is right, but that leaves a hole on the roster now that the draft is over and far too many questions with the rest of the runners.  Still, it’s the Dolphins and Bill Parcells and nothing is set in stone.

The Dolphins are less likely to run the WC this year with the addition of Brandon Marshall on the outside and that addition should also free up the middle of the field from the standard 8 man box that Brown has faced every year since he has been in the league.  Brown should find daylight a little easier to come by…but he needs to hit it quick and not hesitate.

For Brown, the real question or questions are simple.  Recovery and staying healthy.  Can he?

Ricky Williams: Ricky is on the other side of 30 but still plays like a 20 year old.  He has suspensions to thank for that…yes even now.  His body does not have the wear and tear of a Ronnie Brown although another Brown injury could surely put enough pounding on Williams to finally call it a career at years end.

Most believe that his signing of a new player agent indicates a desire to play beyond this season.  Either way, the Dolphins are looking at their top 2 runners possibly gone after 2010.

Williams is still streaky these days and at times last year suffered from fumble issues at critical times.  However, like Brown, Williams won’t face that staunch 8 man front that has plagued the Dolphins running threat…and yet they still have been in the top of the league.

Williams will continue to team with Brown alternating series or lining up in the slot when the team uses the WC and he is still good for a long breakaway run every now and then.  With Brown’s injury history, the Dolphins are likely to rely on him more this year than in the past.  Can he hold up with the weekly pounding if that does in fact happen?

The answer to that question lies with the other two runners behind him.  Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard.  If Ronnie goes down, the Dolphins will turn to them to take the load off Williams’ shoulders.

Patrick Cobbs: Tony Sparano loves this kid and it’s easy to see why.  He is very humble and loves watching film.  Devastated by a knee injury that ended his season last year, he was walking without crutches by mid-November and is on track for a full recovery.  Sometime towards the end of training camp would be a good return prediction.

Cobbs is a very special runner out of the back-field.  A combination of speed and athleticism.  He doesn’t possess the body mass to unload on opposing defenders, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and turn up field makes him a dangerous player in a much improved passing attack.

Of course, like Brown, the question is how well will he recover?

Lex Hilliard: Hilliard is a bruiser.  Much like Parcells found in Dallas with Marion Barber.  He is an up-field runner and at times last year showed fans glimpses of what he could do.  Reps is what is lacking for Hilliard and he will get plenty of those in pre-season this year.

If, and it’s a big big “IF”, Ronnie Brown should find himself traded, don’t be surprised if Hilliard doesn’t become the primary back in Miami’s base offense.  He has the potential to be that good.  What he shows this year will go a long way in determining what the Dolphins do next year should they lose both of their top two guys.

Hilliard should see plenty of action this season as the Dolphins will likely monitor the play of Brown and Cobbs to prevent over working the injuries.

Lousaka Polite: Polite has been a monster on 3rd and 4th downs.  All he does is make first downs.  Last season he was the short yardage go to guy and it is should come as no surprise to see him in that role again this year.  Oddly enough, he could lose some goal line carries to Brandon Marshall’s receiving ability.

Polite can be expected to do the same as last year and in reality little more.  His production may jump in terms of yardage but his role won’t change.

Kory Sheets: For a guy that spent nine games inactive last season and showed up on Special Teams for his debut, his name is pretty resounding in the minds of fans.  Sheets has a nice combination of speed and quickness that has many fans wanting to know how the Dolphins will use him.  A lot of that will depend on what happens with the roster in front of him.  For now, Sheets is still a project and might see some improved minutes on the ST’s.  A lot would need to happen before he gets behind the QB…keep in mind though that should Cobbs suffer a set back, Sheets c0uld become that 3rd down back who can catch out of the back-field.

Tristan Davis: For now, Davis is a work in progress and his best hopes of making the team is a practice squad signing.  Davis will get a little work in but his real competition is with Sheets.

Rolly Lumbala: A former CFL player, Lumbala will try and make a roster that is pretty much set at FB.  Typically teams carry only 1 FB on the roster and that is locked with the name Polite.  Lumbala will hope that he can carry himself into pre-season where he can catch the eyes of another team who may have room on the roster.