Things Go From Bad To Worse In Miami
Miami Dolphin fans got some horrible news this week when they learned their star running back Ronnie Brown would miss the rest of the season, with a foot injury. This is already after the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback, Chad Pennington, earlier in the season to injury. Now the most potent part of the Dolphins offense, and their team leader, will be watching the remaining 7 games from the sideline. This is a huge blow for the Dolphins, as it pretty much assures that they won’t be making any return trips to the postseason.
Sitting at 4-5 the playoffs were a long shot for Miami to begin with, but with their remaining schedule there was an outside chance they could force their way in. Of their 7 remaining games, 4 are on the road, but all four are against weaker opponents, Carolina tonight, with Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Tennessee coming up. With a Ronnie Brown led Miami team, those four games are all winable. And the Dolphins would have to win those four games, because their other three games are against New England, Houston, and Pittsburgh. Now the Texans they should have been able to beat at home, and they at least had a chance to upset either the Patriots or Steelers at home, forcing their way into the playoff picture at 9-7 or 10-6. Now with Brown out of the picture, this season could get ugly fast, and winning tonight in Carolina looks pretty grim.
Losing Brown no doubt hurts the fourth ranked rushing attack in the league, but it has a greater overall impact on the offense. Brown was part of a two headed monster at running back with Ricky Williams. Williams has been great this year for the Dolphins, and should be able to handle Brown’s work load easily. The problem now is that he won’t be coming on the field with fresh legs, limiting his ability to have break-away plays. Also, many times the Dolphins would have both Brown and Williams in the back field, which allowed both of them a lot more freedom to create. The biggest issue for the Dolphins offense is what does the loss of Brown mean for their Wildcat formation? Brown was such a weapon out of the Wildcat, and really helped make the formation work for the Dolphins. Now without him in the lineup the Dolphins greatest offensive formation will need a new leader, if they decide to stick with it.
I honestly don’t see how they can abandon the Wildcat, as I think they need it now more than ever. Chad Henne cannot be counted on to keep the Dolphins in games. With the exception of their week 5 win against the Jets, Henne has been a very ordinary quarterback. While I don’t think you can write him off just yet, I don’t think he is the long term answer behind center for the Dolphins. As for the rest of this season, you live with the ups and downs, but you can’t hope to put the game in his hands.
For the Wildcat, and their offense to be successful Miami will need to turn to two players who have been spending most of this season on the sideline, WR Ted Ginn Jr. and QB Pat White. White and Ginn are both extremely dangerous players when they have the ball in their hands, so Miami needs to capitalize on this by running them out of the Wildcat. White hasn’t shown any ability to pass this season, but should be good for a few big plays with his arm out of the Wildcat. Also, if the Dolphins run both White and Ginn out of the Wildcat at the same time, they could have a creative way to give Ricky Williams a breather. The running back depth is pretty thin after Williams, with a pair of rookies backing him up. It would make sense for the Dolphins to give touches to their play makers, instead of giving the ball to the rookies. Now I don’t think Miami can perpetually run their offense out of the Wildcat (though it might not hurt to try), so at some point Henne, and the backup running backs will need to touch the ball. But, by having the Wildcat as a focus, Miami can relieve some pressure off their young quarterback, and hopefully stay competitive for the rest of the season.