Author Topic: Miami Dolphins remain committed to running attack but still seek answers  (Read 311 times)

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Miami Dolphins remain committed to running attack but still seek answers

NEW ORLEANS -- Amid calls for more points, more thrills, more excitement and electricity – and those are the requests of the owner, by the way – the Dolphins offense in 2011 will continue to operate under the same philosophy.

“We’re going to continue to run the football because that’s my nature,’’ coach Tony Sparano said Tuesday at the NFL annual meeting. “That might not be popular with everybody, but that’s what I like to do. So we’re going to continue to run the football.’’

And there you have it. That microscope you’ve had trained on the quarterback position? Keep it there. But purchase another one and focus it on the running backs because the ignition switch to new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s attack will be found at the handoff.

The only problem with that is a practical one. The Dolphins don’t have any answers at running back right now.

Yes, they have Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets on the roster. But Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown — the twin threats, primary ball carriers and Miami’s best playmakers the past five years — are not signed.

They’re not even part of a conversation Sparano wants to have.

“I don’t want to talk too much about those two guys not under contract right now,’’ the coach said. “From our end, the guys we can talk about are Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets. … It’s going to be a position we’re going to have to address one way or the other.

“When I say one way or the other, obviously that’s through the draft or free agency that we address it. We’re going to have to do that. We have plans to go forth accordingly with whatever comes first.’’

Change is coming at running back for Miami. My best guess? Neither Ricky Williams nor Ronnie Brown return.

No one representing the team is saying that publicly. And Sparano is saying he can’t discuss either because he doesn’t want to address free agents.

But it is no one other than the Dolphins who allowed Brown and Williams to become free agents in the first place without making any significant attempt to re-sign either. Miami’s attitude with both lately is akin to a shoulder shrug.

That doesn’t mean the approach is wrong. But it is, in fact, the approach.

The truth is the Dolphins have never been keen on paying Brown ever since he signed his rookie contract. They have never made a strong, serious effort to get him to sign a second deal.

The truth is Williams will be 34 years old in May and despite how little wear he has or how much he nurtures his body, his age and the position don’t suggest he’s about to get better.

The truth, as one Dolphins executive told me last season, is that you must ask yourself this: “What about either of them is special now?’’

A run-first team needs at least one special running back. The fact is a run-first team needs two backs and one of them better have some speed to threaten the defense with a 75-yard run now and then.

“I would like those two guys to complement each other a little differently in the big picture, but you don’t always have that luxury,” Sparano said. “… But we don’t hold those pieces right now.’’

The Dolphins ranked No. 21 in run offense last season. A passing team such as Green Bay or New Orleans or Indianapolis can get away with that. But a running team like the Dolphins must be more efficient.

So what was wrong with Miami’s running game in 2010? Sparano numbers three general things:

Second-level blocking from everyone downfield, including wide receivers, was not good enough.

The backs were not good enough at either breaking tackles or making defenders miss once they got past the line of scrimmage.

And then there were the mental mistakes from one guy or another on far too many plays.

The running game is a ballet. It needs to be synchronized. It doesn’t work if even one thing is going wrong from play to play.

Sparano, looking for answers, sometimes changed things along the offensive line. The right guard spot was often a revolving door that dropped one player off and picked another up. And that was probably too much switching week to week.

There is too much uncertainty about the entire running game to be very comfortable, but this much we know: Don’t invest in Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams jerseys this offseason.

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Keep up the good work Matt Moore!

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