- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
JUST BEFORE THE 2009 NFL DRAFT, rumors were flying that the Dolphins might trade running back Ronnie Brown for heavyweight receiver Anquan Boldin. Despite being Miami's best offensive weapon, Brown had critics questioning his durability and whether he limits offensive coordinator Dan Henning's system. But the team quashed such reports and showed confidence in its 27-year-old back by not picking a ballcarrier in the draft.
In truth, both the Dolphins and your fantasy team need a playmaker like Brown, and there are many factors suggesting that his production will increase in 2009. (He finished last year with 916 rushing yards and 10 scores—just as many touchdowns as Adrian Peterson, by the way.) Brown's right knee, which underwent surgery in '07 to repair a torn ACL, has now had almost two years to heal, a major milestone in recovery. He's in that all-important contract year. The running back with whom he shares carries, Ricky Williams, is 32 and on the downside of his career. And Miami has a new offensive line coach, Dave DeGuglielmo, who helped the New York Giants build arguably the league's best line and should improve the play of the Dolphins' unit.
But maybe most important is that Miami hasn't even torn off the wrapping of its Wildcat package, a formation that highlights the multidimensional skills of Brown by allowing him to take a direct snap from center with the option to run, pass or hand off to Williams. In the debut of the Wildcat in Week 3 against the Patriots last year, Brown rushed for four scores and threw for another. "Growing up, when you are a running back, you want to be the quarterback," says Brown. "To get that opportunity was exciting."
He should get more opportunities in the Wildcat this season, despite the team's drafting of dual-threat quarterback Pat White from West Virginia. Says coach Tony Sparano of the Wildcat, "There was a lot left on the bone that we didn't roll out there during the course of the season for one reason or another."
Brown's talent has never been the problem; avoiding freakish injuries has. In 2006 he broke his hand on a defender's helmet and missed three games. A year later he tore his right knee trying to make a tackle and was out for the last nine games. But last season Brown worked hard to make a comeback and was able to play in every game. "It was a grind," Brown says about his long recovery from knee surgery. "Now my knee is close to 100 percent. I feel much better."
Even Sparano expects Brown to be even better this year, telling the Sun Sentinel in the off-season that the running back should "take the next step in his progression" now that his knee is in its second year of recovery.
Brown won't predict any numbers for 2009 but admits to feeling some pressure to perform. "My friends and fans come up to me and say I have to score to get them some [fantasy] points," he says. "That's a lot of fun."