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Training Camp Positional Preview: Running Backs

Next up in our series of previews is the running back position. I was originally going to do both halfbacks and fullbacks together, but it got kind of lengthy so I split them up into two seperate posts. First, the halfbacks:

Ronnie Brown: 6'0, 232, 3rd year
Entering his third season, Brown will be asked to shoulder much more of the offensive load. With new head coach Cam Cameron calling the plays, it's a safe bet that he will carry the ball much more often than in his previous 2 seasons, where he never topped 250 carries. He'll also likely see an increased role in the passing games. He's caught 32 and 33 balls respectively in his previous 2 seasons, but expect that number to rise as well.

Brown is a big, strong back with good speed and a knack for picking up that extra yard to two. He also has very good hands out of the backfield, which I feel was underutilized in his first 2 seasons. Some people want to question his durability, but the fact is that last year's injury could have happened to anyone. He got his hand caught in the facemask of a linebacker. Anyone's hand or wrist would break in that situation. And upon his return, Ronnie looked as good as he ever has, getting 39 carries for 225 yards (5.8 ypc) in those 2 games.

And lastly, consider this. In his 2 year career, Brown has carried the ball at least 18 times in just 9 games. In those 9 games, Brown averages 109 yards per game with a 4.7 yards per carry average. He's clearly one of those backs who get better as the game goes on and as he finds a rhythem. This season, expect Ronnie to get his share of carries each and every game, which means he is likely to have his breakout season in 2007.

Lorenzo Booker: 5'10, 191, rookie
Booker was Miami's 3rd round pick in this year's draft. He comes out of Florida State ranking 7th on FSU's all time rush list with 2,298 yards and a career yards per carry average of 4.8. Those are some big-time numbers from a little guy. He also caught 109 passes while at FSU.

Booker comes to Miami as the "change of pace" back for Ronnie Brown. Booker is lightning fast with great acceleration and some serious "juking" ability. In fact, he may be the most elusive open field runner the Dolphins have ever had. He's going to add another dimenstion to this offense. He, along with fellow rookie Ted Ginn, will give Cameron many new toys to play around with. Opposing defensive coordinators are going to have fits preparing for the speed that this offense suddenly has.

Booker has already impressed in min-camp, with several of the veteran players being impressed with his ability to make plays. I suspect he'll be used much like Leon Washington is being used by the Jets. He'll get a few carries and a few receptions per game, with the ability to go all the way every time he touches the ball. If nothing else, he'll definitely be entertaining to watch this season.

Jesse Chatman: 5'8, 223, 5th year
Chatman will be one of the players battling for the final tailback roster spot. Chatman is a big bruising back who has experience working with Cam Cameron. He spent his first 3 NFL seasons with San Diego, before joining the Dolphins in 2005. However, he never got into any games with Miami before being traded to the Saints following an injury to Deuce McAllister. Unfortunately, he never got into a game in New Orleans at any point. But he did get 65 carries in 2004, his last season with San Diego and the last time he's seen the field in the NFL. He ended that season with 392 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 6 yards per carry.

Reports out of mini-camp claimed that Chatman had trimmed down a little to pick up a little bit of speed. However, he hasn't played in a game for quite some time and has had issues controlling his weight in the past. Because of his lack of playing time over the past few years, he'll certainly be some one to watch closely during training camp.

Patrick Cobbs: 5'8, 210, 2nd year
Patrick Cobbs is an interesting prospect. He is out of North Texas, where he led the nation in rushing his senior season (152.7 ypg). He is now entering his second season. Last year, he was on New England's roster during training camp and in the pre-season. He was then traded to the Steelers right before the regular season, but was released a week later. Miami then signed him to the practice squad. Cobbs was active for Miami in 3 games, but did not receive a carry. So the only stat line Cobbs has in the NFL is his rather impressive preseason work in New England. There, he carried 38 times for 188 yards (4.9 ypc) and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 7 passes for 115 yards and another touchdown. Those aren't shabby numbers by any means. But they were just preseason numbers.

Cobbs is a workhorse type back who runs with power. Though he does break tackles, he can also change directions quickly and create space. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield fairly well. However, he isn't without a downside. He does lack that "extra gear," as some call it. Basically, he lacks breakaway speed. He also lacks any real experience, so getting him reps in camp and in the preseason will go a long way to determining what kind of player Cobbs could be at this level.

Ray Perkins: 5'10, 205, 2nd year
Perkins is a bit of a wildcard because there isn't much known about him. In high school, he did run the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds. Of course, I have no idea how that translates to the NFL, but it's a nice stat to throw out there. He went to SE Louisiana, where he gained over 1,100 yards in a pass-happy offense. He was then signed in 2006 as an undrafted free agent by San Diego and then spent the entire season on their practice squad. So Cameron is familiar with Perkins. However, at 5'10, 205, Perkins seems more like a change of pace back, which the Dolphins don't need anymore following the selection of Lorenzo Booker. I think it's unlikely Perkins wins the battle for the remaining RB spot.

My Take
It's likely to come down to a battle between Chatman and Cobbs for the final roster spot for a halfback behind Brown and Booker. It should be fun to watch all camp long, as both players have their positives and negatives. I'd like to see Cobbs given every chance to win the job because he has more upside, but I think Cameron's familiarity with Chatman wins out, as long as he stays in shape.

Predicted Depth Chart

1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
Ronnie Brown Lorenzo Booker Jesse Chatman