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Training Camp Primer: Burning Question #3 - Ricky & Ronnie

Yesterday we continued with our "5 burning questions" for training camp by talking about the QB situation.  Incase you missed that, you can check it out here.

Today, as we move along with our "burning questions," we look at another very important aspect of this year's offense: the running back situation; and in particular, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

We all remember how great Ronnie Brown was last year before his injury.  He was finally playing like the #2 overall pick.  Oh, and I partly blame myself for Ronnie's injury.  Why?  In the week leading up to the Pats game, I posted a new box in the site's sidebar called "Ronnie Watch" - which listed the top 5 players in yards from scrimmage last year and was supposed to be updated throughout the regular season as Ronnie looked to lead the league in total yards.  Of course, the very next game, we all remember what happened.  So yes, I apologize.  My bad.  But considering Brown was the only reason to watch Dolphin games last year, you can't blame me for featuring him on the site in some way.  But damn, I sure did jinx him a bit, didn't I?

Anyways, Ronnie's comeback from a torn ACL will certainly be a key to the Dolphins' success in 2008.  And while Ronnie says his comeback is going great and he's sure he'll be ready for camp, it's great to hear that Brown has reached out to other running backs who have gone through this to heed their warnings.  While some might worry about Ronnie pushing himself too hard simply because he's a hard-working guy who has a desire to be on the field, I'm not too worried.  I trust Ronnie.  He seems like a smart guy, a mature player.  And I think he'll be careful not to push himself too hard too early.

Enter Ricky Williams.

Some people - particularly non-Dolphin fans - might have forgotten about him considering he has just 6 carries over the past 2 years.  But reports from non-contact mini-camp practices claim that Ricky has looked like the best player on the team.  But again, those are very early reports.  We need to wait and see what happens once the pads come on and the hitting starts.

Of course, those early encouraging reports are the main reason that Ronnie won't be the only closely watched running back in Davie this summer.  Ricky will garner a lot of attention.  In fact, he already has.  Former NFL GM and current CBS analyst Charley Casserly says of Williams, after watching him practice a few times:

''I have to say, watching him practice, I was very impressed with his quickness, his explosion, his effort. The guy jumped out at you, watching him out there.''

So now as we turn our attention to full-contact practices in training camp, Charley provides us with some things to watch in terms of trying to decide if Ricky is indeed in store for a solid season in Miami.  He tells the Miami Herald:

"The points to look at will be, one, there will be a learning curve. That goes for Ronnie Brown, too. It's a new offense. So there's a learning curve he'll go through hitting the holes with the new offensive line."

"Then he's got to get his legs back under him, he's got to get the speed of the game back. So if I'm watching him, half the time I'd be trying to figure out if he's still getting used to the system or is it him trying to get his legs back under him and where he is in his career."

"The next thing I would look for are burst and explosion. Does he have the explosion on contact where he still can knock guys back and then burst with speed? If you see that, then things are coming together. If you don't see that, then age caught up with him."

So can Ronnie Brown return from his torn ACL as quickly as he seems to be and be an effective runner all season long?  Can Ricky Williams once again, thanks to hard work and the right mindset, be able to regain his old form and be a force at running back while splitting duties with Ronnie?  These are the burning questions that training camp will help answer.

The success of these 2 players will obviously have a major impact on this team.  It's no secret that Tony Sparano and Dan Henning will look to employ more of a power ground attack this year - partly to help protect whoever the starting QB is, but also because the strength of this offensive line is clearly run-blocking.

Can Ricky and Ronnie handle the pressure and be successful as the focal point of Miami's offense?  We'll find out soon enough...