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  M&M Instead of R&R
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Don’t think for one minute that Nick Saban and his offensive coaches haven’t conjured up visions of one Ricky Williams as they prepare for this week’s lockdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars.


With Ronnie Brown down with a broken hand for who knows how long, can you blame them for dreaming?


It’s not that Sammy Morris and Travis Minor are chopped liver…both men have proven they can tote the rock some…but M&M isn’t R&R.


Not even close.



For the Dolphins, this is where the bill comes due for the year long suspension Williams got for his fourth violation of the league’s drug policy. This is where the luxury of having a considerable talent like Williams on your roster pays off handsomely.


Remember last season? It was Ricky down the stretch when Brown was down, making plays and making a difference in a surprising 9-7 finish.


No, it wasn’t all Ricky but they wouldn’t have been 9-7 without him.


With Williams, there was no chance of a drop off in offensive production or special teams production. Now, the promotion of Morris to offensive starter means a lesser talent (likely practice player Patrick Cobbs) must be moved up to cover the hole.


This is no small matter when you realize that Morris is one of the best special teamers the Dolphins have.


This year, to the Dolphins’ lament, they won’t have the luxury of Ricky to the rescue.


Not surprisingly, some have criticized Saban for not acquiring a proven talent to back Brown up in the event of this circumstance, knowing all along that they would be without Ricky’s services for the season.


Still, it’s easier said than done.


First off, no proven back would have signed with the Dolphins knowing that Brown was the starter and that Williams would be getting his job back in 2007.


Secondly, the Dolphins would have been foolish to extend a multi-year contract offer to such a candidate, which is what it would have taken to acquire someone better than either Morris or Minor. Even worse, the Dolphins would have likely had to overpay (read: guaranteed money) to try and overcome the concerns on job security vis-à-vis the above paragraph.


Thirdly, the Dolphins may not have been able to re-sign Morris without giving him a broader opportunity on offense. Every team needs guys like Sammy Morris, harder to find than one might imagine.


Yes, I know. Football is a here and now matter, which suggests that Saban’s approach might have been too long term. It sure is fair to wonder whether Morris can indeed step up adequately in Brown’s absence. Then again, it isn’t in Saban’s nature to give a guy a chance if he doesn’t believe he has it in him to get the job done.


Brown is by far Miami’s best offensive player. The gap between him and Morris is wider than at any other position on offense. And while it was encouraging to see Sammy look like Mercury in racking up 91 yards on 12 carries versus the woeful Detroit Lions, for him such outbursts have been the exception rather than the norm.


It is one thing to rely on Morris for a game or two. It is quite another to rely on him in a situation where you must win every remaining game to have a realistic shot at the playoffs.


Let’s cut the bull right here and now. Brown’s injury is not a one week deal. It is perhaps a three to four week deal, with a questionable chance of returning at all in 2006, even in a soft cast.


Losing a player of Brown’s caliber for any stretch of time is a blow to the team’s chances to win out.


There is very little a running back can do without using his hands, from taking a handoff and securing the ball, to fending off tackles and blocking.


Would you trust a running back with a broken second metacarpal bone (that’s the bone at the base of the index finger) to carry and properly secure the football?


I wouldn’t. Neither would opposing defenses.


So what can the Dolphins do besides count on Morris to get the job done?


Well, they might decide to pass the ball more. With Joey Harrington showing more and more comfort and production, the Dolphins could look to utilize short passes to Morris and Minor in an effort to get them running in space. Minor is especially good in those situations.


Defenses would, in turn, compensate and dare the Dolphins to beat them running the ball.


But can M&M get the job done?


Keep in mind that this is not the first time we’ve seen the M&M show. Remember 2004? That edition of M&M was altogether unimpressive, though there were many other factors, including a bad offensive line, which contributed to that disaster.


The Dolphins believe that Morris and Minor are in position to do better this time.

If M&M delivers, the “what ifs” regarding Ricky will go away.


If not, it will be the Dolphins’ playoff chances that will go away.



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