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Preseason rumors floated around that the Miami Dolphins were interested in unloading Ronnie Brown.
The injury-prone running back screwed up his thumb in an exhibition game, further delaying his return to total health. Questions lingered about his recovery from a season-ending right knee injury seven games into 2007, and now this.
An early Miami exit for Brown seemed plausible. Everyone is well aware of Bill Parcells' disdain for players who repeatedly get hurt.
Meanwhile, Ricky Williams was asserting himself and looking more like the former NFL rushing leader he was in 2002 and less like the head case that plagued so many front offices before. Williams projected as the feature back until Brown (if he stayed) could regain his stride. So many sports-medicine experts insist a player can't fully recover from ACL surgery for about 18 months.
With all that in mind, Brown never left and he is back. The Dolphins are thankful.
"Ronnie's getting more confident each week," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said after Sunday's 17-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers. "You're starting to see him run with power now, some confidence."
Brown ran 24 times for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. The week before he turned in an epic performance on the New England Patriots: 17 carries for 113 yards and four touchdowns and one passing touchdown.
His production coincides with Miami's unveiling of their Wildcat offense, in which he accepts a direct shotgun snap. But the Dolphins have called Wildcat plays only 17 times in their two victories over last year's AFC title game teams.
However, don't be fooled into thinking his stats are Wildcat-driven. Brown's recent play merely is a reminder of how great he is.
Many forget Brown was the NFL's leader in yards from scrimmage when he suffered his knee injury in Week 7. Take away that partial game and he has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of his past eight games.
Scouting the past two seasons and removing the time Brown missed, ESPN researchers Jonathan Costa and Puneet Nanda compiled some staggering numbers.
The stats show that when Brown's healthy he's as productive as fantasy football superstars such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, Marion Barber and Clinton Portis.
For those with a minimum 10 games, Brown leads all running backs in touchdowns per game at .91, a fraction ahead of Tomlinson. Brown is second to Westbrook in yards from scrimmage at 121.9 yards per game.
Brown ranks seventh with 80.7 rushing yards a game and third with 41.2 receiving yards per game. Westbrook and Peterson are the only others who rank among the top seven backs in both categories.
Brown also ranks seventh in yards per carry at 5.0 and third in yards per catch at 9.8.
Specific to the weeks Brown has played the past two seasons (Weeks 1 through 7 last year and Weeks 1 through 5 this year), Brown has the most rushing first downs of anybody -- by far. He has 59 first-down runs, nine more than Barber, known as the ultimate smashmouth back.
Over those same games, Brown is third behind Peterson and Barber with 25 runs of 10 yards or more.