Dolphins one-two RB punch of Williams, Brown will lead offense

DAVIE, Fla. -- Until a knee injury sent him to the sideline, running back Ronnie Brown was the best thing about the Miami Dolphins' wretched 2007 season.

Despite a shaky supporting cast on offense, Brown began to justify his selection as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. He rushed for more than 100 yards in four consecutive games, and totaled more than 200 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back games.

Then his season ended Oct. 21 because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He was leading the NFL with 991 yards from scrimmage, impressive considering he played for a team that was 0-7.

Now Brown's healthy again and, beginning Sunday against the New York Jets, he'll form a one-two tandem with 2002 NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams. And again, the running back position may be the best thing about a team that's not very good.

"That's a position that's solved," coach Tony Sparano said. "Now we can move on to some of the other ones."

Williams will start against the Jets, but Brown will play early and play a lot, Sparano said Friday. The Ronnie and Ricky show should be worth watching, especially when they run behind 310-pound tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick in the draft.

Williams was so impressive in training camp that the Dolphins signed him to a contract extension, and while Brown carried only 17 times during the exhibition season, he seemed to regain his burst. Brown said he's not yet 100 percent, but he's not concerned about the knee.

"Talking to guys who went through something similar, I think it'll improve each week," he said. "I feel good, and each game I felt better. It was a big test for me to go through camp and participate every day."

In his first two NFL seasons, there were whispers Brown might become a draft bust. He ran for 907 yards as a rookie and 1,008 in 2006 and was an effective receiver, but there were quibbles about his breakaway ability and durability.

Last year he blossomed, rushing in consecutive weeks for 112 yards against the Jets, 134 against Oakland, 114 against Houston and 101 against Cleveland.

Then, with the Dolphins on the verge of a meltdown, he was done for the year.

"Obviously any time you get injured, it's tough not being able to participate," he said. "You can't do anything to help your teammates. You work so hard and put so much into it, and you get in a situation when you get injured and your team is struggling, and there is nothing you can do about it."

The Dolphins finished 1-15, then began to clean house. Brown enters his fourth season near the top of the list in roster seniority, although he's second -- at least for now -- on the depth chart.

The latest incarnation of Williams has been impressive this summer, which is why he'll start against the Jets, and Brown has never been a workhorse runner. Even at Auburn he shared carries with Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, and he's happy to split playing time with Ricky Williams.

"I think we're both starters," Brown said. "Whoever starts, that's just the situation. I think we'll both have a lot of playing time and hopefully stay fresh and be able to keep the defense on their heels."

Even with an upgrade at quarterback in the recently acquired Chad Pennington, Miami is expected to be a run-oriented team. New offensive coordinator Dan Henning likes to pound the ball, and running back is the deepest position on the roster.

"A lot of teams are looking for one back, and we feel like we have two backs right now who both can bring something to the table a little bit different and who enjoy helping each other," Sparano said. "These two guys kind of play off each other a little bit. We haven't been able to really see that completely in a game yet, but I think that will come here shortly."