Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Oct 2005

Ricky and Ronnie in Same Backfield?

I have mixed feelings about this. Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban says now that Ricky Williams is back from a four-game suspension, he might use both Williams and rookie running back Ronnie Brown on the field at the same time. That would entail either one of them in the backfield and one lined up as a slot, or one as the fullback and one as the tailback in an I formation. The problem, as I see it, is that these are two guys who were brought in to do one thing: Run the ball. Since only one player can run the ball at a time, the other one is extraneous. And I think the Dolphins would be better off having an actual receiver in the slot or an actual fullback at fullback.

I realize, though, that Ronnie Brown has plenty of experience sharing a backfield, which he did with Cadillac Williams at Auburn. And Ricky Williams actually started his career at Texas as a fullback, although at the time the Texas offense gave its fullback plenty of carries. What do you think? Does it make sense to play both of these guys at the same time?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 11 Oct 2005

9 comments, Last at 12 Oct 2005, 1:21pm by Sophandros


by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 2:18pm

The Saints did that a bit during Deuce's rookie season with--Ricky.

by Paul (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 2:20pm

Dumb move, imo. Ricky is a good, shifty back. Brown is a good, powerful back. They complement each other very well. Take the ball out of Ferotte's hands and run them 15-20 times each.

by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 2:50pm

I can't see how the Dolphins can run each back 15-20 times each given the large number of pre-snap penalties the offense is getting.

by J-Diddy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 2:51pm

If you have two good running backs (ALA the Jets last year with Lamont and Curtis), I think it is a good idea to line them in a split formation. Then when you see how the defense is lined up, you can audible whether you want to run to either side, or even down the middle. It gives your offense a lot of flexibility.

Also, couldn't you see a playaction to both backs (maybe a fake pitch to Ricky on the sweep, then a fake handoff to Ronnie up the middle), which leads to Chris Chambers running the bomb. With the defense having to compensate for two runners, I bet Chris Chambers would have a lot of space out there.

Then again... for scenario two to work, there has to be a QB behind center who can actually get it to Chambers.

DISCLAIMER - I am not an actual coach, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 3:09pm

I just like seeing a coach think outside the box every once in awhile. Assuming both guys are capable blockers, it seems like a good idea.

I'm sure it's not going to be a common set though. First downs and short-yardage situations only.

by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:00pm

I believe the Raiders tried this when they had both Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, and it just ended up frustrating the hell out of everybody.

(And when I say "everybody," I'm mainly talking about myself.)

Although it did provide the opportunity to see a team put three Heisman winners on the field at the same time, with Tim Brown at WR.

by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 5:58pm

If Ricky's a good enough run blocker, I think it would be a good idea to use him as a pseudo-FB (he's big enough to do it). If he's anywhere near his old form (a big if), he'd automatically be the most dangerous FB in the league.

by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 7:40pm

Isn't the whole reason that Ronnie Brown got drafted ahead of Benson and Cadillac the fact that he was supposedly a better blocker and receiver? I realize that doesn't necessarily mean he's a GOOD blocker or receiver, but I think he would be effective coming out of the backfield.

Besides, who is the Dolphins' third receiver that'll get less playing time on account of this? I'd rather have Ricky Williams on the field than Wes Welker or a roid-free David Boston.

Either of those backs would be a more intimidating playmaker than a Dolphins tight end not named McMichael, so they would put more pressure on a defense than a 2-TE set. And if one or both can pass block, it would allow McMichael to get out on more pass routes, which is where he's best.

So I think, if both backs actually are well-rounded, the two-back set would be better than any of the Dolphins' other options.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:21pm

#4: According to PFP, the Jets ran better with Sowell and Martin in the backfield than with Jordan and Martin in the backfield.