The Wildcat once seemed to define Miami’s offensive game, but now, laments Ricky Williams, it seems to have become a forgotten formation with the arrival of standout receiver Brandon Marshall and the emergence of quarterback Chad Henne.
“I just think we haven’t run it enough,” the running back said. “I don’t think we’ve called it in games, I don’t think we’ve run it enough and worked on it in practice enough to make it a big part of our offense. Last year, we didn’t have a big-play receiver and a young quarterback so we leaned on it more. I think this year the plan was, we got Brandon for big plays in the passing game and put a lot of confidence in Chad Henne to make a lot of plays downfield.
“We needed it (last year). It was a way to get Ronnie (Brown) and myself on the field and to generate some offense. And again, with the maturity of Chad Henne and the addition of Brandon Marshall it wasn’t a necessity for us this year.”
The 6-6 Dolphins are 5-0 when rushing for 100 yards or more in a game, but they’re just 18th in the league in rushing. Miami averages 106.6 yards per game, compared to the Jets, who rank fourth with 148.4.
Brown is averaging a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, while Williams is averaging 4.5. Miami coach Tony Sparano acknowledged the decline of his running game, but expressed optimism nonetheless.
“We’ve tried to split the load up, probably not a lot different from what the Jets have done with their two backs,” he said. “Ronnie and Ricky both play kind of equal, somewhere in that range. Ronnie probably has more snaps than Ricky at the end of this, not by much. We try to get both guys involved as much as we possibly can.
“The last couple of games we’ve rushed for a bunch of yards. And we’re able to run it a little more right now. We’ve have two ballgames there in the middle of that – the Chicago one being one where we didn’t get a lot of offensive snaps and got behind in the game, and then there was another ballgame where we were behind playing catch up. Those games you’re not going to run the football. You’ve got to throw the ball to get back in the game, but as of late we’ve gotten our run game back on track.”
Fourteen weeks into the season, the Patriots and Jets already have stolen the AFC East spotlight, while the Dolphins struggle to remain relevant. They’ve lost three of their past five games, including Sunday’s 13-10 home loss to Eric Mangini’s Browns.
But a win Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium would be the first step in turning things around.
“I think the joke around here is, Coach says our back is against the wall, but I think we’re inside the wall right now,” Williams said with a laugh. “It’s certainly a must-win for us if we want a shot at the playoffs.”
The running back said he didn’t watch the Patriots’ Monday night beatdown of the Jets and has yet to watch film of his next opponent. But Williams added that he wasn’t surprised by the 45-3 score, nor is he worried the Jets will come out looking to give a smackdown of their own.
“You can look at it a million ways,” said Williams, who also expressed uncertainty about his future in Miami and in the NFL. “But either way we have to prepare to play the best Jets team that they have. They have tons of talent on that team and they always play us really tough so we have to get ready regardless of what happened this past week.
“In this league, it’s any given Sunday, so you never know. A couple bad plays and it’s a snowball effect, so I really don’t look at the score of games. The bottom line is a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’"