End of an Era

Now that Ricky Williams has signed with Baltimore to join Ronnie Brown out of Miami, we can now officially look back on the Ronnie/Ricky era, their accomplishments and, more importantly, assess whether the Dolphins actually will be better off without them in 2011.

First, we look back.

The Ricky/Ronnie tandem began in the fifth of the 2005 season after Ricky Williams returned from a four-game league suspension to join Brown in the backfield. Both were former top five picks, Williams in 1999 and Brown in 2005.

During their time together, each produced a 1,000-yard season, Brown in 2008 and Williams in 2009.

They gave the Dolphins a tremendous 1-2 punch, although it could be argue their running styles maybe were a little too similar to be the perfect backfield — think DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina or Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs with the Giants, a speed back with a big back.

That said, the Dolphins always could count on a productive running game if the blocking up front was up to par. That wasn't the case last year, which is why the running game struggled so much.

Brown, in particular, had a difficult year.

Williams and Brown gave the Dolphins a lot of good years and they left ranked second and third, respectively, on the team's all-time rushing list.

As good as they were, though, it seemed the two could have been better.

In Williams' case, one can only wonder how great his career would have been if not for his one-year hiatus and multiple suspensions, which cost him 16 games in 2004, four games in 2005, 16 games in 2006 and 10 games in 2007. That's 46 games, or almost three full seasons.

Williams was phenomenal in 2002, very good in 2003 and he also had a great year in 2009. He was solid throughout the other seasons.

As for Brown, he ended up with only one Pro Bowl appearance in six seasons with the Dolphins. He was good, but not what you would expect from a second overall pick -- even though he came out in what turned out to be a very poor class.

Brown's biggest contribution might have come in 2008 when he made the Wildcat run and helped the Dolphins win an improbably AFC East title.

Off the field, Williams was many things but boring was never one of them. Media members in South Florida won't miss him much because he wasn't terribly cooperative and he was known to end an interview abruptly whenever he didn't like a question.

But Williams also was a tremendous teammate and his coaches always raves about his work ethic.

Brown, for his part, was always tremendous with the media and he also was a great teammate.

That both of them are now gone isn't really that surprising considering Brown has battled injuries in recent years and is coming off a sub-par season, while Williams is getting up there in age and he also made some disparaging comments about Coach Tony Sparano after the end of the 2010 season.

Still, one can't help but think that the Dolphins still could use Williams, if for no other reason than to allow rookie Daniel Thomas a slow and smooth transition into the NFL and to serve as a complement to Reggie Bush.

Without Brown and Williams, the Dolphins running back corps now consists of Bush, Thomas, Lex Hilliard, Kory Sheets and undrafted rookie Nic Grigsby.

Outside of Bush, who may or may not be capable of being an every-down back, there's not a lot of proven guys there.

The group was as established as it gets at this time last year, and now it's the opposite.

Ricky and Ronnie have moved on, for better or worst. It will be interesting to see whether the Dolphins will miss them.

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