Big Move Brings Questions

The signing of Larry Johnson on Tuesday morning is sure to create headlines, but it obviously would have been a lot more significant had it happened five years ago when Johnson was in the discussion as far as the best running back in the NFL. Now, his addition probably brings more questions than anything else.

How much does he have left? What will his role be? Didn't the Dolphins say they didn't want to bring in problem children? Why didn't the Dolphins just re-sign Ricky Williams instead? What does the move say about Daniel Thomas?

Questions, questions and more questions.

Let's address them one at a time.

How much does Johnson have left?

On Nov. 19, Johnson will turn 32 years old, which everyone knows is pretty old by running back standards. Since he rushed for 874 yards in 12 games in 2008, Johnson averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2009 and then appeared in only two games with Washington last season before the Redskins decided they had seen enough.

Johnson is a physical running back and his body took a lot of pounding while he rushed for more than 1,750 yards in both 2005 and 2006. Clearly, this is not the same guy the Dolphins are getting.

Can he be a productive back again, used in a more limited role? That remains to be seen, but it's clear there are absolutely no guarantees this move will pan out.

What will his role be?

The best guess is that Johnson was brought in to serve a complementary role to Reggie Bush, who looks like the feature back at this point. Johnson, in particular, should be used in short-yardage situations and goal-line situations — assuming he sticks around for a while.

His work load clearly could increase should something happen to Bush, but to expect Johnson to handle 25 carries a game like he once did in Kansas City is foolish.

Didn't the Dolphins say the didn't want to bring in problem children?

That notion, while it sounds good, went out the window when the Dolphins sent two second-round picks to Denver for Brandon Marshall, who came to Miami with some well-publicized baggage.

Johnson has been arrested four times since 2003 on various assault charges against women and he was de-activated by Kansas City for a 2008 game for violating a team rule.

Like a lot of other teams, the Dolphins will disregard personal issues when it suits their purposes. Look, there's a reason certain players keep getting chances in the NFL.

The Dolphins should just never have said anything about staying away from certain types of players.

Why didn't the Dolphins just re-sign Ricky Williams instead?

That might be the most important and disturbing question. Would anybody suggest that Johnson is a more productive running back right now than Williams? That should be a clear no.

On top of that, Williams would have been perfect in the role of complement to Bush, he's always been a great team player whose work ethic was praised time and time again by Coach Tony Sparano.

Sure, he's probably only got one year left, maybe two. But how long does Johnson have left?

This, unfortunately, probably goes back to Williams' comments after the season when he criticized Sparano for micromanaging. If you don't think that didn't hit a nerve, Sparano referenced being criticized for that, without mentioning Williams' name, during a post-practice press conference last week.

Bottom line, Williams sealed his fate in Miami when he said those words. Truth is, Williams gladly would have come back to the Dolphins for another go if given the opportunity, but the Dolphins simply let him walk in free agency.

Somehow, you'd like to think that Sparano could have sat down with Williams, aired things out and brought him back. There's no question the Dolphins would be a better team today with Williams than with Larry Johnson.

You could even throw in Ronnie Brown into that equation because he, too, would have been a better choice than Johnson.

And, finally, what does the move say about Daniel Thomas?

No question, the signing of Johnson tells you the Dolphins aren't totally thrilled about what they've seen from Thomas. You don't bring in a guy with Johnson's resume to be a third running back, which is what he would be if Thomas had seized control of the No. 2 job.

Being that running back is among the position where it's easiest for rookies to make an impact, this is doubly troubling. Remember, this was a guy for whom the Dolphins traded up in the 2011 draft.

Now, after three weeks of practice and two preseason games, the team has decided it can't count on him to play a significant role as a rookie? Yikes!

Sure, perhaps the move was made to light a fire under Thomas, but that doesn't seem likely. It looks more like the Dolphins were worried about their running back situation.

After what we saw last Friday night, Bush clearly isn't the problem. Whether Johnson provides a solution remains to be seen.

Until then, all we have are questions.


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