Pre-Camp Analysis: Running Backs

As we start heading closer to the 2007 training camp, we break down the Dolphins position by position, analyzing what they did in the offseason and what to expect in the upcoming season. We begin our series with a look at the running backs.

Who's new: HB Ray Perkins (free agent), HB Lorenzo Booker (draft), HB Jesse Chatman (free agent), FB Cory Schlesinger (unrestricted free agent), FB Reagan Mauia (draft)

Who's gone: HB Travis Minor (UFA, St. Louis), HB Sammy Morris (UFA, New England), FB Darian Barnes (UFA, N.Y. Jets)

Who's back: HB Ronnie Brown, FB Kyle Eckel, HB Patrick Cobbs

What happened in the offseason: The big news of the offseason clearly was the revelation that Ricky Williams had failed another drug test and wouldn't be abel to apply for reinstatement until September. That pretty much closed the door on any chance of Williams returning to the team to give the Dolphins their formidable 1-2 punch with Ronnie Brown. With Brown clearly entrenched as the starter, the Dolphins changed their backup corps by drafting speedy Lorenzo Booker to replace departed Travis Minor and Sammy Morris. Jesse Chatman, who was a tremendous backup for Cam Cameron in San Diego in 2004, was signed with the hope he can regain that form after letting himself get way overweight the last two years. At fullback, the big move was replacing starter Darian Barnes with veteran free agent Cory Schlesinger, who's a better fit for Cameron's offense.

What to expect: With Brown and Schlesinger, the Dolphins have a pretty solid starting tandem. The key here will be Booker, whose speed could bring a new dimension to the Dolphins offense. In fact, don't be shocked if he contributes more to the offense in 2007 than first-round pick Ted Ginn Jr., whose biggest impact probably will come as a kick returner. Booker will be used in a wide variety of ways by the Dolphins, either in the slot, as a change-of-pace back, and maybe even lined up wide. Don't discount Chatman, either. As mentioned before, he was tremendous for the Chargers in 2004 and he's back at that weight now that he has seen his career flash before his eyes. The Dolphins obviously will need a big year from Brown, who should be more involved in the passing game with Cameron now running the offense.

What we think: The running game will only go as far as the blocking up front allows, but in terms of personnel, the Dolphins appear in good shape here, even though they would be better had they been able to get Ricky Williams back -- because, like him or not, he's a tremendously talented runner. The losses of Minor and Morris probably will be felt more on special teams than on offense because, even though Morris turned in some good performances last season, neither could be considered an explosive offensive player. That's where Booker comes in. Again, he has the potential to become a big-time player for the offense, a guy like former Giants scat-back David Meggett or maybe another version of Reggie Bush. At fullback, Schlesinger is an upgrade over Barnes simply because he's got better pass-catching ability. All in all, the Dolphins are in pretty good shape at running back, even without Williams.


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Alain Poupart is the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest and DolphinDigest.com. To read him every day, visit DolphinDigest.com and become a Miami Dolphins insider.