Tough run for running backs

Earlier in the year, the Dolphins' once-vaunted defense was decimated by injuries almost on a weekly basis. But in the past five games, it's been the running backs who have been going down one by one.

First, Ronnie Brown, who was on his way to his first Pro Bowl with four consecutive 100-yard plus games, was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Game 7 against the Patriots.

His replacement, Jesse Chatman, stepped in and was averaging 92 yards a game on 5.5 yards per carry in three starts before a sprained ankle has limited his mobility. In the last two games, Chatman has gained 91 yards on 33 carries, a paltry 2.7-yard average.

On Monday, the Dolphins welcomed back twice-suspended running back Ricky Williams to his first NFL game in nearly two years, and on his fifth carry he fumbled. While Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons was chasing the ball, he stepped hard on Williams' right shoulder. Williams came back for one more carry but tore his pectoral muscle. On Wednesday, he was placed on injured reserve, where 10 other Dolphins reside.

"It's unfortunate," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. "It's easy, again, in those situations to get ahead of yourself, and we all know that it's a different game on Sundays than when you're out back practicing and it's not contact.

"But as he and I talked, it's another test for him, another obstacle for him to overcome, and he knows we're going to support him."

So when the 0-11 Dolphins host the 2-9 Jets on Sunday in search of their first victory and an end to their 14-game losing streak, they may be doing it with the old running backs by committee theory with rookie Lorenzo Booker, second-year tailback Patrick Cobbs and Samkon Gado, who was re-signed on Wednesday after getting cut to make room for Williams on Monday.

Despite the myriad injuries to Dolphins runners, they've still maintained a solid 4.4-yard average, second best in the AFC and tied for fourth in the NFL. They should continue their trend against the Jets' 31st-ranked run defense.

The rushing attack has slipped the past two games against the top-ranked defense of the Eagles and the Steelers, gaining just 77 and 49 yards respectively, after topping 100 yards in the previous seven games -- the first time Miami had done that since 1984. Inclement weather and horrible field conditions in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh also played a factor in their diminishing run game.

Chatman, who injured his neck Monday after gaining just 17 yards on 11 carries, said he's fine, but his right ankle was clearly bothering him during a limited practice.

Gado, whose best year was his 2005 rookie season in Green Bay when he gained 582 yards with a 4.1-yard average and six touchdowns, gained just 46 yards on 18 attempts while playing for the Texans earlier this season.

Cobbs, who has mostly played on special teams his first two seasons, has gained 47 yards on 15 career carries, all this season.

Booker, the third-round draft pick out of Florida State, has no carries this season, and has been active for only three of the Dolphins' 11 games.


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