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Talk About March Madness
We could all sense it: March 8th would be a date to remember. Opening weekend is 5 months away, the NFL draft is 5 weeks away, and already, I'm protecting the internet from my family just like when I'm listening to game day audio web streams.
Needless to say, the Ricky Williams trade is a high risk/high reward one. We gave up at least a 1st and 3rd (likely a 2nd, and possibly a 1st) rounder for this guy, and it could either break our team or turn the Dolphins into a Super Bowl contender. As I've stated in the past, I have a few problems with Ricky Williams as a person and a player. As a human being, he has psychological problems that can kill a team's chemistry. If Ricky is unhappy, the locker room knows it: Ask Randy Mueller, Jim Haslett, and the rest of the Saints offense...that is the reason the 24-year-old star is on the trading block in the first place. If Ricky doesn't give 100% on and off the field, he could divide a team behind closed doors. Ricky will be eating up a high percentage of our salary cap over the next few years; translation: If Ricky fails to put it together mentally, we could be building our team around a cancer. On the field, Williams does have flaws (although his strengths clearly outweigh those flaws). He has put the ball on the ground 14 times in over the last two seasons, which us Dolfans saw too often from Lamar Smith last season. Furthermore, Ricky lacks that second gear to take the ball to the house, despite being able to run a 4.45/40.
Now that we have the cons out of the way, lets look at the positives. We finally have an undisputed stud in our backfield that teams must be aware of at all times. He is young, powerful, and his best football may be ahead of him. He doesn't have great hands or fluidity as a receiver, but is extremely dangerous on screen passes, as evidenced by his 104 catches for 920 yds over the last two seasons. I don't know where this shared opinion comes from that Ricky Williams has sleepwalked through his first 3 seasons. In case those critics forgot what Ricky has accomplished over the last two years, here are a few interesting statistics...
- On pace for 2254 total yards and 15 TDs in '00 before being sidelined for the season in Week 11. To put that into perspective, Marshall Faulk finished the season with 2189 total; Ricky would have finished second behind only Edgerrin James (2303), had he maintained his pace. That, my friends, is an MVP caliber season.
- He had 1756 total yds in his only full season in '01.
- 122 total YPG over the last two seasons.
- 4.0 YPC over the last seasons, despite having only FOUR CARRIES of 20 yds or more. This tells me we have a guy that consistently sets his team up in 2nd-and-short.
- 3 YPC or better in 23/25 games in '00 and '01. Lamar Smith had 3 YPC or more in 4 of his last 18 games.
In Ricky Williams and Chris Chambers, we have two superstars at skilled positions... when was the last time we could say that? Oh, and having Norv Turner on our side in a chess match doesn't hurt either!
Seconds after hearing the Dolphins had completed a trade for the services of Ricky Williams, Chris Mortenson reported that Olin Kreutz was probably heading to Miami as well. What did I do? I turned on ESPNews to get the latest (of course, after seeing the Bob Knight movie preview for the umpteenth time) only to see Kreutz had re-signed with the Bears. I was devastated, and frankly, I still am right now, considering Williams/Kreutz could have been a similar upgrade to Martin/Mawae for the Jets in '98. Kreutz is a nasty interior dominator that makes everyone around him better... and he's only getting better with each pancake. In defense of Dolphins management, they did all they could in offering a contract that would have made the Washington grad the highest paid center in the league. It's disappointing, at least for me. Oh well. Lets move on.
If the Dolphins are taking Leon Searcy for what he's worth, this is an excellent pickup. If they are depending on a 33 year old two years removed from an NFL snap to be the difference maker, forget it. Searcy, if healthy and prepared for battle, should fit in nicely at RG, adding leadership, productivity, and versatility to the line.
Last but not least (ok, I don't mean that), J.J. Johnson was handed to the Browns for a 7th rounder in '04. It's unfortunate, because I really thought Johnson was our future at the RB position after the '99 season. I wish him the best and he deserves another chance, which he'll get in a barren Browns backfield. However, it's not hard to understand why Johnson is gone; the guy couldn't even take the pounding of Tuesday morning practices.
My biggest fear heading into the offseason was that us Dolfans would be subject to "We're just a player or two away!" preachings, while the team looked at middle-tier FA RBs such as Warrick Dunn, James Allen, and Skip Hicks. Sure, you can argue that the team gave up too much for Williams or that Olin Kreutz shouldn't have treated like the best OLman in the league. But you can't deny that Dave Wannstedt and Rick Spielman have attacked the problems on offense with a head of steam that we only wish Lamar Smith had last season. JMP said it best..."Friday, March 8, 2002. Remember this date. Years from now, today will be known as one of the most important dates in the history of the Miami Dolphins franchise." I sure will. We all will, for better or worse.