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Miami Dolphins content to save Ronnie Brown

One of Ronnie Brown's goals this season -- aside from gaining over 1,000 yards -- was to remain healthy the entire season for the first time in his four-year career.

Well, so far so good.

Brown is none the worse for wear with four games to go.

But one reason he is healthy may be both blessing and curse for the Dolphins. The fact is this season, for the second season in a row, Brown's usage in the running game has decreased. That's right, the guy who has been the trigger man for the Wildcat Package, the Dolphins starter in nine of 12 games, is averaging 14.1 carries per game this season.

He averaged 18.5 carries per game in 2006 and 17 carries per game last season until he injured a knee and was lost for the season after seven games.

Brown ranks 26th in the NFL in carries per game and his 169 carries is 16th in the NFL.

So perhaps the reason Brown is healthy is that he is fresh and often on the sideline as backfield mate Ricky Williams takes his 10 carries per game.

The problem for Brown, however, is that he's one of those backs that gets better with more carries. He has often discussed how he likes to get into a rhythm as the game progresses and his carries mount. He obviously is not finding that zone with fewer and fewer carries.

So the Dolphins find themselves straddling the proverbial fine line between using Brown enough to get the most out of him without using him so much that he could become worn, and more prone to injury.

Of course that assumes you buy into the idea that Miami is saving Brown from injury by, well, saving Brown. Remember last year's terrible injury? It happened on an interception return in which Brown was trying to make a tackle.

It wasn't about him getting too many carries.

So would you use Brown more the final four weeks of the season, throwing caution to the wind and hoping he finds his comfort zone and that extra gear that frankly he hasn't had lately? Or do you continue to let him plod along at 14 or so carries a game and get the 4.1 yards per carry Brown is delivering so far this year?

I say the Dolphins have a thoroughbred in the stall and they should ride him. But I don't get a vote. The guess here from everything I'm told is the Dolphins are going to continue giving Brown 14-15 carries a game while Williams continues to get his 10-12 carries. And if there's one game one of them is hot, that guy will get more carries that game.

But handing it to one guy over and over and over so he can find a rhythm for the game and get stronger with every carry and maybe put the team on his back in the fourth quarter? Not likely.

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