for this game

Buccaneers-Dolphins Preview

Nov 11, 2009 - 6:55 PM By ANTHONY GIORNALISTA STATS Senior Writer

It turns out the Miami Dolphins got the right running back when they drafted Ronnie Brown, leaving Cadillac Williams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's certainly too early, though, to judge the teams' young quarterbacks.

Brown opposes Williams, his former teammate at Auburn, for the first time as Chad Henne and the Dolphins host Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers on Sunday.

Brown continues to thrive along with Ricky Williams in Miami's backfield, enjoying a situation similar to what he had at Auburn as he shared carries with Cadillac Williams. The duo combined for 2,164 rushing yards in 2004, leading the Tigers to a 13-0 record.

The Dolphins (3-5) took Brown with the second overall pick in 2005, while Williams fell to the Buccaneers (1-7) three spots later. Williams won The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but has been hampered by injuries since then.

In fact, Williams sat out due to foot and hamstring injuries in Tampa Bay's 27-13 win over Miami on Oct. 16, 2005, the last meeting between the teams.

Brown was held to 22 yards on nine carries in that contest, but has had a much steadier career than his former teammate, totaling more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage in three of his first four seasons. This year, Brown has rushed for 566 yards and seven touchdowns, three shy of his career high set in 2008.

Ricky Williams has complemented Brown with 456 yards and six TDs, helping the Dolphins take pressure off their second-year quarterback. Henne took over the starting role when Chad Pennington suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against San Diego on Sept. 27, and is trying to help Miami make the playoffs for a second straight year despite a disappointing start.

"It's going to be a critical time for us," Brown said.

Henne has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 990 yards and four touchdowns while throwing three interceptions. He has not been picked off in two straight games, but his turnover-free play wasn't enough last Sunday as the Dolphins lost 27-17 at New England.

Though Henne hasn't made many mistakes, Miami is next-to-last in the NFL in yards per completion at 9.8.

"There's only so long you can say, 'Let's look at this and fix it,'" Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo said. "It has to get fixed."

Miami's defense, meanwhile, has had a tendency to give up big plays, ranking last in yards allowed per completion at 14.2, and may be without its top pass rusher. Linebacker Joey Porter, nursing a sore right hamstring for much of the season, is uncertain for Sunday's contest.

Porter has 2 1/2 sacks this season after leading the AFC with 17 1/2 last year. The Dolphins desperately need Porter on the field as they try to make a playoff push in their last eight games.

"Granted, we had a bad first half of the season," Porter said. "It's not too late to change that. We have to turn this thing around."

If Porter sits out, that's one less thing Freeman and Tampa Bay will have to worry about. Freeman, the 17th overall pick in this year's draft, led the Bucs to a 38-28 win over Green Bay in his first career start last Sunday.

Despite being the last team in the league to get a win, Tampa Bay has heightened expectations for the rest of the season with Freeman under center. He threw two of his three touchdown passes after the Bucs fell behind 28-17 early in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 of 31 for 205 yards, was sacked once and threw a first-half interception.

"We still have to be patient. We still have to let him grow," said coach Raheem Morris, who was a Kansas State assistant in all three of Freeman's seasons there.

"He made some mistakes he can go back and look at ... that will allow him to get better and better."

The Bucs had dropped 11 in a row dating to an 0-4 December that cost it a playoff spot after a 9-3 start last season.

Freeman could use some help from Cadillac Williams, who is averaging 3.2 yards a carry in his last two games. He has rushed for 366 yards and two TDs, playing eight games in a season for the first time since he appeared in 14 in 2006.

His last 100-yard rushing game was Nov. 19, 2006, when he had 122 in Tampa Bay's 20-17 win over Washington.

These Florida foes have split eight all-time meetings but the Bucs have won the last three dating to 1991.