Earlier is this series I addressed the quarterback position, now I take a look at the running backs.
The running back position will be important for the Dolphins success this season. To call last seasons production in the running game disappointing is an understatement. Only six teams ran for fewer yards than Miami did last year. With those results most would put the blame on the players. However only three teams had fewer rushing attempts. The playcalling has to be called into question. This is a team which averaged 4,1 yards per carry. They need to be more productive. Some of that may come with more of a commitment to the run, only time will tell if that occurs. The rest is dependant on these running backs.
Moreno signed this offseason after spending the beginning of his career with the Denver Broncos. He is the all-around back Miami seems to need. Good runner, nice hands and a talented pass blocker which is something the Dolphins sorely lacked last season. Most see him as the starter walking in the door. That may not be the case. With only a one-year contract I do not feel anything is set in stone with Moreno. Add to that the suggestion that he was not quite in football shape for the OTAs, I believe Moreno will have to take the job away from last years starter Lamar Miller.
Lamar Miller came up short of expectations last season, his first as a starter. The expectations were at fault. He ran for 700 yards and a 4.0 per carry average. While he started slow, by the end of the season he began to look like a NFL starter. This was the guy that the coaching staff let Reggie Bush walk for. His biggest drawback is his pass blocking. At times he looked good, other times he seemed like a bull fighter avoiding contact. Another season of training camp can do nothing but improve this. To prove he deserves to be the starter he will have to hold off Moreno.
Daniel Thomas may be in the worst spot of anyone this offseason. He was inherited by Joe Philbin when he took over the Dolphins. The general manager (Jeff Ireland) who drafted him was chased out-of-town this offseason. Depending on how many backs are kept on the roster this may be his last hurrah. While he had success last season as a change of pace back it may have been too little, too late. Thomas never quite lived up to his potential, struggling with injuries and fumbles throughout his time in Miami. He may stick for depth but the clock is ticking on his career.
Gillislee is a big question mark. He only had 6 carries in his rookie season. It is hard to judge how someone will do based on that. He showed talent and patience during his time at the University of Florida, whether he can bring that to the NFL game remains to be seen. I believe in him. I see an all-around back who just needs the opportunity to impress. If nothing else he will provide inexpensive depth to Miller and Moreno.
Yes there are a few other backs on the roster. Frankly they do not matter. I do not believe any of them will be any more than training camp bodies. As for Marcus Thigpen-he seems to be trying his hand as a slot receiver to make the team. I do not believe he makes it simply as a kick returner.