Daniel Thomas Struggling To Pick Up Offense?

The Miami Dolphins thought very highly of Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.  So high in fact that they traded up into the second round to get him.  In their minds, Thomas was the replacement for the departing Ronnie Brown.  He was, to the Dolphins, viewed as the primary rusher.  A RB who could handle a 20-30 carry a game load.  The Dolphins were so sure they had made the right decision with drafting Thomas that they decided against high priced available veteran free agents who were used to being the lead back and opted instead to sign a more specialized back in Reggie Bush.

Entering the third week of the pre-season, head coach Tony Sparano has announced that Reggie Bush and not Daniel Thomas is the teams starting running back.  Is Daniel Thomas struggling to pick up the offense?  Or is he struggling to make the adjustment into the NFL?

Last week Thomas had a better showing than he did the week before.  To his credit the play of the offensive line improved as well.  It was Bush however that surprised fans and media alike by taking the first team carries into the line of scrimmage and not around it.  When Thomas entered the game, production dropped considerably.  In fact, Thomas failed to pick up one yard on first and goal on consecutive attempts.

Thomas has shown flashes of what he may someday become.  Yet he struggles with hitting open holes with any conviction.  He doesn’t dance behind the line of scrimmage, he almost entirely stops.  One of Thomas’ positive attributes was his ability to break tackles.  Thus far he is being taken down by the first hit.  He is also running more upright than he did in college.  His body becomes a much bigger target for defenders and he is developing a habit of not continually moving his feet after first impact.

Thomas is rookie and although the running back position is one of the easier positions to transition to at the NFL level, he is doing so without the benefit of an off-season that caters to getting players ready for what they are seeing now.  Still, there must be some concern over the ability being shown now when the team looks at 31 year old Larry Johnson.  Presumably to carry the load in case Thomas’ struggles continue.

Thomas has a bright future and it only takes one light to come for him to realize what is doing wrong and what he needs to be doing right.  Unfortunately for the Dolphins they don’t have the time to take a wait and see approach.

Thomas will spend most of the opening drive/s on the bench watching Reggie Bush take his carries.  The carries he was supposed to inherit when the Dolphins declined to sign Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown.  He needs to step up.  He is not in danger of losing his job or a roster spot, but it’s not smart to get into a coaches doghouse this early.   He is young and he is in fact a rookie.  Playing at the NFL level for a mere two and a half weeks.

He simply has a long way to go.

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Tags: Daniel Thomas Larry Johnson Miami Dolphins Reggie Bush Ronnie Brown

  • MOU

    It’s hard not to like Sparano. Great guy and I definately hope he can succeed. These RB decisions are going to determine this seasons fortunes and probalby his job . If he has made the correct choices on these RB changes then he will prove he knows what hes doing. I certainly like the Bush pickup but considering the main reason the Saints let him go – durability – it would seem that a reliable backup would be in order. Taking a chance on a rookie and then behind that an unproven player like Hilliard and then finally a gamble w/ LJ is way more risk than I thought Sparano would take. I like to think that the coach gets a daily look at the players and would know more intimately what these players can do. Lets hope he is right.

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  • phinfandan

    I honestly don’t see Larry Johnson being signed to as insurance to Daniel Thomas. The kid is timid and has been in the NFL about 3 weeks. I feel that with a good offensive line providing holes he will excel and find what works for him.

    I can see why Reggie Bush would be considered the starter off the gate, he has experience with the NFL speed, but I don’t imagine they are going to give him 25 touches a game. Let me clarify that, he may get 25 touches but I’m sure it will be 50% rushing & 50% as a receiver. I can see Miami being very successful using the same type of gameplan they had against Carolina. Reggie got a bunch of different looks and made the most out of them.

    Look for Thomas to become a work horse and eventually become a good Running Back a few games in or even at midseason. This does not worry me, because I think our line will dictate how successful our running game will be no matter who is back there.

    As far as Larry Johnson, I think the coaches see a few things. He’s 31 but his legs should be fresh since he’s been out of the league since September. He will probably be able to punch the hole on goal line plays but we will have to see how he does in the next 2 preseason games. I don’t think the coaches or even Larry think he is going to compete for the starting position. He will probably be used like Polite for short yardage situations.

    One last note. I am really interested to see what game plan Miami has for Tampa. Josh Freeman is a freak and I think this game will be a good test for our offense and defense, more for our defense. Tampa couldn’t even line up in time for Brady, but let’s face it, they are young and Brady took advantage of the situation. Go Dolphins!

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  • RandyCarlson


    The main reason he was let go was the $20 million owed for the next two years

  • stevehoffart

    Great comments, I completely agree that LJ is not an insurance policy. Thomas has had no time to adjust, none of the rookies have. He is going to need the entire pre-season and probably the first few games to get a feel for the speed and find the holes naturally. He looks to me to be pressing and that is most certainly due to age and experience. I also agree that our line will dictate the success of our running game.

    Bush was the right pickup. Spending a 2nd rounder to carry the running game is a big investment only to turn around and plant him on the bench in favour of a $50 million dollar free agent. Reggie is a perfect style of back to compliment someone like Thomas and I think it’ll take a whole lot of failing for him to find a seat.

    Confidence is a funny thing, it comes and goes without warning. Watch Thomas catch a veteran on his heels and bowl him over and he’ll be set for life.

  • crandyman

    My concern for Thomas is based not on his performance thus far in terms of statistics, but his indecision and judgment. Natural runners don’t just see the opening; they see where the opening WILL be. The ability to read and predict are crucial to running backs. I just don’t see that with Daniel Thomas. Will he be good? Maybe, but he doesn’t have the explosiveness to dance around the line of scrimmage.

  • Paulmatthew22

    @crandymanits not a problem

  • Paulmatthew22

    I think Thomas is going to be just fine guys,..I thought he ran well his last 6 or 7 carries,.I think he had about 5 yds a run? He is young and he will just get better,..The line just got alott better with Jake showing up,. There are also certain dynamics of his game we are yet to see ala catching the ball and possibly throwing?.Im glad to be rid of Ronnie and Ricky,.Its the past,.I want the future!

  • Phinphanatic

    I heard that he has been yelled at by every coach now except the ones on defense. No free passes in the NFL.