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.