Last season the Dolphins featured the league’s 11th rushing attack led by Reggie Bush. It also had a hopeful rookie Daniel Thomas, who only averaged 3.5 yards/carry, not living up to expectations. Overall the run game did well. Gone are the dominant days of the two-headed monster of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and now with a switch to a west-coast offense, you should expect something much different this coming season.
In the off-season, the Dolphins surprisingly traded up in the 4th round to acquire Miami Running Back Lamar Miller. Throw in the Dolphins landing the CFL’s top back, and we got ourselves an interesting offseason for running backs.
Here’s a look at some hot topics heading into training camp.
There is little doubt that Reggie Bush will start the season as the starting running back for the Miami Dolphins. He proved for at least one season that he can carry a starting running back’s workload. The interesting thing to look out for in camp is how Reggie Bush will be used in the passing game. Back in his New Orleans days, Bush was one of the top receiving running backs in the NFL, but once he came to Miami, he wasn’t getting nearly as much production receiving out of the backfield. With a switch to the west coast offense, it will be interesting to see how many extra touches Joe Philbin will want to give Bush receiving the football. Expect more creativity.
Lamar Miller will most certainly make the final roster at training camps end, but the interesting thing to watch for is how fast he adjusts to the NFL and if he can outshine the other running backs. He will likely be used in the same way as Reggie Bush to start, but how many of those plays will he actually take away from Bush? It’s hard to envision Miller replacing Daniel Thomas in his backup role because of how similar Miller is to Bush, but Miller has to prove everything he can if he wants to get carries come game time. Also, watch out to see if the coaches have Miller returning kicks. If they want to get the most out of their 4th-round pick in his first season, using him as a kick returner might be the way to do it.
The biggest battle will be for the last spot on the roster. Bush, Thomas, and Miller are all locks to make the final cut, but someone like Steve Slaton, who hasn’t been very productive in a long time, may get shoved out by a younger back with more upside.
The Dolphins signed the CFL’s best running back in Jerome Messam this past off-season. He’s a big back with surprising speed. Could he prove to be the real deal and challenge Slaton for the last spot? It’s tough to say, because the Dolphins are so young at running back and a veteran like Slaton could at least give the Dolphins a little experience on the bench.
Marcus Thigpen, another former CFL player, is another guy who will be fighting for the spot. Thigpen has never had an NFL carry and will really need to impress at camp if he wants a shot. He’s going to get his chance, let’s see what he does with it.
There are also many other backs who will be participating in camp, but none of them really has a realistic shot to be on the roster day one of the season.
Overall the running backs in camp won’t have as much drama and competition as some other positions, but the excitement of rookie Lamar Miller and a change in style should help keep things interesting during camp.