Nov 11, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans in the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins’ Running Backs New ‘Earth Wind And Fire’?

Let’s go back to the 2008 NFL season for a second. The New York Giants had what was then one of the greatest running back trios in the game of football, each with it’s own unique running style. The trio consisted of Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward, and Brandon Jacobs. The groups nickname: ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’. The name undoubtedly reflected each backs different running style (and was also a popular band back in the day). Ward was dubbed “Wind“, Jacobs was “Earth“, and Bradshaw was “Fire“. Why am I reminding you of this? Well, I believe ‘Earth Wind and Fire’ is making a comeback in the NFL. But, they have new members and have relocated from New York to Miami.

After letting go star running back Reggie Bush, Miami drafted Mike Gillislee, RB Florida, with the 164th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. They retained former second round pick Daniel Thomas as well as last year’s talented rookie Lamar Miller. While some people believe Lamar Miller is leading the campaign for the starting job come Week 1, Joe Philbin has made it clear that the starting job remains open. While one of the three will have to be deemed the starter for lineup purposes, I believe we will be seeing a mixture of all three backs given the situation. I believe each back offers an “element” along with his running style.

I see Lamar Miller being named the starter when it is all said and done, and to me he is the Wind of the group. Miller did something last year that Reggie Bush frequently would not: hit holes. Miller is not a “dancer” behind the line of scrimmage, and once he sees a hole or gap of space, he explodes through it. He is extremely quick (ran a 4.40 forty yard dash) and has the agility to run inside the tackles as well as outside. During the Oakland game last year, I remember not being able to see Miller inside the tackles during a run, then barely catching a glimpse of him eight yards ahead up field, giving him a running style much like the wind.

I consider Gillislee to be the fire of the group. No, he is not the most explosive runner or the fastest (4.55 forty yard dash), but to me Gillislee is the fire of the trio because of his play making skills. Watch footage of Gillislee and you will find that a play is never over until the whistle blows. He can bounce seemingly dead runs outside and pick up extra yardage. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and make defenders miss. He is willing to put up his body and lay a ferocious block on an incoming safety to protect his quarterback. Gillislee will beat you with his heart and drive, and is extremely hard to put away for good. For that, he is Fire.

Lastly that leaves Daniel Thomas as “Earth”. Are you surprised? Miami drafted Thomas to be a hard-nosed downhill runner, and that is exactly what he is. While prone to injury, when Thomas has been healthy, he has put up numbers for Miami, and has been especially effective in goal line formations. He will run through defenders rather than around them, and will not hesitate to lower his shoulder. His up and down running makes him lethal on short yard situations, and never stops moving his legs.  Thomas tears up the ground when he runs, and for that I believe he is the Earth of the trio.

The Dolphins find themselves with a young running back core without a veteran for the first time in a while. Since the time of the Ricky and Ronnie days, they also find themselves with options. While Miami has made the improvements in the passing game, it is their running game that will fly under the radar this season. I believe this running game will be a huge component to their overall success or failure too. Whether it is protecting Ryan Tannehill, getting involved in the passing game, or picking up crucial first downs, this core group of backs will have important tasks this year. I just hope the NFL gets to see the return of ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’.



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Tags: Daniel Thomas Lamar Miller Miami Dolphins Mike Gillislee

  • Zachary Ethan Gardner

    Everything you said about Thomas is pretty much wrong. Earth is solid. Thomas can’t hold onto the ball. That is by no means solid. Also, he never really has produced, even when healthy. We should just be using Gillislee and Miller next year. Thomas deserves no work. Gillislee has proven more than capable at the goal line as well.

    • Pygskyn

      Maybe by Solid, he means that Fumbletron has brick-hands and crumbles like old worn concrete with all his injuries.

  • Professor Lou

    I love the line in the running back piece about Thomas “while prone to injury, when Thomas has been healthy, he put up numbers for Miami.” In 2011, he started a whopping 2 games and played in 13 of 16 games due to injury. Last season, he didn’t start a single game and only played in 12 of 16 games due to injury. In his best game last year he rushed for 60 yards on 9 carries but he did have 69 yds against the Jets; on 19 carries! In his best game in 2011 he rushed for 107 yds. He has never had a 100 yd game after that. He rushed for 95 yds a week later and 73 yds later in the season.
    “He’s a valuable as a receiving back”. Again, in 2011, he only had 72 total yds receiving. In 2012, he had 156 total yds receiving. Joe Philbin said it and it’s worth repeating. Thomas needs to stay healthy and he needs to be more consistent. Healthy and consistent are two things we’ve not seen from Daniel Thomas in his two seasons in Miami. He said he wasn’t prepared his first year and came in out of shape and that’s why he had the injury early but he had injury problems last year and was even less consistent. I’m doubting Thomas will stick the entire season here. If he gets hurt again or isn’t holding his own in the running game I don’t think Philbin and Ireland are going to hesitate to release him also. 2nd round pick or not, sometimes you just need to cut the cord.

  • Professor Lou

    There is a running back in camp besides Gillislee who has a shot at taking out Thomas and that back is Cam Marshall. UDFA or not, Marshall is no slouch. He holds the single season td record at Ariz. St. with 18 and has 36 td’s in his last three years there. While he may not seem like much of a threat to Thomas for most he’s definitely someone who can make the 53. He’s got great hands out of the backfield and he’s tough to bring down. Thomas is not a “pounder.” He’s a finesse runner. He was in college and he’s been that way in Miami. Every time they tried to use him to pound the ball he’s gotten hurt. Marshall squats in excess of 525 and can’t be arm tackled around his legs. He runs right thru them. Keep an eye out for this kid. Thomas better do so.

  • Professor Lou

    Here’s a better question to ask. Where does the fullback fit in the scheme of things. This is a fast-paced offense and any team that I can recall who has run a similar offense never used a fullback. So, why waste a roster spot? JMHO

  • Sydney Weaver


  • Sydney Weaver

    For some reason I can only use my daughters tag so I threw in the don to show this isn’t a 13 year old girls opinion. Tag as Todd Weaver

    getting down to business I think our RB situation is only second to Tanhill as must prove something position, along with CB Grimes could change that. But when you look at our RB’s its more like injury, fumble, and hope. These guys have not proven much and they are really going to be thrown to the wolves.

    Hope they pull through because it will make number one issue growth of tanhill and his jumping the pocket issue easier to solve, and will make the line look better.

    We are looking good for once, ton of talent, hope Philbin and Sherman can come up with a more creative balanced o this year. They really babied Tanhill last year. Still think Moore could have done better with that group, but have put that baby to rest.

    To bad we are going to do all this with this sorry logo. Has anyone seen anything that looks good with it on it. Half the time it gets cut off when used in smaller tags. It also feels like we dont have a set color scheme anymore. I have seen variations. Very dull and generic branding. I vote fail and hope it goes the way of the 49′s miscue.

    Go Dolphins! Product on field might actually look better than gear for once. LOL. Bring back the second team logo its all I have been buying for last three years.

  • tpl

    I don’t see Thomas making the team this year. Miller and gillislee, yeah.