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’.