Despite recently signing RB Knowshon Moreno to a deal, the Miami Dolphins are seemingly still open to adding more talent to the running back stable the team already has. Along with Moreno Miami also has third-year RB Lamar Miller, fourth-year RB Daniel Thomas, and second-year RB Mike Gillislee.
Last season, the trio of Miller-Thomas-Gillislee gained 1,136 yards on 292 carries, which is a decent 3.9 yard per carry average. The trio ran behind a mediocre offensive line which surrendered the most sacks throughout the entire league at 58. Did I mention that Mike Sherman was also calling the plays?
Adding Moreno to the mix is definitely a start, along with adding a stalwart left tackle in Branden Albert, a decent guard in Shelley Smith, and some depth with T/G Jason Fox, a former Miami Hurricane.
But is the problem the backs? Or is the true issue the offensive line woes?
Miller was the clear cut favorite out of training camp last year, but struggled at times finding little room and struggling to hold on to the football at key moments. Thomas, on the other hand, was supposed to be the short-yardage back. That idea didn’t last too long. Neither player had a chance to stay consistent and impress on a regular basis due to the lack of blocking up front.
Let’s skip the Thomas talk and shoot straight for the Miller conversation. I had a knowledgeable fan ask me, “Is Lamar Miller the real deal or is Miami looking for an upgrade?” I had to think about it for awhile.
Miller, who possesses the speed to run away from anyone at this level, really lacks the ideal frame for an NFL running back, but has the upside to become a true number one back. The former Miami Hurricane took a step forward last season, but was never able to produce on a consistent basis. He struggles with vision, ball security, and elusiveness. On the other hand, Miller has the speed to kill at this level, which makes him a threat every time he touches the football.
New offensive coordinator (I love saying that) Bill Lazor will likely attempt to get Miller the ball in a variety of ways this season to get him into the open field, which will allow his speed to take over. Think of what Philadelphia did last year with LeSean McCoy. The team made him the focal point of their offense feeding him the ball out of the back field on hand-offs and quick screen/swing passes. Miller can provide a similar skill set for Miami’s offense if used properly.
Where does Moreno factor in? Moreno will likely be the team’s third-down back and pass pro back, which is his specialty. Moreno will be the thunder to Miller’s lightning. I would expect the carries to be split similar to the way they were last season between Miller and Thomas. That being said, Miller will not be handed the starting gig. He will have to earn it by beating Moreno, Thomas, Gillislee, and anyone else the team brings in for that number one back role.
Is Miami interested in drafting a running back this year? The consensus thought is that the team will be open to drafting a running back if the value is there when they are on the clock. A few backs that Miami is interested in are Auburn’s Tre Mason, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, LSU’s Jeremy Hill, Boston College’s Andre Williams, Towson’s Terrance West, FSU’s Devonta Freeman, and could be interested in backs such as Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Georgia Southern’s Jerrick McKinnon, FSU’s James Wilder Jr., UCF’s Storm Johnson (who played a season at U of M with Miller) and Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney.
The team is clearly interested in adding a bigger, bruising style running back who possesses #1 back potential (which is why you see names such as Mason, Freeman, and such on there). Hyde and Hill are two interesting players who could be had in the second or early third round. Both possess the ability to be a #1 bell-cow, but they both have question marks about speed, mental drive, weight, and off-the-field concerns. Hyde would probably be the top choice out of the list as he possesses clear #1 back capabilities and would be a nice selection at 50 if he remains on the board (that is if Jarvis Landry and Tiny Richardson are both gone).
Williams and West are two others who interest me on the list of confirmed backs Miami has interest in. Williams, who lit the college football world on fire last season winning games on his own seemingly for BC, has been compared to Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins in that he runs pissed off and has the bruiser mentality to his game. West, on the other hand, is a lesser known prospect who is gaining some steam right now. His stock is on the rise and has the body to become a lead back for a team at the next level.
If Miami does not opt to grab one of the top backs this year, look for the team to select one in the 2015 Draft, which is absolutely loaded with #1 backs, that is if they do not find their guy this season (Miller, Gillislee, Moreno, Thomas (HA), or a rookie).
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