Dolphins Running Backs Pose Durability Concern


It’s something that head coach Joe Philbin knows all too well.  Running-back durability.  It was an issue he had in Green Bay and an issue he will have in Miami.  In the north, Philbin was dealt blows to his running unit with injuries to Brandon Jackson, James Starks, and Ryan Grant.  Some were minor dings while others missed significant time.  In Miami, Philbin will once again keep an eye on a unit that has a history of injury.

Last years Miami Dolphin leading rusher, Reggie Bush, almost completed his first full season of play before missing the last weekend of the NFL’s regular season.  Prior to his arrival in Miami, injuries and durability were a concern in New Orleans.  Despite the banner year of on-field production and health, Bush still has an injury history to his name.  Another season of not missing time will go a long way to alleviate that.

Bush is an important part of the Dolphins new west coast style of play.  A productive receiver out of the back-field and as proven last season, a reliable every down back who can take it outside or between the tackles.  Bush says he wants to lead the NFL in rushing this year.  Not likely.  In this system, the running back is featured but not to the point he will post those types of numbers.  For the Dolphins, and for Bush, staying healthy should be priority number 1.

While Bush enters a contract season, Daniel Thomas enters his sophomore season.  Dinged up to the start the 2011 season, Thomas never really got into the NFL flow.  His numbers were modest at best.  While he posted over 550 yards (581), his 3.5 yards per attempt average was none to thrilling.  Nor was his longest run of 28 yards.  While it’s safe to say that missing all of last years OTA’s hurt, and the late start of training camp did him no favors, the fact that he could never stay fully healthy all season is a concern.

Thomas won’t enter the season being a major injury issue if his off-season work goes well and his conditioning is much better at the start of camp, but he will be expected to contribute in this offense and in order to do that, he needs to play healthy and not banged up.  He showed flashes in week 2 and week 3 last season but the hamstring injury sidelined him until the 6th week and he only added 400 yards the rest of the way and scored no rushing TD’s all season.

Jerome Messam was thought to be another gold nugget found out of the Canadian Football League by Jeff Ireland.  That will have to wait as Messam had his second knee surgery in five months shortly after the rookie mini-camp.  Messam is a bruising runner but will be sidelined much of the off-season and it’s unlikely that he will be an impact on the team in 2012.  The bigger question is whether or not the Dolphins keep him around if he is healthy enough to play but misses the entire off-season of workouts.  The RB unit is a little stacked right now and some of these guys will not have a roster spot.  With injury a concern already for most of the RB roster, Messam could be out before he gets started.

Lamar Miller would have likely been a top second round maybe a late first rounder in this past April’s draft.  Instead, a shoulder injury dropped him to the 4th.  Miller will take quite a few hits on that shoulder in the NFL and the Dolphins will keep an eye on whether or not it becomes an issue.  For Miller, a player who plays similar to Reggie Bush, the Dolphins might be hoping that he will develop quickly allowing the team to make a better determination on Bush’s future.

Miller is explosive and dynamic.  In the WCO, he should flourish in open spaces and become a solid out of the back-field target for whoever is the Dolphins starting QB, if of course he stays healthy.  Of all the top runners on the team, Miller’s history of being injured is less of a concern.

Steve Slaton‘s 2009 campaign was cut short when he injured his neck that put him on IR, in 2011, it was his hamstring that held up in the off-season and eventually leading to his release from the Texans.   In other words, if the Dolphins do in fact keep him on the opening day roster, Slaton’s history with injury will be something to keep an eye on.  Slaton is due to make 700K this year but the Dolphins will take zero cap hit if they release him prior to week 1.  With the arrival of Lamar Miller, Slaton is looking like a long shot, barring of course injuries to other players.

Teams have players at every position who have been injured at one time or another.  When looking at a team as a whole, it often is an afterthought unless that player is a major contributor.  The Packers for example lost very little when their running-backs went down with injury, plugging in the back-up the following weekend.  In Miami, the Dolphins are loaded with talent at the running-back position but every one of them comes with a history of injury and each of them also are going to be expected and relied upon to make major contributions to this years offense.  How well they hold up physically will be as important as the numbers they put up on the stat sheets.  Or the TD’s they put up on the scoreboard.