Miami Dolphins 1st Quarter Grades: Running Backs
By Brian Miller
We continue with our look at each position through the first four weeks of the season and we now move on to the running back position where the Dolphins find themselves surprisingly a top ten rushing team in the NFL.
It started strong for the Miami Dolphins when Knowshon Moreno tore the New England Patriots up in week one. Moreno’s second half was not only physically strong but he led the team on his shoulders. His play alone seemed to ignite a fire in his teammates. Even Mike Wallace took a more physical approach to his game. Moreno without question started the Dolphins running game off on the right track but unfortunately he only played one game and one series before dislocating his elbow. He will not be back until at least week eight of the season.
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With Moreno out the task of toting the rock fell on Lamar Miller and based on Miller’s previous attempts to star as a featured back, it wasn’t looking too optimistic. Miller however exploded and apparently in the little amount of time he watched Moreno, learned a few things. Miller is playing great football right now. He is decisive in his decisions and is not dancing behind the line of scrimmage. More importantly he is reading the defenses correctly and making smart moves with the ball.
Perhaps the biggest change in his game is the ability to not only make defenders miss but he isn’t allowing first contact bring him down. Miller is clawing for every extra yard. The negative? He needs to hold on to the ball. Miller has coughed it up three times in four weeks and one of those was on the half-yard line going in for a score. That can’t continue to happen and he needs to find a better way to hold the ball.
Miller’s game isn’t perfect even without the fumbles. He needs to do a better job in the passing game. He is getting better with his blocking but he needs to improve his receiving skills. The Dolphins are missing a larger opportunity for first downs and continued drives by not getting their running backs more involved in the receiving end of the game.
Another surprise is the return of Daniel Thomas to the team. Thomas didn’t make the final 53 and went unclaimed on waivers then unsigned after he cleared. Maybe that was the wake-up call he needed. With a new number (30) and an apparently new attitude Thomas had done very well in his limited action over the last two games. He is averaging 7.2 yards per carry on about 14 attempts. He isn’t likely going to take over anyone’s job but he is giving the Dolphins positive yardage when they give Miller a break.
Damien Williams came to Miami as an un-drafted free agent. He is doing good for a rookie with his limited action and is showing his potential but he is also showing that he has a ways to go before he is ready for full time loads.
Final grade – A-
What to expect in the next four weeks:
More Miller – With Knowshon Moreno out for another four weeks, according to him, the workload is going to continue to fall on the shoulders of Miller. Miller can run away with the starting job if he can continue his forward momentum and Moreno may find himself the back who spells Miller. Yes, Miller is playing that well and you can’t simply move him aside if that continues. The question really comes down to is this Lamar Miller or is his production the product of a much improved offensive line? The answer lies somewhere in between and that is where you want it to be.
Passing game – I would love for Miami to get their backs more involved in the passing game as receivers. I simply think there are too many options that open with that ability and game planning.
Turnovers – It doesn’t matter if there are three turnovers or two the Dolphins need to stop turning the ball over from their backs. Moreno added one in week one which gives the Dolphins four total on the season. The Dolphins will eventually lose more than field position by turning the ball over. So far they have been pretty lucky that the turnovers haven’t been game costly.