The Miami Dolphins spent a lot of cash money on offensive skill players to help the development of the passing game (aka the franchise, Ryan Tannehill), but the running game has been left in very young and inexperienced hands. Personally I see mega upside in guys like Lamar Miller and Mike Gillislee, but I am underwhelmed with Daniel Thomas and would like to see a veteran added to this mix. The team seems to have faith in Thomas as a guy that can be counted on to get several carries this season, but I see veteran running backs available that I think could add experience and outperform Thomas.
Vonta Leach is the obvious place to start. The veteran fullback is not going to put up numbers that are significantly better than Thomas, but his blocking skills and intangibles are top notch which would be a fantastic addition to the ‘Phins run game. There are a few players on the offensive line who have potential issues with run blocking that they need to improve on so Leach could be very valuable as a lead-blocker for the second-year man Miller and the rookie Gillislee.
As for actual running backs there are veterans like Michael Turner, Kevin Smith, Ryan Grant, Peyton Hillis, and Brandon Jacobs available, but these guys may be more suited to be specialized red-zone threats only at this point. As down as I am on Thomas I would think his upside is on-par with these guys at this stage of their careers.
However, I would love Miami born-and-raised product Willis McGahee to make his way back to Miami. I am not hearing much in the way of this so I worry that the lack of smoke means there is no fire, but I would love to see the former University of Miami star finish his career with the Dolphins.
I feel like McGahee has shown that he can produce in a backfield-by-committee kind of structure so he would fit in to having his carries split with Miller and Gillislee, plus he has shown recently that he can be effective as a pass catcher out of the backfield. I feel McGahee would be a great option for Tanny when he checks down to the RB which the second year QB acknowledges he needs to do more of going forward.
McGahee would have to show that he is recovered from his latest knee issue, but the Dolphins have signed several players this offseason to one-year “show us you are healthy” contracts so why not add McGahee to that list? In his two seasons with the Denver Broncos McGahee averaged 77 rushing yards per game and he amassed 95 first downs. Compare that to the two Miami seasons that Reggie Bush had and we see McGahee could be more productive as Bush averaged 67 rushing yards per game and combined for 83 first downs. Bush did outscore McGahee 12 touchdowns to eight.
I think that the 2013 Dolphins backfield will feature whichever player is providing the best pass-blocking, and that is an area where Joe Philbin and his crew would be very comfortable with McGahee. The veteran is excellent at recognizing blitzes and picking up the extra attacker coming to drop his quarterback.
McGahee will turn 32 during the season so I do not see him as the be all and end all for the Dolphins running game, but I really think he could be an effective factor for the 2013 Dolphins. Leach, for different reasons, would also be a welcome contributor to the ground game. The Dolphins backfield as-is does have potential, but either of these guys are capable of taking things to the next level.