I recently wrote an article on how the Miami Dolphins needed to fix their running game in 2014. Let’s be a bit more clear on what the Dolphins need to do in order to fix their running game issues: they need to add a running back in the offseason, whether through draft or free agency.
The Dolphins ranked 26th in rushing yards in 2013. Miami’s starting running back, Lamar Miller, ranked 26th in rushing yards on the year with 709 yards. Even worse, Miller ranked 36th in the league in rushing yards per game. He averaged just 44.3 yards per game in 16 games played (15 starts). It’s safe to say Miller was one of the least productive starting running backs in the NFL, if not the least productive.
As far as Daniel Thomas, Miami’s third-year running back who was drafted with a second-round selection in 2011? He is a lost cause. Thomas, at his very best, is a goal-line and short-yardage back. In 2013, Thomas averaged just 3.7 yards per carry on 109 attempts. That was his career-best average in a single season. He has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry through his three-year career.
Yes, you can point to the lack of stability along the offensive line for why the running backs performed below expectations, but this is not just a matter of underwhelming performance backed up by below-average statistics — both players did not show the ability to succeed as starting running backs, period.
In the case of Miller, he is still young. At just 22 years of age and entering his third season, there’s still hope for him to develop into a quality back, whether that’s in a starting role or a complementary one. In his rookie season of 2012, he displayed glimpses of being able to shoulder the load for the Dolphins.
This was a large reason for why Miami allowed incumbent starting running back Reggie Bush to walk in free agency in the 2013 offseason. Miller has the speed and the perfect compact size (5-foot-10 and 216 pounds) to be a viable back in this league, but he is still a big question mark as far being able to shoulder the load as a starting back at the NFL level.
As for Thomas, the former second-round draft selection won’t succeed as a starting back or a complementary one. He is a specialty back that can be utilized in the short-yardage running game due to his size (6-foot-1, 235 pounds).
The free agency running back class isn’t impressive this year, but it has some solid names. Knowshon Moreno, Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden are just some of the worthwhile names. The Dolphins would be wise to look at these three names in free agency.
In the draft, the Dolphins may go with an offensive lineman with their top selection. However, there’s little doubt that running back is of their highest priority after offensive linemen. Names such as Tre Mason, Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman will be entering the 2014 draft, and none of those backs are likely to go before the second round.
The point is clear: the Dolphins need to address the running back position. It is considered the easiest to fill and develop of any skill position on offense, which is why the Dolphins need to add a running back through the draft or free agency in 2014.