Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were the feature backs for an offense which ran for 1,440, 26th in the NFL. The two running backs that were previously in the shadow of Reggie Bush suddenly found themselves shouldering the load for the Miami Dolphins. Miller and Thomas showed flashes despite running behind one of the worst offensive lines in Dolphins’ history in 2013, but the duo needs to be more consistent in the future.
The Dolphins rushed for over 100 yards in half of their games this season, including three games with over 150 yards.
Thomas provided the play which gave the Dolphins the spark to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14 in the snow. A 55-yard run with just less than four minutes left in the game to get the Dolphins down the Pittsburgh 16-yard line paved way for the go-ahead touchdown two plays later.
Miller ran for 709 yards in 2013 and showed the ability to finish runs with a shoulder down the stretch of the season. Miller flashed ability to make game-breaking plays when given space, like in the Week 9 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when he took a hand-off 41 yards inside the Bengals’ 10-yard line.
Miller fumbled the ball after the 41-yard run and it was returned 48 yards by the Bengals.
The Dolphins’ offensive line struggled to open holes and allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks. That being said, the two young running backs struggled to break tackles, run physically and finish runs. The Dolphins’ could not get a yard on third or fourth-and-1 too many times in 2013. The lack of physical presence in the Dolphins’ backfield was obvious. Watching Marshawn Lynch run Sunday will show you what the Dolphins lacked in the backfield.
The Dolphins broke the record for franchise-low in rushing yards multiple times last season with a low of just two yards.
Both Miller and Thomas were a liability in pass protection and were a part of the 58 sacks allowed this season.
Opposing defenses too often tackled the Dolphins’ running backs with only arms. The team only scored eight touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line was a disaster and will be rebuilt by new GM Dennis Hickey, but the Dolphins’ running backs are not free of blame and may possibly be upgraded as well.
The Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to replace former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in an attempt to improve upon the league’s 27th ranked offense.
The Eagles were the No. 1 rushing offense in the league last season. The hope is that Lazor, who is expected to work closely with Ryan Tannehill after turning Nick Foles into the top rated passer last season, can implement some of the Eagles’ successful running schemes.
It is also crucial that new GM Dennis Hickey’s offensive line rebuild goes smoothly.
Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins’ short yardage and goal line back for the past couple of years, is actually more of a quicker, agile type running back than his big body would suggest. He possesses similar quickness to the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy. If Thomas can improve his toughness when he gets to the second level of a defense, which he can consistently do because of his agility, then he could break out next season and possibly even take the starter role from Miller.
Lamar Miller is a back who has a similar skill-set to McCoy and could really break out in this new offense. Miller has 4.3 speed like McCoy but may not have the same Barry Sanders-like cutting ability. Can he have the same success as the talented McCoy who led the league in rushing in 2013 with Lazor as OC? If Miller continues to run with the grit that he showed towards the end of 2013 then breaking the 1,000-yard mark next season is definitely possible.
That is of course if the Dolphins’ new management feels comfortable enough with these two backs to not add a free agent running back in a class that is rich with talents like Maurice Jones-Drew and LeGarrette Blount (whose career Hickey jump-started with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).