The Miami Dolphins were absolutely pitiful running the football in 2013. Ranking 26th in the NFL at the ground-and-pound game, running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were incapable of providing franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill with an adequate running game. Outside of the offensive line being lackluster themselves, allowing an NFL-high and franchise-record 58 sacks in 2013, the offensive unit gave little to no support to Tannehill.
Because there was no running game, there was no selling the run, which means opposing defenses consistently played the pass against the Dolphins and it eliminated any threat of the them running play-action. If there is no threat in the running game, why would teams bite on play-action fakes? Play-action fakes and throwing outside of the pocket were such a huge part of Tannehill’s game in his rookie season that he actually led all AFC East quarterbacks in passer rating when throwing outside of the pocket in 2012.
The team has $36 million to spend in 2014, which is the fifth-most cap space of any NFL team entering free agency. The Dolphins will address the running back position through the draft and/or free agency. Though running back is the easiest skill position to develop in the pros, the Dolphins would be wise to add a veteran running back through free agency. Though a rookie running back like Auburn‘s Tre Mason could have a 1,000-yard season in his rookie year and have no problem running the football, understanding the nuances of a pro offense is a different story.
This is where a veteran running back such as Denver Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno comes into play.
Being a great runner and a great running back are two different things. While rookie running backs don’t normally struggle running the football, they struggle in terms of the other responsibilities expected out of a running back. Those responsibilities would be protecting the quarterback, catching the football out of the backfield, and recognizing blitzes on pre-snap reads. Moreno is great in all three of those categories, plus running the football.
Pro Football Focus recognized Moreno’s versatility as a running back, and named him top free agent running back of 2014.
The Broncos’ running back ranked in the top five in rushing touchdowns (13) and receptions (60) this past season. Though it may be true that Moreno’s performance was boosted by the presence of quarterback Peyton Manning, there is little doubt that Moreno has proven that he can be a starting running back in this league. If the Dolphins sign Moreno and pair him with either Miller or a rookie running back through the draft, the Dolphins’ offense would immediately take a step in the right direction.
Moreno’s ability to run, receive and protect the quarterback cannot be matched by any running back in this free agency class or the draft class itself.
The Dolphins have $36 million to spend this offseason, and they need to spend some of that to bring Moreno to South Florida.