Is Knowshon Moreno an Upgrade for the Miami Dolphins?

By Matthew Cannata
Knowshon Moreno
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On Friday, running back Knowshon Moreno visited with the Miami Dolphins. Although he left without a signed contract, the possibility remains that he will sign one with the Dolphins within the next few days. While a visit usually is just a player and organization feeling each other out, it seems to be more than that with the Dolphins. To be more specific, every player with the exception of D’Qwell Jackson that has visited with Miami this year has ultimately signed a contract with them. This includes players such as Branden Albert, Earl Mitchell, Louis Delmas, Cortland Finnegan and Shelley Smith.

While Moreno, who is 26-years-old, is a hot name, many have stated that he wasn’t any good until Peyton Manning came to the Denver Broncos and opened up the offense. Indeed, this is mostly true when looking at his grades. According to Pro Football Focus, he had an overall grade of -4.0 his rookie year in 2009. His pass block grade was 1.4, but allowed no QB sacks. In 2010, his overall grade was -4.2 and pass block grade was -2.2, while allowing one QB sack. He was injured most of the 2011 season, but in 2012 when Manning came, his overall grade jumped to +6.4. His pass-block grade remained pretty much the same at 1.0, allowing only one QB sack. In 2013, his overall grade was +6.7 and his -0.7 while allowing one QB sack.

Notice that I really emphasized the pass block rating. That is because I believe that is one of the most overlooked skills in a running back. Sure, a running back needs to pick up yards and break tackles but when your team doesn’t have a good offensive line, it’s hard to do that. A running back’s success isn’t solely determined on their own ability – it’s dependent on many factors around them.

Last season, Moreno was involved in 80 pass-blocking scenarios and had a rating of 19 percent. He allowed one sack, three QB hits and three QB hurries. His pass blocking efficiency was 93.1 percent, which was 10th best out of 22 running backs who participated in 60 percent or more of the team’s pass blocking snaps. Interesting enough, Lamar Miller had a pass-blocking efficiency of 95.5 percent and only allowed two sacks. This was good enough to have himself rated seventh best in the league and Daniel Thomas had a pass blocking efficiency of 91.8 percent while allowing three sacks. He was rated 19 out of 22.

With this in mind, is Miller better than Moreno? I think it’s fair to say yes because Miller only participated in 16 less pass-blocking scenarios. However, when you talk about Thomas, it becomes a different story. That’s why the only way Moreno would be a true upgrade is if he replaces Thomas on the roster.

Let’s take a look at breakaway percentage, which is the percentage of yards that come on runs of 15 or more yards. Moreno was graded at 25 percent. Out of 241 rushing attempts, he had 13 runs of 15 or more yards for a total of 259 yards. That was good enough to be rated 13th best in the league out of 22 for all running backs who took 60 percent or more of their teams rushing snaps. In comparison, Lamar Miller had a breakaway percentage of 26.9 percent and Daniel Thomas had a breakaway percentage of 21.2 percent.

Again, Miller had a better percentage, but this one is skewed a little. This is because Miller only had 177 rushing attempts and Thomas only had 109 while Moreno had 241. If you were to give Miller 64 more rushing snaps, it would probably bring his percentage down a few points. However, there is no disputing again that Moreno is a clear upgrade over Thomas.

While Moreno would be a nice upgrade to the running back corps, it doesn’t solve the primary problem, which is the offensive line. Last year, even some of the best running backs couldn’t run through that line. With a new offensive line coach in John Benton and a new offensive coordinator in Lazor, the Dolphins will be bringing some new wrinkles in to help their players succeed.

If Moreno is brought in, it should only be on the condition that he replaces Thomas on the roster. The Dolphins should still draft a running back in the middle rounds and let Miller, Moreno, Mike Gillislee and the rookie battle it out.

Matthew Cannata covers the Miami Dolphins for Follow him on Twitter @PhinManiacs. Like him on Facebook, and add him to your Google Network.

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