With the Miami Dolphins in the market for a running back, it would make sense that they would target someone like Maurice Jones-Drew. On Monday, NFL.com reported that the Dolphins, along with a few other teams, had interest in arguably the top rated running back left on the market.
In this article I posted last week, I looked at whether or not Knowshon Moreno made any sense for the Dolphins. I came to the conclusion that he does as long as he is replacing Daniel Thomas and that he would be a good signing if he had to compete for the starting job.
Now, let’s take a look at whether or not Jones-Drew makes sense for the Dolphins by taking a look at some stats and grades courtesy of Pro Football Focus. Of course, these stats and grades don’t tell the whole story. You need to look at film and really know what’s going on with schemes and such to understand how well a player has played.
Last season, Jones-Drew played in 664 snaps and had an overall grade of +3.9. His rushing grade was -5.7 and his pass block grade was +6.5. By the way, he allowed zero QB hits, sacks, and hurries. His pass blocking efficiency? It was 100 percent and good enough for the best in the entire league. The next closest player was Frank Gore at 98.1 percent.
While Pro Football Focus doesn’t always tell the whole story with grades and stats, one of the grades that do tell a lot of the story is the elusive rating. Jones-Drew averaged 2.21 yards after contact and created 26 missed tackle attempts by the defense. His overall elusive rating was 30.3 percent. Miller had an average of 2.06 yards after contact and created 20 missed tackle attempts. His elusive rating was 23.3 percent.
While Jones-Drew is better than Miller in this category, they both rank towards the bottom of the league. It’s clear that Jones-Drew has lost a step as he gets more mileage on his legs. His instincts and ability to understand the nuances of the game allow him to still be effective when running at the line of scrimmage and beyond.
Let’s take a look at breakaway percentage, which is the percentage of yards that come on runs of 15 or more yards. Jones-Drew graded out at 25.3 percent. Out of 234 rushing attempts, he had seven runs of 15 or more yards for a total of 203 yards. In comparison, Miller had a breakaway percentage of 26.9 percent out of 177 snaps and had seven runs of 15 or more yards for a total of 191 yards.
Miller has a better percentage but this one is skewed a little because he only had 177 rushing attempts while Jones-Drew had 234. If you were to give Miller 57 more rushing snaps, it would probably bring his percentage down a few points.
It’s clear that Miller has much better speed than Jones-Drew. However, who has better vision for the field and can create more opportunities for a breakaway run? That would have to go to Jones-Drew. You can have all of the speed in the world but if you can’t play the game the right way, it means nothing. Does Clyde Gates ring a bell for anyone?
The one thing that bothers me though is that I don’t think Miller has been given a fair chance to show what he can do. With the worst offensive line in the NFL last year and the worst in franchise history, how could anyone have run behind that line? While Miller hasn’t really shown any huge flashes of greatness, he will be entering his third year and could be primed for a breakout year. Does signing a veteran like Jones-Drew stunt Miller’s development?
That will be the question that general manager Dennis Hickey and head coach Joe Philbin have to ask themselves. While Jones-Drew is a clear upgrade over every running back on the roster, is he worth the long-term investment to give up on Miller after two years? With other teams in the hunt, the Dolphins will have to pay him a contract that warrants him starting over the next several years.
It should be interesting to see which way they go. If they sign Jones-Drew, it signals that they don’t have confidence that Miller can become the running back they envisioned when they drafted him.