On Thursday, the Miami Dolphins signed Knowshon Moreno to a one-year contract worth $3 million. With that signing, the Dolphins now have a crowded backfield with Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee and Marcus Thigpen. Of course, the Dolphins will not enter the season with five running backs when you count Moreno. With that said, who is the odd man out going into the 2014 season?
Let’s start with Miller, who was drafted two years ago by former GM Jeff Ireland. Miller has similar stats compared to Moreno. However, the areas where Moreno is better in is his field vision, breaking tackles, pass protection and catching passes out of the backfield. That does not eliminate Miller though. With Reggie Bush here when Miller was drafted, everyone expected him to learn and break out in year two. However, with the offensive line the Dolphins had last year, how can one fairly judge Miller?
To further confirm that fact, head coach Joe Philbin spoke to the local media the other day and had heavy praise for Miller, calling him a complete running back and possessing every skill that a team seeks for that position. This leads one to believe that Miller will be competing with Moreno for the starting job in 2014.
How about Gillislee? Unless Philbin and GM Dennis Hickey are completely baffled by Ireland’s pick, I do not expect the Dolphins to give up on Gillislee so quickly. In the short time he played last year, he actually showed some flashes of being a solid back. Philbin doesn’t like to play rookies their first year if the need isn’t there. Gillislee didn’t need to play, so he sat back and learned from the others. Expect Gillislee to have a bigger role in the offense this year.
As for Thigpen, it’s possible that he is gone before the season begins. Thigpen has shown some flashes of greatness during kickoff and punt returns, but he hasn’t been nearly consistent enough. Towards the end of last season, the Dolphins also began using Thigpen out of the backfield to catch passes. However, with Moreno now in town, that duty will most likely fall on him.
With returning kicks and punts now Thigpen’s only asset, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins move on from him, especially if they end up drafting a running back in the draft.
Thigpen isn’t the only one in danger though. Thomas is the one who is most likely to be cut or traded before the season begins, and it could happen in the very near future. Thomas was drafted in 2011 and has not shown much of anything during that time. The one thing that was keeping him on the roster was his size and his perceived ability to be the guy in short-yardage situations. As we saw last year, he struggled to get much of anything going in all situations. Moreno is basically the same as Thomas, but much better. Thomas should be very worried right now.
By signing Moreno, the Dolphins definitely upgraded the position. I expect Moreno and Miller to compete for the starting spot, and no one should be surprised when Moreno wins it. If the Dolphins are in a position to draft a running back in a spot where they don’t have to reach, I would expect them to do so in the middle rounds. This makes it very possible that the Dolphins will have a much different look at the running back position going into the 2014 season.