Moving on from the quarterback position, we now focus on the position that has slowly become unimportant in the eyes of organizations, the running back position. Sometimes it's hard to wrap our heads around this, considering that the Dolphins ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and total yards rushing for the season; the Dolphins only ran the ball 40.14% of the time, ranking them 24th in the league in Run/Pass ratio.
Think about that for a second. Despite running the ball just barely over 40% of the time, the Dolphins still managed to rank 12th in the league in rushing, and with a below-average offensive line leading the way. That's incredible considering the circumstances and the apparent preferences for the team.
A lot of people are saying that the Dolphins need to draft a running back in the early rounds of the 2015 NFL draft because of the lack of depth. But is this really the case? Let's analyze the players currently on the roster and see what the Dolphins have in-house.
For the first time since 2011, the Miami Dolphins have a running back who was able to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in Lamar Miller. The player who did it before him? Reggie Bush. Wanna know something else? Get ready for this. Both Miller and Bush had the exact same amount of carries in their respective 1,000 yard seasons. They each ran the ball 216 times, crazy huh?
When Reggie Bush was first allowed to go sign with Detroit, I was devastated. Reggie was grossly misused by the coaching staff and was a weapon that teams needed to actually gameplan for, and the Dolphins dismissively let him go because they said they had faith in the young speedster named Lamar Miller. I liked him too, but not enough to let Reggie go. Now, I take it all back.
This season, Lamar Miller has proven he has the ability to be a very good running back in the NFL, rushing for 1,099 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also rushed for 8 touchdowns. The one thing holding Miller back from being an exact duplicate of Reggie Bush is his ability to catch the football out of the backfield. Miller has a tendency to make mistakes catching the football, but even that is improving.
Miller didn't appear to be on the pathway to greatness when the season started though, in fact he looked pretty anemic running the football. It was only after free agent running back Knowshon Moreno went down in the week two game against the Buffalo Bills that Miller stepped up and showed what he was truly made of. It's possible that Moreno potentially taking his starting job away gave Miller the kick in the butt he needed to really get going, but regardless of the how, the fact is it happened, and now we know Miller can handle being the top rusher in Miami.
There is one issue though, and the issue isn't even his fault. While Miller did manage to get his first 1,000 yard season, he did so only averaging 13.5 rushes per game. Round it up and you get 14, round it down and you get 13, either way the number needs to go up in 2015. The Dolphins are always preaching balance when it comes to their offense, so it's time they practice what they preach and give Miller more touches, because ranking 24th in Run/Pass ratio does not speak to balance.
A surprise free agent signing that at first seemed odd since players like Maurice Jones-Drew and LeGarrette Blount were available, Knowshon Moreno didn't really give a good impression at first since he came into training camp out of shape and also banged up; it appeared that the Dolphins had wasted money on someone who wouldn't be able to contribute simply because he wasn't ready to play.
But then when Moreno made his debut against the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason, Moreno got the fanbase excited with his powerful running style and the energy he brought to the football field. This trend continued in the regular season opener when Moreno ran rampant against the New England Patriots defense when he ran the ball 24 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, and was one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins were able to shock the world and put it on notice.
But then the initial fear regarding Moreno came true, and he wound up getting hurt for the next few weeks with an elbow injury. Luckily, Lamar Miller was able to step up and take Moreno's place (when he was allowed to, that is) and showed that he could be the number one guy in Moreno's absence.
Then when Moreno came back, he was still hurt and got the ball six times and only ran for 10 yards, as the Packers defense somehow was able to shut down the Dolphins run game for the majority of the game. Moreno then found out that he had actually torn his ACL, which he wasn't even aware of at first. He walked off the field under his own power and simply never came back. That was weird. Off to injured-reserve he goes.
The issue with Moreno is that he obviously has the talent to be a bruising back, which the Dolphins desperately need. However, he has injury concerns. The question now becomes is he worth bringing back based on the risks that he comes with? Well, unless the team can bring in a different bruising back in free agency or can find a power runner in the middle of the draft, then the answer, to me at least, is an emphatic yes.
Moreno is coming off a big injury, and for that reason, he won't be able to demand a lot of money unless a team is willing to make a huge (and borderline foolish) gamble on the thought that he would last a whole season. Depending on the price tag, Moreno can be a low-risk, high-reward running back who - as the Dolphins players say - plays like a man possessed when the game is on. For someone like that, I'm willing to take another chance. Bring him back.
Oh Daniel Thomas, how you've managed to stay in Miami for so long is beyond all of my understanding. The former second round draft pick has never been able to live up to the expectation of his draft status. He was supposed to come in and be a big bruiser, but he somehow always found ways to get tackled...by the grass.
Thomas has been around for four years now, and he's averaged only 3.6 yards a carry. Once in a blue moon, such as the 2013 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thomas was able to make a big play and show a glimmer of the talent that he was supposed to bring with him from college into the NFL, but never enough to actually warrant his staying.
So somehow, Thomas has been able to stay on the team for three and three-fourths years...yes I did use a fraction. Believe it or not, Daniel Thomas was actually cut during the final cuts of training camp. The experiment was finally over! Thomas was gone! The team could finally move on with more promising young talent and put the Thomas thing behind them.
Then Moreno got hurt, and the first person the team went to for help was Daniel Thomas. He's baaaaaaack! The fans revolted, or at least I did. Thomas was thoroughly unimpressive in training camp, unimpressive in the preseason, but all this was par for the course for his first three years in the league. So of course at the first sign of trouble, you bring him back. Sure, why not?
To be fair, I can understand the logic. Thomas was already well-versed in the ways of the Dolphins offense and understood how it all worked, whereas a new player would have to come in and learn the playbook. And to be honest, Thomas actually wasn't that bad when he returned at first, maybe getting cut was what gave him that swift kick in the butt he needed to get himself going...why does that happen with so many players?
Of course, Thomas soon went back to his old self, and once again showed why we cut him in the first place. He doesn't have speed going for him, his power-running ability is average at best, perhaps the only thing he has going for him is he's the best pass-blocking running back the Dolphins have, but Lamar Miller is catching up in that regard. I've ranted enough about him. Is Thomas worth bringing back? No. Move on. He wasn't worth it last year, he isn't worth it this year. Please Miami Dolphins, MOVE ON.
The "New Toy" as my colleague Chad Ronnebaum and I like to call him, has the potential - I feel - to be a star in this league. However, his numbers in his rookie year don't exactly reflect that statement. While he played in all sixteen regular season games, he only got to run the ball 36 times for 132 yards, averaging 3.4 yards a carry.
But what's interesting about Williams isn't necessarily his ability to run with the ball. Except for one isolated incident with a dropped deep ball...which would've been for a touchdown...ahem, anyways...Williams has shown a propensity for making catches out of the backfield. He caught 21 passes for 189 yards, one of which went for a touchdown. His receptions averaged out at 8.9 yards a catch, that's pretty good for an undrafted free agent.
What truly makes Williams an intriguing player is the fact that I feel he can be compared to another elusive receiving back: Darren Sproles. Although Williams towers over Sproles (Sproles is only 5'6"), he has shown a similar ability to evade tackles, while adding a little extra strength to break tackles more effectively than Sproles.
Williams and Sproles recorded similar 40-yard dash times (Williams ran a 4.45 while Sproles ran a 4.47), so you can tell Williams has speed, and Williams has proven that he can make people miss with his spin moves. I see a fire in his eyes to be great, and I firmly believe he can and WILL be great. But he needs the chance. Hopefully, he gets increased snaps next season and will be allowed to be the weapon I feel he can be. The Dolphins very own young version of Darren Sproles. KEEP HIM.
He was brought in for...no reason? I honestly cannot think of any reason as to why the Dolphins brought in LaMichael James after he was granted his release from the San Francisco 49ers. Oh, I know what the theories were, James was pretty good at returning kicks and punts, and supposedly he was going to show up and do punt returns for wide receiver Jarvis Landry since that's where he struggles...but that never happened.
James has speed, he ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash, and he did put up decent numbers when given the chance with the 49ers. He averaged 4.5 yards per rush on 41 carries and had five receptions for 45 yards. But in his limited time with the Dolphins, James only ran the ball 5 times for a measly 9 yards. Oh, and he let an easy pass his way fall to the ground.
James has potential, that much is true, and maybe what James needs is a full training camp with the team to get really acclimated to the playbook. But if James intends to make an impact with the Dolphins, he'll have a long road ahead of him since Damien Williams has proven more than he has in less time.
He's a former Florida Gator, and in the eyes of some, that already earns him some points. But unforutnately for Gillislee, he hasn't really panned out since being drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL draft. In his Senior year at Florida, Gillislee broke out and ran for 1,152 yards on 244 carries, 10 of which went for touchdowns.
But again, Gillislee has struggled at the NFL level. The main criticism of Gillislee is that he looks really good...until the pads come on. Once that happened, his explosiveness vanished and he became just another guy. Then when Gillislee finally started making progress in training camp this season, he got hurt and found himself on injured reserve.
It's not looking good for Gillislee right now as far as his future is concerned, but he'll be brought back to take one more shot at making the roster next season. He has the talent, but so did Daniel Thomas, and that didn't work out so good either.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater