First off, I want to say a Happy Father's Day too all the Dads out there, especially mine. Thank you for all your love and support. I would not be where I am today without you. Now to football!
The RB position for the Miami Dolphins is one of, if not the, deepest position on the roster. With the way the NFL is now, rarely do you ever the "featured back" like the Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch's of the league. These days, teams use the "platoon" type system, with multiple RBs that do different jobs. With that being said, lets take a look at the the RBs for the Miami Dolphins
Lamar Miller 5'11" 215 lbs
Lamar Miller, the 4th round draft pick last year out of the University of Miami, is slated to be the starter early on in this offseason, and, from the looks of it, has established himself as that starter with his good performances in OTAs and Minicamp. Miller has been compared to, the former starter in Miami, Reggie Bush, Clinton Portis, as suggested by NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, and even to former Eagle Brian Westbrook, by yours truely. Miller is fast, explosive, shifty, and a good pass catcher. This video here against the Raiders showcases his running abilities . There were a couple of reason why he did not see very much playing time last year. One is that he was behind Reggie Bush, two he was not good in pass protection, and three Daniel Thomas was the 3rd down back because he was good in pass protection and was a good goal-line RB. With a full NFL offseason to get stronger, work on his game, and master the playbook, look for him to be much improved and be even closer to his set goal of 1,500 yds than most people really think. The only things standing in his way from be a successful NFL RB is his health, which had some question marks coming out of college, which is why he dropped the 4th round, his offensive line and the possibility of them not gelling or injuries occurring, and finally, him not actually living up to all superb abilities that he has. Overall, I think that Miller has a great chance to be, if not great, a really good RB in the NFL. His goal for this year is 1500 yards and 20 TDs, which is quite ambitious. Although they are pretty lofty goals, you cannot deny his hunger to be great. I would say a more realistic goal for him would be 1100-1250 yds with 8-10 TDs. He has all the ability in the world, he just has to put everything together, which he is fully capable of doing, if he stays healthy.
Projected Depth Chart Position: Starter
Projected Stats for a winning season: 1100-1500 yds 8-12 TDs; 200-300 yds receiving 1-2 TDs
Projected Stats for a losing season: 600-900 yds 4-6 TDs
Daniel Thomas 6'1" 233 lbs
Injuries plagued Daniel Thomas' second year in the league, especially the two concussions he suffered in week 1 and week 5. Going into last year, Thomas was expected to really share the load with Reggie Bush, and so, as a result, expectations were high for him. Thomas has good speed, can run with power when he keeps his pad level down and is motivated, and has a good jump cut in and out of holes. This offseason he has been rehabbing a knee injury he suffered at the end of the season, but all the reports coming out OTAs and Minicamp, his knee is doing well and he will definitely be fully healthy for Training camp. Expect Thomas to be much improved this year, especially in his ball security issues (3 fumbles, 2 lost on only 91 carries). His projected roles this year will be a reliable pass blocker, short down back, and goal line back. He should have an increased role this year, but the question is, will he overcome his injury issues and fumbling problems? Those are the big questions he needs to answer, and if the running game for the Miami Dolphins running game is going to succeed this year is going to succeed, he is going to need to play a bigger role than he has in his previous two years in the League.
Projected Depth Chart Position: Spell RB 3rd RB and Goal line RB
Projected Stats for a winning season: 400-500 yds 5-6 TDs
Projected Stats for a losing season: 200-300 yds 1-3 TDs
Mike Gillislee 5'11 208 lbs
Rookie Mike Gillislee, drafted in the 5th round, is a good all-purpose back, but is not great at any one thing. He has decent speed to get around the edge, good vision to choose the correct hole, and good cut back ability to break off a run when the run blocking breaks down. He was drafted to push Daniel Thomas, and he has enough talent to possibly to take the backup job from Thomas. Even though he did not get good playing time until his senior year at Florida, he took full advantage of it gaining 1152 yds and 10 TDs on only 224 carries. Mike Mayock of NFL Network said of Gillislee, "I think he's an underlooked, bigger back who does everything well with not one spectacular trait. He'll help out his teammates. He catches the ball well. The Senior Bowl opened my eyes on this kid." With a RB like Mike who is good a everything, running, catching, and pass blocking, he could become a integral part of this Miami Dolphins rushing attack this season, that is already looking for formidable than it was last year.
Projected Depth Chart Position: Spell RB and occasional 3rd RB
Projected Stats for a winning season: 300-400 yds 2-3 TDs; 200-300 yds receiving
Projected Stats for a losing season: 100-200 yds 0-1 TDs
Marcus Thigpen 5'9" 205 lbs
Marcus Thigpen, return extraordinaire, surprised many people last year by just simply making the 53 man roster, but he proved to be a very valuable piece to the roster. He turned a lot of heads with his 1040 yds and 1 TD returning kicks, and 316 yds and 1 TD returning punts, but his expectations for this year are even higher. He has his sights set for Devin Hester's return TD record. With his goals in mind, he has put on some muscle this offseason, going from 195 lbs last year to 205 this year, so that he is more durable and explosive that he was last year. But he is not just looking to be a return man only. He said earlier in the offseason that he wants to push for playing time as a RB, not just a returner. That is also why he put on 10 lbs of muscle. To be able to play RB. Whether or not he takes some carries away from Miller, Thomas, and Gillislee remains to be seen, but if he can get 3-5 TDs returning kicks and punts, he would be doing excellent, regardless if he gets carries or not. Look for him to improve on a good year last year, and to contribute even more.
Projected Depth Chart Position: KR-PR, gadget RB, and occasional slot WR
Projected Stats for a winning season: 500 yds 1-2 TD PR; 1200-1500 yds 2-3 TDs KR
Projected Stats for a losing season: 200 yds 0 TDs PR; 800-900 yds 0 TDs KR
Jonas Gray 5'9" 223 lbs
Jonas Gray, from Notre Dame, started the year on the PUP list and ended it on the IR rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered during his final year in college. He is very muscular at 223 lbs, especially being only 5'9, but also has decent speed, running a 4.58 40 yd dash. Not very much is known about Gray because of his injury, but there is clearly some talent there, otherwise why keep him? Because he was a rookie last year and saw no playing time on the field, he is still eligible for the Practice Squad and looks as if he could eend up there this year, assuming he does not pull off a huge upset and make the 53 man roster. Baring multiple injuries in Training Camp or during the season, do not expect Gray to see any playing time once again this season, but be looking for his performances during the Pre-Season, as he could be poached by another team in need of a RB. This is all assuming he is fully healthy from his ACL tear.
Projected Depth Chart Position: Practice Squad or Released
So, with contributions from Miller, Thomas, Gillislee, and possibly Thigpen, look for an improved rushing attack this year, as Philbin and Mike Sherman (offensive coordinator) look to help the second year QB Ryan Tannehill this year keep the opposing defenses honest and prevent them from stacking eight in the box against the run. An effective ground game should open up the passing lanes for Tannehill, which in return, opens up running lanes for this talented group of RBs the Dolphins now have. The future is bright for these young RBs (Miller 22, Thomas 25, Gillislee 22, Thigpen 27, and Gray 22), and if they can put it all together, the Dolphins offense will be very hard to stop.
Look for my next article as I analyze the TE/FB positions.
Have questions or suggestions? Email me at sethAfisher07@gmail.com or tweet at me @PhinsBlogger13