Monday, April 28, 2014

Miami Dolphins Confidential Issue 2 "Running Backs"

The offseason goal of every team in the NFL is to improve their team.  The primary wave of free agency has passed. Next up will be the NFL draft followed by the bargain shopping in the free agency after the draft. GM’s and fans alike tend to focus on the new additions to the team when trying to get a feel for how much improvement the team will show.  However, a very important aspect of the success of all teams will hinge on how the players remaining on their rosters from the prior season improve or decline.  We at Bitchin Dave’s thought it would add some intrigue to the offseason lull to have a discussion on where we feel the team is at and where they are headed.

The prognosticators will be Carl “The Ref” Leone and Chad “ The Baumhower” Ronnebaum. We will be having a position by position debate on where the Dolphins ranked in 2013 as well as where we see them ranking at the end of 2014.  We are going to start with our pre-draft rankings and then will update this post draft and probably once or twice prior to the start of season as the final free agent signings and injuries shape the team during training camp and the preseason.

Scale: We are using a 10 point scale to rank where we felt the positions ranked against the rest of league in 2013 as well as where we predict they will rank in 2014.  5 out of 10 for example would mean we rank the unit as about the 15-16th best unit in the league.  10 out of 10 would basically feature pro bowl players at the top of the league and 0 out of 10 would be dead last or the worst unit in the league. Issue Two  will review the running back position.

-Running Back-
                                                                                       Chad’s Take                                 Carl’s Take
2013 Position Rank
3 out 10                                      1.25 out of 10
2014 Prediction
5 out of 10                                  4 out of 10    
Predicted Depth Chart
Knowshon Moreno
+2                                                            +3
Lamar Miller
+1                                                            +0
Daniel Thomas
-1                                                            CUT
Mike Gillislee
+0                                                             +0
Chad: The acquisition of Knowshon Moreno is going to have an impact. He blocks better, runs harder, and catches out of the backfield better than Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller.   He will provide an immediate upgrade to the position.
Carl: He certainly will, Chad.  Just his ability to block in the passing game is a huge upgrade as neither Thomas nor Miller were very good at picking up blitzes.  Let’s face it, when our number 1 running back rushes for only 709 yards, which averages to only 44.3 yards per game, we have issues.
Chad: Lamar Miller is hard to judge. He had to run behind a horrible O-Line. With that being said my take was that he was not willing to lower his shoulder for YAC yards and for a guy with his speed I was surprised to see him get run down from behind (and fumble) by a defensive lineman in the Bengals game.
Carl: He ran for the sideline a lot, Chad. If anything bottled up, instead of just trying to pick up a yard from where he was, he would spin out trying to make a big play and wound losing more yardage. If you have to run east-west in the NFL, you are in big trouble.
Chad: I think you are going to see Moreno on the field for 75% of the plays this year with Miller serving as faster change of pace back. Miller is very young and I think he certainly has the upside to improve at this stage of career.
Carl: I agree Chad. Miller will spell Moreno. Since we only have Knowshon under contract for one year, why not run him to death with 400 carries!!!
Chad: Daniel Thomas will be no more than an insurance policy in case Miller or Moreno gets hurt. I suspect Miami have some running backs they are going to be watching in the rounds 2-4 this year in the draft since Moreno is on a one year deal. If a talented back does fall to Miami in the later rounds, I look for Daniel Thomas to either be traded or cut. All the other backs he will be competing against will be younger and on longer term deals. I think we have seen what Daniel Thomas brings to the table and I doubt we see any great personal improvement.
Carl: Drop him like a hot potato!
Chad: Gillislee will be given the chance to improve as well but I think he is just too slow for his size to be a starting caliber back.  Miller and Thomas did not get it done last year so I have to give the addition of Moreno as a +2 and with Miller’s age I think there is a good chance he will have a better year in the change of pace roll so I give him a +1 to improve.  Daniel Thomas has had continuous problems staying healthy and runs too upright to use his size to his advantage so I can’t give him any points to improve. I think with his history of injuries and concussions I think he is actually more likely to decline in 2014 so I give him a -1. Gillislee’s best chance is to contribute on special teams and I don’t see him improving the running back position this season.
Carl: Wouldn’t surprise me to see us draft a running back, probably in the 4th or 5th round. There are some good backs to be had in the middle rounds. I personally like Charles Sims out of West Virginia. Sort of built and plays like Matt Forte of the Bears. But that’s for another post. All in all, I think our running game was tied to, statistically, the worst O-Line in the league and other than Knowshon, none of them are starters. So with even an average line, we should rush for 1800 yards as a team which would rank us around 20th in the league. I think we will do that at the very least.
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