The Miami Dolphins have a history of fielding a good crop of running backs—from Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris to Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. The Dolphins will now look to field another group of top running backs.
The Dolphins lost leading tailback Reggie Bush in free agency, and will be looking at a young group of players to fill his void.
Head coach Joe Philbin will be looking to finally instill his West Coast offense with the talent Miami has added this offseason and, even though it will be a pass-happy offense, running back is still an important position.
Miami will most likely start out with Lamar Miller as their starter when the regular season begins. He had a full season to get acclimated to Philbin's system and the speed of the NFL. He was used sparingly last season, but did show some flashes that he can take over the starting role.
Miller carried the ball 51 times for 250 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He showed patience behind the offensive line and a burst that allowed him to get to the second level in a hurry. He also showed soft hands as he caught six passes for 45 yards out of the backfield.
What kept Miller off the field was the fact that he really struggled with his pass blocking. Running backs in today's NFL have to be able to contribute even when they aren't running the ball. Miller just wasn't getting the job done in that department.
If he shows improvement in this area during OTA's and the preseason, his name will be written in ink on the depth chart.
Behind Miller, there will be fierce competition between three running backs. Mike Gillislee, Daniel Thomas and Jonas Gray will have a lot to prove in order to fill the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Gillislee was Miami's first pick in the fifth round and was considered one of the steals of the draft. He comes out of Florida showcasing the complete package as a running back at the next level.
He shows speed, burst, soft hands and the ability to block. Gillislee was given his opportunity to shine during his senior season in Gainesville and failed to disappoint. He carried the Florida Gators on his back and was their best offensive player throughout the year.
If Gillislee is able to improve during training camp, he will secure the second spot on the depth chart and may even give Miller a run for his money.
What about Thomas? If anyone has read any of my previous articles you probably know I'm not a big fan of Thomas. That doesn't mean I can't change my mind.
In his two years with the team, he has been plagued by injuries and hasn't shown he can be the leading running back.
During his career, Thomas has carried the ball 256 times for 906 yards and four touchdowns. If you do the math, you can see how many yards per carry that is. If you're not good with numbers (like myself), I can tell you that he has averaged 3.5 yards per carry during his career.
Not exactly what you're looking for from a second-round pick.
With the addition of Gillislee, I think Thomas will be staring up at both Gillislee and Miller in the depth chart. The only thing that will get him on the field is his big body, which the Dolphins could use in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
However, Gray is also a big-bodied back who will be eager to compete for a spot on the roster. As an undrafted rookie last year, Gray spent the whole season on IR after suffering a torn ACL during his senior season at Notre Dame.
The coaching staff obviously saw something they liked if they decided to keep him around all season. He will finally have the chance to get on the field and prove what he's capable of.
I don't think Gray will be competing for the starting spot, but he does have the ability to be used for short-yardage situations.
Depth Chart Prediction
No. 1: Lamar Miller
No. 2: Mike Gillislee
No. 3: Daniel Thomas
No. 4: Jonas Gray
This young group of running backs is still very much unproven, but they have a lot of talent and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.