But maybe that's the point. It's time for a youth movement.
Since 2011 Ireland has drafted a running back between the second and fifth rounds, infusing the lineup with young fresh legs and talent. Building a running back core through the draft and undrafted free agency makes sense, especially in the second year of a new system. This allows these backs to grow and learn and for the coaches to weed out those that do not make the cut.
Barring injuries and here are four backs who should make the roster.
Lamar Miller, Age 22
5'11" 218 lbs
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 Draft out of the University of Miami. He is known for his explosive speed and expected to be the opening day starter. He is one of the reasons Bush was not re-signed. Granted, he didn't have a jaw dropping rookie season, but when he touched the ball he was explosive and moved decisively forward. His 2012 stats were the following:
| 13 games | 51 rushes | 250 yards | 4.9 average | 1 touchdown | 12 first downs |
|Here's an interesting stat: 0 fumbles |
Part of his problem last year was his lack of pass blocking skills, which shouldn't be a problem to correct. It could also be argued that he had trouble picking up a new offense, which can be a challenge for some. Here are some highlights of his 2012 season:
As you can see Miller is always moving the chains and should continue to do so. He has also set a goal of 1,500 yards rushing on the season, so there is a lot to get excited about.
Daniel Thomas, Age 25
6'1" 233 lbs
Thomas was drafted in the second round of the 2011 Draft and has not lived up to expectations yet. He has had some injury issues, which I won't fault any player for, but for a back his size he doesn't quite run with confidence. Yes, he is athletic and coming out of Kansas State he was highly productive, but the time is now for him to realize his time on the Dolphins is limited. His 2012 stats were the following:
| 12 games played | 91 rushes | 325 yards | four touchdowns (which, by the way, is his career total) | 3.6 average | 15 first downs |
| He has fumbled five times in his limited action during two seasons |
One thing I read recently which I liked was Thomas feels it's an open competition at running back in response to Miller being anointed the starter. I hope that motivates him to be more than just a backup. Here's some tape to watch from Thomas last year:
Mike Gillislee, Age 22
5'11" 210 lbs
Some mock drafts had Miami taking Gillislee out of the University of Florida in the mid-to-late rounds, which is what Ireland did in the fifth round. His only season as a starter was during his senior year but he made the most of it:
| 244 rushes | 1,152 yards | 4.7 average | 10 touchdowns
He is known for being good at many things. He's quick and agile and good at making defenders miss. He has the skill set to be a solid contributor on the Dolphins from day one. Check him out here:
Marcus Thigpen, Age 27
5'9" 195 lbs
Marcus, signed last year from the Canadian Football League, earned a starting job on special teams and never looked back. His 2012 stats were:
| 38 kick returns | 1040 kick return yards | One kick return touchdown | 26 punt returns | 316 punt return yards | One punt return touchdown |
He is a threat to return it any time and has come into this off season with some lofty goals, including showing up in better shape. Will he be a starter? Probably not. Can he contribute on the offense? Yes he can.
Check out his punt return touchdown:
Jonas Gray, Age 22
5'9" 225 lbs
He spent last season on injured reserve as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2012. In his senior year in 2011 his stats were:
| 114 rushes | 791 yards | 6.9 average | 12 touchdowns |
He was very productive. He has the size to be a power back but he is a year behind and facing competition. Here is a very large video with Gray's tape from college:
Cameron Marshall, Age 21
5'11" 215 lbs
| 2,700 yards | 38 touchdowns |
Here are some of Marshall's highlights from college:
Jorvorskie Lane, Age 26
5'11" 258 lbs
"J Train" was a feel good story in 2012. He was reunited with Mike Sherman, his college coach at Texas A&M, after not even being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 because of conditioning issues. He played hard last year running over defenders, but he is still rough around the edges in the NFL. Currently the Dolphins are pursuing recently released fullback Vonta Leach. If Leach isn't signed I expect Lane to be the starter.
Evan Rodriguez, Age 24
6'2" 240 lbs
Drafted out of Temple in 2012 by the Bears, he was released this offseason due to a series of legal issues. He played in 12 games last season and was targeted 8 times for 4 receptions and 21 yards. He is considered a hybrid FB/TE. If he doesn't work out then it's no big loss.
Charles Clay, Age 24
6'3" 250 lbs
Drafted in the 6th round out of Tulsa. He is a hybrid FB/TE who appears to be better suited to play TE. He's very athletic and versatile, but has had some issues picking up the offense this offseason.
We will see how the preseason shakes out. There is still time before the start of the season, but I like who we have. Let me know what your thoughts are and thanks for stopping by.
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