Dolphins GM suggests timeshare in backfield

8/15/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Miami Dolphins 2012 rushing leader Reggie Bush was an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but general manager Jeff Ireland had no problem letting him take his electrifying open field ability up to Detroit. The reason Ireland let Bush become a Lion without putting up a fight was because of Bush's two backup running backs from last season - Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

Blog Photo - Dolphins GM suggests timeshare in backfieldLaDainian Tomlinson recently referred to Miller as a "faster and more explosive" version of Bush, and it seems that the Dolphins' coaching staff feels the same way. Miller is also physically bigger than Bush, which helps both from a standpoint of punishing tacklers as well as staying healthy.

While fans are not quite as high on Thomas, reports suggest that the Dolphins are. The 2011 second-round pick looks slated to handle short yardage duties and be Miller's primary backup, but recent words from Ireland suggest he could be even more.

"I don't think it's just going to be Lamar's position," Ireland said Wednesday. "We've got a good running back in Daniel Thomas that's certainly making some noise."

Maybe Ireland is just trying to save face in an effort to cover up the fact that his former second-round pick is a bust, but if he genuinely believes that Thomas deserves a legitimate share of the backfield duties, he is sorely mistaken. Not only has Miller been very impressive throughout his short career (4.9 yards per carry as a rookie in 2012, 6.8 YPC through two preseason games), but Thomas has been very ineffective (3.5 career YPC, 3.0 YPC through two preseason games).

Miller is the superior runner, and the Dolphins would be shooting themselves in the foot by taking carries away from him so that Thomas can "make some noise." Ireland's comments shouldn't be taken too seriously - when the Dolphins take the field Ireland will be a spectator and the coaches will be the ones distributing the carries. From what I've heard out of the coaches, there has been no indication that Thomas will get significant carries, and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman even said that he wants a running back who can "do it all," which Miller probably can.

It is worth noting, however, that Thomas has only received 4.0 rushing attempts per preseason game. That is a number that generally indicates that the coaching staff has plans for the player during the games that matter.

While Ireland believes that both Miller and Thomas will have breakout campaigns, the former is the only one likely to burst onto the NFL scene this year.

I'd advise fantasy owners to draft Miller as they normally would, but it would be wise to keep track of what is coming out of Dolphins camp and how the workload is distributed in the preseason (particularly in the Dolphins' fourth preseason game). Even if Thomas does start the season as a factor in the backfield, if he plays like he has over the past two years, Miller will be the feature back before long.
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