Time to continue our breakdown of the positional battles taking place in training camp this year and focus on the running backs. With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both looking like they’ll be playing elsewhere in 2011, there are plenty of carries and yards that must be accounted for by the rest of the group.
There are several new faces at the position, but none bigger than Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas.
Bush comes to the Fins after five years in New Orleans and he arrives with plenty of fanfare. One of the biggest names in the NFL, it’ll be interesting to see how Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll use him. A tremendous threat catching the ball out of the backfield, you’ve got to figure that they’ll pick their spots with Bush and find different and creative ways to get the explosive playmaker the ball.
Thomas, meanwhile, is a horse. Listed at 6’1 and 228 lbs., he certainly passes the “eye test.” A big strong guy with good speed and athleticism, the rookie looks like he could be a carry-the-load kind of back for the Dolphins. Don’t forget that he was a quarterback in junior college and that he ran some Wildcat for Kansas State while he was there. I certainly expect to see some of that.
Of course, with the new CBA, we’ve yet to see Bush practice yet and the same can be said for Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets, both of whom re-signed with Miami but cannot practice until tomorrow. I expect big things out of Hilliard. The fact that this team has kept him around for as long as they have makes me think they’ve got a plan for him. Sheets, meanwhile, is exceptionally fast and could be a factor on special teams in addition to the offense. He received a lot of attention early in training camp last year before suffering the Achilles’ injury that ended his season.
Finally, there’s Nic Grigsby, the un-drafted rookie out of Arizona. Because Bush, Hilliard, and Sheets have all had to watch from the sidelines, Grigsby has gotten an early opportunity to get practice reps. It’ll be interesting to see if that experience is something that helps him make this team.
Overall, there is definite depth for the Dolphins in the backfield. If the group stays the same (and I wouldn’t guarantee that it does), I’d expect Thomas to get the bulk of the carries. He handled the ball a TON at Kansas State and I don’t see any reason why that will change in Miami. Bush and Sheets will be the change of pace guys, while I’d expect Hilliard to stay involved one way or the other.
If the offensive line can help open things up and the running backs can improve their yards per carry, I expect big things out of this group in 2011. If the Dolphins are to be successful offensively, they’ll need to run the ball, and it looks like they’ve got some pretty good options at the position.
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