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2014 Positional Breakdown: Running Backs

Posted Jan 27, 2014

Youth was the theme in the offensive backfield.

Once the Miami Dolphins decided to part ways with veteran running back Reggie Bush during last offseason it became clear that the onus for producing on the ground was going to fall on the shoulders of a crop of youngsters.

Second-year running back Lamar Miller and third-year running back Daniel Thomas were the two primary backs tasked with providing a balanced attack in front of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Rookie running back Mike Gillislee was drafted in the fifth round of the University of Florida for depth and a change of pace and Marcus Thigpen, the team’s punt and kick returner, was given an expanded role out of the backfield.

Throughout the 16 regular-season games there were flashes of the potential this group had, with Miller breaking off some long runs, Thomas running hard inside and also showing the ability to escape and break tackles and Thigpen and Gillislee able to make small contributions at different times.

The group combined for 1,440 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns while catching 49 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Their best overall games were at New England with 136 combined yards between Miller and Thomas, 143 combined yards between the two against Cincinnati and 181 at the Pittsburgh Steelers with 56 rushing yards from Tannehill.

BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS RUNNING BACKS

• Lamar Miller (5-10, 218) — Throughout training camp, the preseason and the regular season the Dolphins’ coaches were hoping Miller would break away from Thomas in the competition and establish himself as the number one back. He showed that potential at times with performances like the one he had against the Bengals on Halloween night when he rushed for 105 yards on just 16 carries and led the team with 709 yards and two touchdowns on 177 carries, but wound up staying in a shared role for the most part with Thomas.

• Daniel Thomas (6-1, 233) — Thomas matched Miller’s best effort with 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries at Pittsburgh and set up the game-winning score with a 55-yard run – all on a bum ankle. He proved his toughness by coming back from what looked like a season-ending injury and scored six touchdowns (four rushing and two receiving) while rushing for 406 yards on 109 carries in 15 games.

• Marcus Thigpen (5-9, 195) — Prior to the start of training camp, Thigpen publicly expressed his desire to be more involved in the offense at running back and as a receiver, delivering in Miami’s biggest win of the season over the New England Patriots in Week 15. He caught the game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill out of the backfield and finished the year with eight catches for 97 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run at New Orleans, while adding 18 rushing yards on six carries.

• Mike Gillislee (5-11, 208) — Gillislee had a tough time cracking the active roster on game days as a rookie and managed to dress for just three games, making his NFL debut in a 23-3 win at the New York Jets on December 1st. He rushed for 21 yards on six carries and almost scored his first career touchdown on a 3-yard run that was ruled inches short of the end zone, so the ceiling for his development is still high enough to warrant a good look in his sophomore year.

The Dolphins opted to go without a traditional fullback in 2013, lining up tight ends Charles Clay and Michael Egnew in the backfield at times in that role, but they did keep a hybrid fullback/tight end on the practice squad in rookie Emmanuel Ogbuehi out of Georgia State. Rookie running back Cameron Marshall from Arizona State was the only other backfield member on the practice squad.