Thomas Running With A Purpose

Posted Nov 23, 2012

Physical second-year running back learning more nuances.

His college alma mater might have fallen from the top of the rankings, but Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas is trying to make his own climb back after a promising rookie season.

Taken in the second round out of Kansas State in the 2011 NFL Draft, Thomas has proven to be a nice compliment to veteran running back Reggie Bush in the backfield while also developing his pass blocking skills. At 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, he is more of a power runner than Bush in between the tackles but he has also shown a quick burst once he gets through the hole and starts to accelerate.

Thomas has had an added impact on Miami’s passing game as well by softening up the middle of opposing defenses with his hard running. That has not been lost on his teammates at the receiver position.

“When he runs that hard it helps us a lot because they’ve got to play honest,” said wide receiver Davone Bess, who is second behind Brian Hartline with 48 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown. “Obviously, in the past they’ve been putting eight guys in the box and making an emphasis to do it, so as long as he keeps running and doing his part it’s just going open things up in the passing game.”

As a rookie, Thomas appeared in 13 games and led all AFC rookies with 581 yards on 165 carries and made two starts. He missed a few games due to injury and has missed two games this season following concussions, but he wound up leading the Dolphins with 12 carries in the loss at Buffalo last Thursday night.

This is Thomas’ second head coach and second offensive coordinator in as many years so he had to prove himself all over again in training camp and the preseason. There is even a bigger emphasis on pass protection under Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, so Thomas took that to heart and has made great strides.

“I want to be an every-down back and not just be on the field for two plays and come out, so I wanted to be able to protect the quarterback,” Thomas said. “I knew we were going to throw the ball a lot this year so that’s one of the things I wanted to work on. I’m a whole lot better in pass protection now because I’m attacking the guys now. Last year I waited on them a lot and last year against Denver I remember missing a block and it ended up costing us the game pretty much, so that always stuck with me and I didn’t want that to happen again.”

Tight end Anthony Fasano has been impressed with how far Thomas has come both as a blocker and a runner and is pleased to see him and Bush develop into a formidable duo.

“He’s always run the ball hard and he’s impressive the way he can cut and find holes,” Fasano said. “He’s just gotten better and better since he’s been here and I think he and Reggie compliment each other well. The O-line has to be a little bit more consistent for both of them but it’s definitely a nice combination when they get it going.”

Considering the fast start he got off to as a rookie, Thomas’ path to where he is at now turned out to be an intriguing one. He rushed for 107 yards on 18 carries in his NFL debut against the Houston Texans in Week 2 and then followed that up with another 95 yards on 23 carries at Cleveland the next week. He also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass against the Browns.

Thomas missed two of the next four games and didn’t make his first NFL start until Week 9 at the Washington Redskins, when he joined Bush in the backfield. Now the two are rarely in the backfield together, but Thomas is clearly running with more confidence.

“I definitely feel a little more comfortable as a runner and have adjusted to the speed but we’ve got to start producing more in the running game,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to continue to get better and having Reggie back there with me has helped a lot. I’ve picked his brain a lot last year and this year and he’s like another coach. He’s taught me how to be patient and he’s very encouraging as well.”

By season’s end, Thomas hopes to have further established himself as a go-to running back for the Dolphins.

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