Dolphins must explore options at tailback

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
1:30
PM ET
The Miami Dolphins need to retool their 27th-ranked offense, and running back is one of the biggest questions on that side of the football.

Tailbacks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas did not get the job done in 2013. Neither player stepped forward as the primary ball carrier, which provided many frustrating weekends for Dolphins fans.

Miller, who was expected to have a breakout year, rushed for 709 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas, a former second-round pick, rushed for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Both appear more suited for complementary roles off the bench, not as a full-time starter.

So where could the Dolphins look to upgrade? Here are some initial thoughts:
  • There will be some interesting names hitting the free-agent market at tailback. Two intriguing options who I think are potential fits for the Dolphins are Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both are powerful runners who can carry the load. Tate may be the most expensive option. He’s only 25 and doesn’t have much wear and tear. Jones-Drew will be 29 in March and is approaching the age where running backs often decline.
  • It’s always risky talking draft before the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. But let’s take a very early look at this year’s running back class, which isn’t very top heavy. The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick, and Ohio State tailback Carlos Hyde could be an early possibility. Miami has other needs, such as guard and offensive tackle. But picking at 19, the Dolphins must be flexible and consider various options. Miami also could look to the later rounds to add a running back.

Miami will have solid salary-cap room this offseason. So it would be surprising if the Dolphins stay put at running back with Miller and Thomas next season. Look for Miami to add another option into the mix to improve its ground game.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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