Miami Dolphins: Daniel Thomas

The Miami Dolphins continue their busy offseason.

Let’s open the mailbag and see what’s on the mind of Dolphins fans.
Former Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had blemishes on his record before getting fired in January. But one of Ireland’s most consistent problems was constantly missing on quality second-round draft picks.

The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s worst track records for drafting players in the second round in recent years. It is one of the primary reasons Miami hasn’t made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons.

It’s easier to nail first-round picks, especially for non-playoff teams. But the winning franchises are those which also can take advantage of the second round, where there are annually first-round talents still available.

Miami’s recent list of second-round picks have been a disappointment. Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin (2012), running back Daniel Thomas (2011) and quarterback Pat White (2009) were among Ireland’s most infamous second rounders.

Even linebacker Koa Misi (2010), who has developed into an average starter, was taken several spots ahead of New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. Imagine the potential power shift in the AFC East had the Dolphins drafted Gronkowski in the second instead of the Patriots?

It will be up new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey to reverse Miami’s second-round misfortune. Hickey has an extensive background in college scouting and will be expected to thrive in his first draft in Miami. The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick in the first round. But the second and middle rounds are also vital if Miami aims to get over the hump and end its five-year playoff drought.

It’s been a while since Miami hit big on a second-round pick. Is the team finally due in 2014?
The Miami Dolphins invested $3 million this season in tailback Knowshon Moreno to boost their 26th-ranked running game. Due to his production last season and experience, Moreno is projected to be the Week 1 starter in Miami.

Moreno
But former longtime Indianapolis Colts general manager and ESPN analyst Bill Polian is not impressed with the signing. Polian graded Moreno as a “C” free agent.

Here were Polian’s comments on ESPN.com’s free-agent tracker:
“Solid contributor, but not a No. 1 back. I think most of his success from 2013 was a function of the system. His acceleration to the hole is the reason for the speed minus. The rest of his game is good, he just doesn't hit the big plays you need from a No. 1 RB.”

As Polian mentioned, many believe Moreno was a product of Denver Broncos’ system. He was a former first-round bust until future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning arrived in Denver. Those same large running lanes will not be there in Miami.

The Dolphins are expecting Moreno to be their No. 1 option to help third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas could not get the job done last season. Miami is hoping at least one of those two players will improve their game in a complimentary role.

It was a tough free-agent market for running backs. Moreno is coming off a career year where he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Moreno said he only talked to the Dolphins before signing a one-year contract last week.
Knowshon Moreno is in at running back for the Miami Dolphins. Moreno signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Miami and projects to be the immediate starter coming off a career season with the Denver Broncos.

But who is out at tailback for the Dolphins? That is the next question to consider as Miami and first-year general manager Dennis Hickey moves forward with his roster.

The Dolphins now have a full group of tailbacks that includes Moreno, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee and Marcus Thigpen. Not all five tailbacks are going to make the 53-man roster.

The most the Dolphins would keep is four running backs. Moreno and Miller, last year's starter, are locks. Thigpen has versatility as Miami's primary kick returner and also experimented a little at wide receiver. Position flexibility is important to Miami third-year head coach Joe Philbin, and that could help Thigpen stick.

Most likely, Miami would have to choose between Thomas and Gillislee. Thomas is a former draft bust who never lived up to his potential. He was a second-round pick by former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland in 2011. But Thomas' career high is 581 rushing yards during his rookie year. Gillislee didn't get to show much his rookie year in 2013.

It will be a healthy competition at running back, both for starting roles and to make the roster. Moreno, who rushed for 1,038 yards last season, is clearly an upgrade in the starting lineup. But adding Moreno pushes someone out on the back end.
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins made some headlines late last week with their visit with free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno. However, Moreno's visit Friday concluded with the tailback leaving without signing a contract.

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said at the NFL's league meetings Monday that Miami hasn't closed the door on Moreno.

"Free agency is ongoing, so we have talks," Hickey said. "We’ll continue to go through [it] and continue dialogue and see where it goes from there."

It has not been a strong market for running backs this offseason. Miami was Moreno's first reported visit. He's coming off a career year where he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns for the AFC champion Denver Broncos. However, much of the credit went to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning creating wide open rushing lanes for Moreno.

The Dolphins are searching for a boost to their 26th-ranked running game. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer last season. Moreno also would provide an upgrade in pass protection against the blitz. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last year.
The Miami Dolphins will host free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno on Friday. The Dolphins have had an interesting offseason by signing several quality veterans.

Will they add Moreno to the mix? Here are thoughts on what Moreno's visit means for Miami:

    Moreno
  • Moreno's visit means the Dolphins finally admit they are searching for an upgrade at tailback. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas did not get the job done last season as Miami was ranked 26th in rushing. Most of the blame can be pointed at the Dolphins' poor offensive line, but Miller and Thomas also didn't do their part to elude defenders or break through tackles. The Dolphins need a more dynamic player in the backfield in 2014. It can come via free agency or the draft.
  • There are reasons why Moreno isn't a hot commodity thus far in free agency. For starters, the market for running backs has cooled tremendously in recent seasons. Ben Tate, the best tailback on the market, recently got a modest contract from the Cleveland Browns. There also are questions over whether Moreno's career year in 2013 (1,038 yards, 10 touchdowns) was a product of Peyton Manning. There were a lot of open running lanes last season in Denver. Moreno was on his way to being a first-round draft bust until Manning arrived. Can he produce similar results if, for example, Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback?
  • Pass protection was a huge issue for the Dolphins last season. Miami's tailbacks failing to pick up the blitz contributed to the Dolphins setting a franchise record with 58 quarterback sacks allowed. One of Moreno's strongest assets is his pass blocking. He did a good job the past two seasons recognizing and picking up the blitz for Manning. Extra time for Tannehill to throw the football always is a good thing.
It appears many Miami Dolphins fans are happy with the first week of free agency. The team addressed needs at left tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback and safety.

But that doesn’t mean the Dolphins should be satisfied. Over the weekend, we asked Miami fans what position should be next in line to fill.

According to more than 7,000 Dolphins fans who voted, right tackle is the most important hole to fill. This is a spot left behind by Tyson Clabo, who is a free agent, and Jonathan Martin, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers following last year’s high-profile bullying scandal. More than half of Dolphins fans who participated in the poll believe that's where the team should spend next in free agency.

In second place is running back. The Dolphins were 26th in rushing last season and Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas did not get the job done. Miami could be in the market to find a new rusher via the draft or free agency.

In third place was the guard position. Miami signed Shelley Smith from the St. Louis Rams but still need another starting guard. Thanks to everyone who voted.
The Miami Dolphins have addressed several needs in free agency, such as left tackle, safety and cornerback. However, the tailback position remains up in the air after Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas failed to get the job done last season.

How will the Dolphins address their 26th-ranked running game? Here are several options:

1. Maurice Jones-Drew

Pros: Jones-Drew is a proven veteran who still may have something left in the tank. He rushed for 803 yards last season on an awful Jacksonville Jaguars team. There’s a good chance Jones-Drew could put up stronger numbers with a better team if he can stay healthy.

Cons: Jones-Drew’s best years are behind him. He’s 29 and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last season. Jones-Drew is at the stage where many running backs hit the wall. Signing him would only be a short-term fix.

2. LeGarrette Blount

Pros: Blount, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a connection to general manager Dennis Hickey. He is a power runner the Dolphins lack and could fill a need. Signing Blount also would take something away from the New England Patriots, who are the favorites once again to win the AFC East.

Cons: Blount had a strong year but most likely was a product of New England’s system. Blount rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns. But it’s a lot easier to run when future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is the quarterback. The passing threat of Brady created plenty of open rushing lanes for Blount.

3. Knowshon Moreno

Pros: Moreno is coming off a career year where he rushed for 1,038 yards. He just completed his rookie contract and doesn’t have a lot of tread on the tires. He also has winning experience after playing in the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

Cons: Moreno is not a feature back. Similar to Blount, much of his success was a result of open running lanes created by the threat of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the passing attack. Moreno never lived up to his potential of being a former first-round draft pick and is only a complementary piece to the puzzle. That’s not what the Dolphins are looking for. Miami already has two complementary tailbacks in Miller and Thomas.

4. NFL draft

Pros: There is a chance for good value at tailback in this draft, which is what the Dolphins like. Miami won’t draft a running back in the first round because of bigger needs. But the second- and third-round options are solid. Names like Carlos Hyde, Tre Mason and Bishop Sankey come to mind for the Dolphins.

Cons: There are no stars or guaranteed fixes in this draft. No running back is projected to go in the first round. The Dolphins would have more youth and inexperience at this position if they addressed it via the draft. Miller and Thomas are young and unproven, as well.
The Miami Dolphins have several well-defined needs entering free agency and the draft. Getting a running back who can handle the load should be on the team’s radar. Miami was 26th in rushing last season and Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer.

One potential solution is for the Dolphins to wait until the second round of the NFL draft to select a running back. This is not a top-heavy class at the position. But there are some opportunities to get good value at tailback after the first round.

Miami holds the No. 50 overall pick in the second round. Here are several quality college tailbacks who could be available in May:

1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

2013 stats: 1,521 yards, 15 TDs

Analysis: Hyde is the highest-rated tailback in this draft, but he’s not projected to go in the first round. In terms of production and ability, I think he’s a steal for any team that selects him in the second round. Miami’s second-round pick may not be high enough to get the Ohio State product. But Hyde fits the Dolphins because he’s a burly back who is tough inside the tackles. He also has soft hands for a power runner.

2. Tre Mason, Auburn

2013 stats: 1,816 yards, 23 touchdowns

Analysis: Auburn has had a long line of successful tailbacks, and Mason is the next Tigers rusher entering the draft. His production is off the charts, and he nearly led Auburn to a national championship. On the flip side, one concern is Mason ran the football a lot in college and lost some tread on the tires. Mason has shown good vision and acceleration as a runner. The Dolphins need more big plays from their running game.

3. Jeremy Hill, LSU

2013 stats: 1,401 yards, 16 TDs

Analysis: Like Hyde, Hill is another big bruiser who has ideal size for the next level. He's durable, competitive and runs hard -- all things the Dolphins need in their backfield. However, Hill enters the draft with a lot of character issues that will drop his stock. He is reportedly on probation until next January. That may be enough to scare new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey away, unless Hill drops to the middle rounds.
MIAMI -- With more than 20 restricted and unrestricted free agents, the Miami Dolphins will have plenty of cap room to make roster additions in 2014. That means there won’t be a ton of trimming.

But here are five players who should be nervous as new general manager Dennis Hickey re-examines the roster. All cap numbers are provided by the Roster Management System.

Martin
1. RT Jonathan Martin

2014 cap number: $1.304 million

Analysis: There is little chance of Martin playing another down with the Dolphins. That came directly from the mouth of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross last week. Martin, who was involved in a high-profile bullying scandal this past season, has two years left on his contract. Miami will do all it can to trade Martin. But the most likely route is to release the former second-round draft pick and eat the relatively small cap hit.

Chance of being cut: 99.9 percent

2. CB Dimitri Patterson

2014 cap number: $5.4 million

Analysis: Patterson is an interesting case for the Dolphins. He is a good player and makes an impact when healthy. But his durability has been a major question throughout his entire career. A groin injury forced him to miss 10 games in 2013. Patterson could become a cap casualty. It’s hard to justify his kind of salary, especially when the Dolphins also have to spent a lot of money to re-sign free-agent cornerback Brent Grimes.

Chance of being cut: 80 percent

3. LB Koa Misi

2014 cap number: $2.328 million

Analysis: Many were surprised when Misi received a four-year, $17 million contract extension from former general manager Jeff Ireland during last season. Misi wasn’t having a great year. He finished with 54 tackles and two sacks. Miami’s linebackers underachieved overall, so expect Hickey to take a firm look at this group. Misi’s cap number isn't astronomical. That could make him a potential target to trim the roster this offseason.

Chance of being cut: 50 percent

Thomas
4. RB Daniel Thomas

2014 cap number: $1.029 million

Analysis: Thomas is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He’s mostly been a bust since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season, which was a career high. Thomas is inexpensive and could be the odd man out if the Dolphins add a top running back via the draft (Carlos Hyde) or free agency (Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew). Starter Lamar Miller will stick and 2013 draft pick Mike Gillislee may get another shot to show if he has potential.

Chance of being cut: 35 percent

5. LB Philip Wheeler

2014 cap number: $6.4 million

Analysis: The Dolphins were really high on the Wheeler signing last year. But Wheeler didn’t make the impact plays to justify the five-year, $26 million contract. Miami’s run defense was horrible at times due to poor linebacker play. Still, Wheeler finished second on the team with 118 tackles. With Wheeler’s high cap number, I think he will get at least one more year to prove he can be an impact player. But with a new GM, Wheeler should be a little nervous.

Chance of being cut: 20 percent

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 33-36

January, 30, 2014
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ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues to rank the top-40 players on the team.

Next up, we take a look at Nos. 33-36.

No. 36: Nate Garner

Position: Guard

2013 stats: Six starts

Analysis: Garner is Miami’s most versatile offensive lineman. He’s the only player on the team that can play all five positions on the offensive line, which is his biggest strength. That is the kind of versatility head coach Joe Philbin and his staff covets. However, Garner is not great at any particular one position. That prevents him from starting long-term.

No. 35: Derrick Shelby

Position: Defensive end

2013 stats: 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks

Analysis: Shelby took advantage of a strong training camp to earn a spot in Miami’s defensive-line rotation. But his regular season was mostly mediocre. Shelby is a decent technical player but doesn’t have a very high ceiling. Still, Miami’s coaching staff trusted Shelby more in 2013 than rookie No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan, which was evident by Shelby’s higher snap count.

No. 34: Daniel Thomas

Position: Running back

2013 stats: 109 carries, 406 rushing yards, four touchdowns

Analysis: Thomas, a former second-round pick, averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and has been mostly a draft bust. He had plenty of opportunities behind starter Lamar Miller. Neither proved they couldn’t handle the load. Thomas had one big game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in inclement weather, but the rest of his season was underwhelming.

No. 33: Nolan Carroll

Position: Cornerback

2013 stats: 47 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks

Analysis: With Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes on the other side, Carroll was picked on often last season. Sometimes Carroll held his own, and other times he allowed big plays. But Carroll did show some improvement in 2013, accumulating a career-high three interceptions and two sacks. He’s just not full-time starter material.

Walker's Dolphins Draft Watch: 1.0

January, 23, 2014
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The NFL draft is months away. But it's never too early to discuss how the Miami Dolphins must improve their roster.

There will be months of evaluations, workouts and stocks going up and down among college players. But here are ESPN.com's Dolphins page's early top five matches for Miami with the No. 19 overall pick.

1. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both free agents. Jonathan Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, also is not expected back following Miami's recent bullying scandal. That makes a first-round tackle like Kouandjio a target for Miami. It's hard to go wrong with an Alabama offensive lineman. Alabama's run blocking and pass protection has been arguably the nation's best for the past three years, and Kouandjio was part of that.

2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Analysis: Miami's running game was 26th in the NFL last year. Hyde is the top running back prospect in the draft. It's a natural link. Hyde was productive for Ohio State last season with 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a big, physical runner, which Miami lacked last year. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer for the Dolphins last year.

3. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Analysis: Martin doesn't have the physical gifts of Kouandjio. But Martin gets the most of his ability and fits the mold of a "Joe Philbin guy." He's a hard worker and former team captain at Notre Dame. Martin may have position versatility to play guard at the NFL level, as well. The Dolphins' coaching staff values players who are good at multiple positions.

4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting safety Chris Clemons is an unrestricted free agent and replaceable. The Dolphins need a playmaker on the back end to pair with Reshad Jones, and Clinton-Dix has that potential. Clinton-Dix has good instincts, awareness and also can cover well, which the Dolphins lacked at safety last season. Re-signing corner Brent Grimes and drafting Clinton-Dix would make for a stronger secondary for Miami in 2014.

5. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Analysis: If you can't tell by now, the Dolphins need offensive tackles. Moses is another prospect with potential, but he's more of an unfinished product than Kouandjio and Martin. Moses may be better suited at right tackle than left tackle. But it doesn't hurt that Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was part of the coaching staff that recruited Moses to the University of Virginia.

Periodically, we will update this with our 2.0 list as we continue to get closer to the NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. While the initial hype included Lazor’s experience working with quarterbacks and the passing game, a big question is whether he can improve Miami’s 26th-ranked rushing attack.
Thomas
Lazor helped previously unknown Nick Foles go from a backup quarterback to a Pro Bowler this season. But a little-known stat is Philadelphia’s offense actually led the NFL in rushing last year under Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Lazor certainly picked up some pointers from Kelly’s offense and the successful running game that he hopes to bring to Miami.

“When you come off of a season like we did where we were the leading rushing team in the NFL. We had the leading rusher. We had the highest-rated passer. We were able to be an explosive offense,” Lazor said last week. “Certainly a lot of things that led to that are going to have a great impact on what I believe works going forward.”

Miller
The Dolphins can do a better job in personnel this year to help Lazor. Miami relied on inexperienced former draft picks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to carry the load. In fact, the Dolphins only spent $2.412 million of their cap last year on running backs with Miller, Thomas and 2013 fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL last season in money spent on running backs, according to the Roster Management System.

Miami has resources in both the draft and free agency to upgrade the running-back position. Big names in free agency include Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Potential draft targets include Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and James White of Wisconsin. White will play in the Senior Bowl this weekend.

Miller and Thomas were not the answer in 2013. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins upgrade at running with a new offense and offensive coordinator in 2014.
The Senior Bowl practices are underway in Mobile, Ala.Unless you're the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks, this is the biggest thing going for NFL teams this week.

The Miami Dolphins have their scouts and personnel department in Mobile. Here are five college prospects the Dolphins can have their eye on:

1. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Thoughts: The Dolphins desperately need offensive linemen -- and particularly offensive tackles. Miami starters Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both free agents. Jonathan Martin also is expected to be traded or released following the team's bullying scandal. That makes a big tackle prospect like Moses attractive. It also doesn't hurt that Moses has ties to new Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was part of the coaching staff that recruited Moses to Virginia.

2. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Thoughts: Martin is an experienced left tackle who has good leadership and started 52 games in his career. He's played in many big games and shouldn't be afraid of the big stage. Martin doesn't have the same physical gifts as Moses but brings a lot of intangibles. He may also offer versatility as a guard, which is also a position of need for Miami.

3. James White, RB, Wisconsin

Thoughts: White had a productive year in the rugged Big Ten conference. He rushed for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns for Wisconsin, which is a school known to churn out quality running backs. White also is a Ft. Lauderdale native and would be happy to return home. Although not huge, White is durable and productive.

4. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Thoughts: The Dolphins have yet to hire a general manager. But there is a decent chance that new GM will take a flier on the quarterback. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has done enough to earn a third consecutive year as a starter. Tannehill has some tools and potential. But Tannehill was a top pick of former GM Jeff Ireland, not the new GM. It wouldn't be surprising if Miami's next head of personnel takes a mid-to-late round quarterback of their own to develop on the roster.

Dolphins position breakdown: RBs

January, 13, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record in 2013. That means there will be plenty of questions of how to improve this offseason.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page continues its roster evaluation by taking a look at Miami’s running backs.

Under contract in 2014: Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Marcus Thigpen

Free agents: None

Analysis: The Dolphins have a lot of running backs, but not a lot of answers. Lamar Miller didn’t make the most of his first year as the full-time starter. He rushed for just 709 yards and averaged 44.3 yards per game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami’s new general manager looks for an upgrade via the draft or free agency. Former second-round pick Daniel Thomas (406 yards) also is looking like a bust. Mike Gillislee, a 2013 fifth-round pick, was mostly inactive last year and still has a lot to prove. Marcus Thigpen is the team’s primary kick returner and could keep a similar role in 2014.

Walker’s stability meter (1 to 10, 10 being most stable): 3

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