Daniel Thomas Era In Miami Needs To End
By Joe Scumaci
If you are a die-hard Dolphins fan and younger than 30, you have seen some good running backs don the aqua and orange this last decade or so.
Lamar Smith carried us to the Dolphins' last playoff victory in 2000 against the Indianapolis Colts. Ricky Williams "smoked" defenses to a rushing title and a solid career in a Dolphins uniform up until its abrupt ending. Then there was the Ronnie Brown era. A do-it-all back that helped implement the "wildcat" formation into the NFL. Before these guys were the Karim Abdul-Jabbar's, Mercury Morris' and Larry Csonka's of the world that were successful running backs for the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins of 2013 and the last few years haven't had that running back they can hang their hat on. The Reggie Bush era ended before it really got started and it is clear the Dolphins did not utilize his skill set correctly, as he showed flashes of being an All-Pro back through 5 games with his new team, the Detroit Lions.
That leaves second-year running back Lamar Miller and 2011 second-round pick Daniel Thomas at the front of Miami’s rushing attack. Miller has the raw talent to be a good half-back for many years in this league, but still needs a full year or so of games under his belt (101 career carries) before the Dolphins can turn the reigns over to him full time. So that leaves us with Daniel Thomas and his career 3.5 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns in 30 games.
Thomas mainly took a back seat to Bush during the 2011-2012 campaigns and his seasons have been cut short due to head injuries. Thomas’ role is similar this year as he is called upon in pass protection and to be a change-of-pace back for the blooming Miller. Thomas has been ineffective and has left much to be desired on the ground this season and throughout his career frankly. He's averaging a career low 2.6 yards per carry and has looked noticeably slow at times.
The biggest gripe to be had with Thomas is when he is called upon in short-yardage situations, he has not gotten the job done.
Gone are the past seasons of Jorvorskie Lane and Lousaka Polite, two bruising fullbacks that Tony Sparano loved to hand the pigskin on 3rd-and-1 and both guys were damn-near-perfect in those yardage situations. In 2010 the Dolphins converted 83 percent of the time when they faced 2 yards or less for a first down or touchdown.
This year’s Dolphins biggest flaw has been their offensive line. It has been treacherous to say the least and has struggled not only keeping Ryan Tannehill upright, but creating holes for Miller and Thomas to run through. However, Miller has made it work to the tune of 4.2 yards per carry and looks poised to break out soon. Marcus Thigpen, the Dolphins third running back on the depth chart and the special team’s threat has even had a 50-yard pass play out of the backfield and possesses game-changing speed.
The point is that even with the issues of the offensive line, other guys not named "Daniel Thomas" have found ways to make it work and be productive. Even Charles Clay, the team's hybrid tight end/running back scored from a yard out when given the chance and he was hit at about the 2-yard line but bulled his way into the end zone.
Thirty games in the National Football League is a big enough sample to see whether a guy can be productive, stay healthy and move the sticks when called upon. The clock is ticking on Daniel Thomas and pretty soon the NFL will mean "Not For Long."