Running back Lamar Miller was severely under utilized during Joe Philbin’s stint as head coach, but he still managed to accumulate nearly 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns since the Dolphins drafted him in 2012. Now, he is a free agent, and the likelihood of him returning to Miami seems slim. Perhaps a change of regime will lure Miller back to Little Cuba, but the Fins have to prepare themselves for the other possibility. Fortunately, they already drafted some insurance last year in Jay Ajayi.
Ajayi had a bumpy ride as a rookie, not seeing regular season action until Week 9 as a result of injury. Once he got healthy, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on his way to 187 yards and one touchdown. However, the Dolphins are impressed with Ajayi’s foot skills, and his soccer background lends him to having great lower body control. With an offseason under his belt to fine tune his game, Ajayi should be in prime position to lead Miami’s backfield.
From there, the question becomes depth. Behind Ajayi is Damien Williams, who will be entering his third season with the Dolphins. Williams carried the ball a mere 16 times in 2015, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. He is a decent change of pace back who has also handled some kickoff duties, but he may not be a viable number two back. Nor is Jahwan Edwards, the man currently listed as the number three back.
There are some intriguing free agents who could help fill the void, including options like Matt Forte and Alfred Morris. Forte is in the 30+ age bracket already making him a potential risk, and if he commands a big payday, he will be out of Miami’s financial reach. The situation with Morris is less clear, as the Redskins have said they will not aggressively pursue re-signing him, yet they seem to think he will not face a favorable market. Unfortunately, the Fins may not have the money to attract a big-name free agent this year, and if they did, many folks think they should use that to re-sign Miller versus bringing in someone new.
The draft may again be the best place for Miami to bolster their backfield. A number of mock drafts are starting to link the Dolphins to Ezekiel Elliott, the do-it-all back from Ohio State. Elliott is likely the only rusher worthy of a first round selection, and he should be available at number eight. If the Fins find other needs more pressing, however, they could look at someone like Alex Collins in the second round. Despite having just one season as a full-time starter, Collins gained 1,000+ yards in three straight years, joining Hershel Walker and Darren McFadden as the only three SEC players to achieve the feat.
Without a doubt, the Dolphins will address their run game this offseason, especially to allow Adam Gase to work his offensive magic. Whether they are able to re-sign Miller, pick up a flashy free agent, or nab the top back in the draft, they should find more success than in 2015.