Reggie Bush was the ball-carrier for more than half of the rushing attempts by the Miami Dolphins, but following his departure in free agency, the Miami Dolphins have not yet named the starter to fill the void. Instead, head coach Joe Philbin is holding an open competition with the running backs already on the roster to decide who will take the majority of carries in 2013.
Lamar Miller, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft who finished his rookie season with 251 yards rushing and a touchdown, is considered the favorite by many to earn the starting role; however, Miller will not go so far as to call it his job to lose.
"I would say not really," Miller told The Finsiders of Dolphins.com on Monday. "It's an open job so whoever just comes out here, competes everyday and impresses the coaches should win the job...We're just going to go at it every day in practice so camp should be pretty interesting. Just getting better every day and just competing, making each other better."
Coming into 2013, Miller is the favorite to replace Bush, who departed via free agency for the Detroit Lions. The team has stressed that this is an open competition, but even if he does not win the job, Miller is going to see more action, particularly more carries, this year.
Miller, a fourth round pick last year, is clearly low mileage, and is liked by the coaching staff. He is in position to succeed this year.
If anyone can truly present a challenge for Miller for the starting role, it's Thomas, the most veteran running back on the roster. Granted, the most veteran running back on the Dolphins is only entering his third NFL season and has managed a career average of 3.5 yards per carry; however, Thomas could be primed for a breakout year.
In each of his first two seasons, Thomas has struggled with injuries, but when healthy he is possibly the most complete back on the Dolphins, as he may be the team's best at picking up blitzes and running solid routes out of the backfield. Still, his shaky injury history makes him a mystery that Nogle can't predict much about right now.
I believe he is going to be on the roster, but I will not say he is definitely going to be there. Too many injuries and fumbles could lead the Dolphins to look at Miller, Gillislee, Thigpen, and Gray, turn to Thomas and say, "Thanks for your time." Really, anything could happen with Thomas this year, from starting to being cut.
Many fans will loudly call for him to be released, as early as today, but there is still a chance that Thomas could contribute in a big way for the Dolphins. It will be interesting to see what happens with him this year.
Gillislee is the darkhorse in the competition, as the Dolphins won't really know what they have in the rookie until they see how he looks against an NFL defense at full speed. A fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Dolphins certainly didn't select Gillislee with the plan for him to become a starter right away, but the 2012 First-Team All-SEC selection has the shiftiness and blocking ability to warrant keeping an eye on.
Rounding out the competition are Thigpen, Marshall and Gray, a return-specialist, an undrafted free agent and a second-year player that missed his entire rookie season with an ACL tear, respectively. Each would be shocking winners of the starting spot and instead have more of a competition to earn the final running back spots on the 53-man roster.