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Are the Miami Dolphins Right to Run It Back at Running Back?

By Alain Poupart,

2023-03-15

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The Dolphins made it three out of four returning running backs (so far) when they agreed to terms with Jeff Wilson Jr.

Yes, there are some big names potentially available via trade at running back, but the Miami Dolphins obviously like what they had last season.

How else to explain the team now having arranged to bring back three of their four players at the position last year, with Jeff Wilson Jr. following Salvon Ahmed and Raheem Mostert in being re-upped.

All that's missing from the 2022 crew is Myles Gaskin, who will become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday at 4 p.m. — unless the Dolphins re-sign him before then.

The Dolphins deciding to run it back at running back isn't a big surprise from this vantage point since we suggested a few weeks that it just might be the scenario that unfolded at the position.

What the Dolphins Want in Their Running Backs (; 1:44)

WHY THE DOLPHINS CHOSE THIS DIRECTION AT RUNNING BACK

There are a lot of reasons for this decision by the Dolphins, starting obvious with familiarity.

It's not just that Mostert, Wilson and Ahmed all played for Miami last season; they also all played for head coach Mike McDaniel when he was in charge of the vaunted San Francisco 49ers running game.

So there's obviously a comfort level there and those players obviously know the Dolphins offensive scheme inside and out.

But then there's also the fact that those three guys were pretty effective in 2022.

Sure, the rushing totals weren't eye-opening, but that would be difficult for any running back when the offense is tilted toward the passing game, which obviously makes sense given that what makes the Dolphins unique is the incredible speed they have at wide receiver.

But the rushing average was impressive across the board.

Wilson averaged 4.7 yards per carry, Mostert was at 4.9 and Ahmed even better at 5.3.

From that standpoint, it's really hard to complain about what the Dolphins got from their running backs last season.

We could take issue with the team's performance in short-yardage running.

The Dolphins converted eight of the 12 times they ran the ball on third-and-1 in 2022, which isn't a great percentage, though that was downright spectacular compared to the nightmarish 0-for-6 on runs on third-and-2.

But how much of that was on the running backs and how much on the offensive line and the blocking up front?

DOLPHINS COULD HAVE GONE FOR BIGGER NAMES

To be sure, Mostert, Wilson and Ahmed are not star-level players, though they all have had their moments in Miami. And in the case of Wilson, the Dolphins also gave up a fifth-round pick to get him in a trade with the 49ers last November, so it would have been a shame to lose him after half a season.

That the Dolphins chose — unless things change — to go with a conservative approach at running back doesn't necessarily match with their recent overall philosophy of swinging big like they did with Tyreek Hill last offseason, Bradley Chubb last year and then Jalen Ramsey just days ago.

But there's also only so much the Dolphins can do to get marquee players, both in terms of draft capital to give up and money to speed.

And maybe the idea always has been that running back isn't the place to spend big if you're not going to have a ground-and-pound team.

And this is not who the Dolphins are. They're a high-flying team with speed to spare.

Besides, how much difference can a big-time running back really make?

The Chiefs won the Super Bowl last year with a rookie seventh-round pick as their starting running back after they benched their former first-round selection. And the team they beat had a very productive running back, but not so productive that they're not willing to let him leave via free agency.

And who can even name the Rams' Super Bowl starter from just two seasons ago?

So, yeah, sure, Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook would make for another splashy headline for the Dolphins, but the team also wasn't wrong in running it back with a group that actually did a pretty good job last season.

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