The Miami Dolphins are re-signing running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., and it’s an interesting move because it could be viewed as being as much about the head coach as the players.
The Dolphins are showing faith that coach Mike McDaniel, given the same talent, won’t finish 31st — second-to-last in the league — in rushing attempts (390) again.
The Dolphins are also showing faith that when the running game is working during a game, it won’t be abandoned.
Most significantly, the Dolphins, who are in ‘win-now’ mode, are saying they can win with what they’ve got, or what they had, which isn’t how it seemed last season.
It’s not a big surprise that the Dolphins plan to re-sign Mostert and Wilson. Money is a factor. If both max out their deals it’ll only cost the Dolphins $15.8 million over the next two years. Plus, you’ll recall McDaniel, Mostert and Wilson were all together in San Francisco before being reunited with the Dolphins last season, so there’s familiarity among the trio.
But it’s somewhat of a surprise the Dolphins are returning the running backs who, for the most part, combined to have them finish tied for 25th in rushing (99.2 yards per game) and tied for 19th in yards per carry (4.3).
Clearly, the Dolphins aren’t blaming the running backs for that performance.
At this point it seems the only major difference between the run game last season and next season will be the play-calling, and that’s on McDaniel.
By bringing back Mostert and Wilson it should mean McDaniel, the Dolphins’ offensive mastermind and play-caller, is committing to being better at incorporating the run game into his offense.
And the Dolphins believe McDaniel will succeed in that commitment.
Otherwise, they’d probably get different running backs, perhaps an earthmover such as Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, who is reportedly available via trade, or a local kid such as Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, who is also reportedly available via trade, or a multi-talented touchdown machine such as Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers, who has received permission from the Chargers to seek a trade.
I’ve been very clear on where I stand, or stood, on the Dolphins and their running game.
This is quite a test.
And if McDaniel passes this test, it’ll be an impressive sign of growth.
McDaniel would be taking opportunities away from the electric passing combinations of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle so he can have a more balanced offense.
It makes sense. It would go a long way toward Tagovailoa improving, and the offense improving. Third downs. Short yardage. Heck, first and second downs. They could all get a boost from more rushing attempts.
Imagine if the running game is working so well, as it was at times last year, that defenses have to play an eight-man front, consequently giving one-on-one coverage to either Hill or Waddle.
We know McDaniel is taking steps toward being better because he told us that’s always the case.
“That belief that you’re constantly a better version of yourself,” he said last month at the NFL scouting combine, “that drives me.”
Also, we see evidence of McDaniel actively trying to improve. Follow me on this one.
McDaniel said one reason he hired offensive line coach Butch Barry is so offensive coordinator Frank Smith could be more of an offensive coordinator and less of an offensive line coach. McDaniel wanted Smith to take some offensive coordinator duties off his plate.
“So that was the motivating factor to make that move, was to facilitate Frank Smith being able to appropriate his time more as a coordinator and less in the offensive line room,” McDaniel said.
Mostert and Wilson were effective at times last season. And their numbers were impressive.
Mostert, the speedster who showed bursts of power, rushed for a career-best 891 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry last season.
Wilson, the always-smiling ball of energy who cuts through defenses like a knife, rushed for 392 yards with the Dolphins and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in eight games with the Dolphins last season. Add in Wilson’s time with San Francisco and his season totals are 860 yards rushing and 4.9 yards per carry.
Combined, Mostert and Wilson return 1,751 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns at 4.9 yards per carry.
Next season the totals could increase.
The Dolphins know that.
Re-signing Mostert and Wilson is a show of faith in them, and just as importantly it’s a show of faith in McDaniel growing as a play-caller.
As reported by Boston Herald
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Author: Amnon Jakony |
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