Heading into the 2012 season, Miami has to feel pretty good about the running back situation. Reggie Bush, fresh off of his first 1,000-yard season, is joined by second-year player Daniel Thomas, highly touted rookie from "The U" Lamar Miller and others including Canadian native Jerome Messam.
With the installation of the West Coast offense in South Florida (though Joe Philbin refuses to call it that), Miami's running backs will be used in many different situations and positions.
Let's take a further look into the training camp battle between Miami's running backs.
What impact can Reggie Bush have in 2012?
Almost everyone was surprised at the success that Reggie Bush had as a running back during the 2011 season. With questions surrounding Bush's ability to run between the tackles, he carried a chip on his shoulder all season long and proved that he can do it all.
Even behind a struggling offensive line, Bush managed to rush for 1,086 yards on an impressive five yards per carry. He started for the first 15 games of the season, missing the final contest because of a minor knee injury.
There's no questions now about Bush's productivity as a running back between the tackles, however, questions still remain as to his durability in that type of role.
In Miami's new offense, Bush will be lining up at many different positions which will create matchup problems for opposing defenses. In 2011, Bush solidified himself as an every-down back, and Miami fully intends to use him in as many ways as possible in 2012.
Bush is in the final year of his contract, and at the age of 27, he could be heavily targeted if he hits the free-agent market in 2013.
After last year's success, Bush has set lofty expectations for himself. According to Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, Bush said he wants to win the rushing title in 2012. Though that's extremely unlikely in Miami's new offense, his confidence will get fans pumped up for the upcoming season.
Will Daniel Thomas live up to his hype?
As a rookie, Daniel Thomas had quite a bumpy ride. When he wasn't sidelined by his hamstring injury, he played inconsistently on the field.
Thomas has the ability to be an effective running back. He showed flashes of good vision, a quick first step, explosion through holes, ability to break tackles and the ability to fall forward for extra yards.
Even with all those flashes, Thomas still struggled to make a huge impact when he was in the game. Granted, he was a rookie who was hampered by an injury while playing behind Reggie Bush.
The biggest point of emphasis for Thomas heading into this season is improving. That's really all you can ask for. Heading into year two, you should expect to see more of those flashes.
Thomas will most likely see a more one-sided role in Miami's new offense. Most of Thomas' touches will come from being handed the ball, as opposed to Bush, who will be playing a hybrid role.
With a more defined role heading into 2012, you can expect Thomas to get into more of a rhythm with this offense. With his ability to get chunk yardage in a hurry, he should fit right in with Miami's up-tempo play.
What do know about Lamar Miller?
One of the biggest surprises of Miami's 2012 draft was the selection of Lamar Miller. Once considered a first-round prospect, Miller fell all the way to the fourth round and was selected by Miami with the 97th overall pick.
Miller had a successful career at the University of Miami, and given the school's track record with preparing running backs for the next level, he's got a pretty good shot to make an early impact.
The biggest concern with Miller is a shoulder problem. He was injured early in the Hurricanes' 2011 season but played through it for the entire season. After the season was over, Miller required surgery on his left shoulder, which could be why he slipped so far in the draft.
While Miller will likely be behind Bush and Thomas on the depth chart, he will get some opportunities to showcase his skills. His explosiveness will be an asset when Miami needs to exploit weaknesses in the defense.
At 21 years of age, Miller is also the youngest player on the Dolphins' roster. Given that fact, it could take him several years to fully mature and blossom as an NFL player.
What you need to know about the rest
It's unknown as to how many running backs Miami will keep on the roster. With the above three backs (Bush, Thomas, Miller) almost being locks to make the team, there will likely be one more spot for another back to fill.
The rest of Miami's running backs include Jerome Messam, Jonas Gray, Steve Slaton and Marcus Thigpen.
Messam is a Canadian-born player who played in the CFL before being signed by Miami during the offseason. Messam has a huge frame of 6'3" and weighs around 245 pounds. Even with that size, he has exhibited impressive quickness and agility.
With a strong showing in training camp and the preseason, Messam could secure a roster spot.
Another interesting prospect to watch out for is Jonas Gray out of Notre Dame. Gray tore his ACL late in his 2011 season with the Fighting Irish, which is a significant reason to why he was not drafted.
Due to Gray's injury, he likely won't be ready to compete and play in the preseason. He's expected to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. By rule, players can only spend six regular-season games on the PUP list before being placed on the active roster, season-ending injured reserve or the practice squad.
Gray has a ton of potential, and once he's healthy, Miami can make a better decision on his future with the team.
With a log-jam at running back, players like Steve Slaton and Marcus Thigpen will likely be at the end of the road.
Slaton, after a terrific rookie season with the Houston Texans, has failed to mimic his early-career production.
Excited for the NFL season? Join the writer (Jason) and his co-host Ross on The Extra Yard as they host the highly anticipated Miami Dolphins Training Camp Special. The show can be heard LIVE on FinsRadio.net on July 19th at 7:00 p.m.
Special guests include: Jimmy Wilson (Safety, Miami Dolphins), Tim Graham (ESPN, Buffalo News), Emory Hunt (FootballGameplan.com) and Alex Miglio (Pro Football Focus).
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