Friday, October 22, 2021

What Needs To Be Done At The Running Back Position?

The running back position has been a hot topic lately, with the Miami Dolphins drafting a running back has been talked of lately. The Dolphins reportedly think highly of Clemson running back Travis Etienne.

Etienne, who has been in Florida for the HOA combine, stated that he is “not trying to leave Florida”.

With Myles Gaskin showing his potential in his first season as a starter and Salvon Ahmed having some bright moments, many will ask why the Miami Dolphins would need a running back. Despite the performances of Gaskin and Ahmed in 2020, only Ahmed had a 100 rushing yard game in 2020.

Whilst both Gaskin and Ahmed have shown they are more than capable backs, are they enough to guide Miami to a playoff game? Gaskin has impressed but he cannot do it alone.

AARON JONES TO STRENGTHEN RUNNING BACK POSITION?

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is highly expected to take his talents to South Beach and would immediately improve the Miami run game.

Jones ran for the fourth-most rushing yards across the NFL in 2020 (1,104) whilst also recording 9 rushing touchdowns. He also caught for two receiving yards, showing his ability to catch as well as run.

Miami would have the luxury of being able to use both Jones and Gaskin at the running back position in 2021 and beyond. Jones would be expected to take the role as the lead back, but Gaskin would be able to fill in to give Jones some rest time.

Having the dual running threat could see Miami operate a similar system to the one used by the Cleveland Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 1,908 rushing yards and 388 attempts in 2020. This would put them second amongst all running backs in the most recent NFL season, only 119 yards less and 10 rushing attempts more than rushing leader Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.

Speaking of Henry, the playoffs showed the importance of a dual threat at the running back position. The Titans reached the AFC Championship game during the 2019 season but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in this year’s playoffs at the Wildcard Round stage. Henry struggled to get anything going and was limited to just 40 rushing yards.

During the 2020 season, Henry became just the eighth player in NFL history to run for over 2,000 rushing yards. The next best rusher was quarterback Ryan Tannehill (266), which shows an issue in relying on solely one back at the running back position. Tennessee showed in this season’s playoffs that if you stop Henry, you stop this Titans offense.

Despite Ahmed’s aforementioned 100-yard-rushing game in 2020, this was the first for Miami in two seasons. The running back position has been an issue for some time with the Dolphins and getting someone of Jones’ calibre would play a huge part in significantly improving one of Miami’s weaknesses.

ARE THE DOLPHINS DRAFTING A RUNNING BACK?

Players such as Etienne and Alabama running back Najee Harris have been the two who have had the most hype ahead of next months NFL draft. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa played with Harris in college and has recently said that he would like to play with Harris, being quoted as saying “hopefully we’re on the same team”.

Etienne had a successful time in Clemson alongside quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is expected to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Etienne recorded 55 runs of 20 rushing yards or more during his Clemson career. He also has the most yards after catch among college running backs since 2019 (1,115). This is a crucial part of a running back’s game and he would be a welcome addition to this Dolphins running back position.

Etienne recorded 914 rushing yards in 168 attempts, 14 rushing touchdowns, 588 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in 2020. He recorded 1,500 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 2019.

Harris recorded 1,466 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns in 251 attempts during 2020, with two touchdown receptions and 425 receiving yards. In 2019, Harris recorded 1,088 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns along with 7 receiving touchdowns.

Harris probably has the better college stats and would have the relationship with Tua, but Dolphins fans should be happy with either player at the running back position in 2021.

The Dolphins number 3 pick via the Houston Texans is likely to be used on an offensive tackle or wide receiver, unless they trade it all away for Deshaun Watson. Should they stick with Tua, the number 18 pick will also be available for Miami.

Free agency is still to come and this will help fans of every team know which positions are more of a need in the draft.

If the Dolphins take a wide receiver in free agency, then this could mean they go out and get Penei Sewell with the number 3 pick. They could also use it to boost Tua’s choice of weapons in similar fashion to the Dallas Cowboys, who acquired CeeDee Lamb in the 2020 draft despite already having Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

If this were to happen, then getting a wide receiver with the 18th pick would be unlikely. This could then open up the door for either Harris or Etienne to help at the running back position. There is also talk of Etienne going as low down as the second round. Miami should look to get Etienne in the second round should he manage to fall all that way.

It is unlikely that either Harris or Etienne would go in the first round to Miami due to their being greater positions of need, especially if Jones does indeed head to Miami as everyone is expecting. If either player is available when the Dolphins are on the clock in the second round, Miami should without doubt take either player if they are available to further solidify the running back position.

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