The Miami Dolphins will begin the regular season with a bit of a quandary at running back.
On the positive side, various players have flashed at the position during training camp and the preseason. But on the negative side, there is no dominant, clear-cut tailback who emerged at the position.
Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi, Isaiah Pead, Damien Williams, Daniel Thomas and rookie third-round pick Kenyan Drake all had their moments in the preseason. Most recently Drake, who returned from a hamstring injury, made his NFL debut Thursday against the Tennessee Titans and contributed 39 total yards offense and returned two kickoffs for 45 yards.
That makes for six running backs with various strengths to consider when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, general manager Chris Grier and their staffs must reduce their roster to 53 players on Saturday. This will be one of the toughest positions groups to narrow down.
“I like our depth,” Gase said after the Dolphins' preseason finale. “The fact that it seems like we’ve had a lot of guys have success, whether it be in practice or in the preseason games. I know it hasn’t shown as far as our total group, but it seems like somebody’s flashed a little bit every game.”
Miami likely will keep three or four running backs to begin the regular season, which means two or three players from this group must go.
Foster and Ajayi are locks. Both have been in a tight race for the starting running-back job, and it’s still unknown which player will start on Sept. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Drake also is expected to make the team, despite missing most of training camp with an injury. Miami invested a high draft pick, and Drake has a high ceiling.
Likely, one roster spot will come down to three running backs: Pead, Williams and Thomas. Pead led the Dolphins in rushing this preseason but suffered a hamstring injury that could keep him sidelined heading into the regular season. Williams is a reliable player on special teams and Thomas, a former Dolphins draft bust, got an extended look with 31 yards on 10 carries Thursday against the Titans. Injuries could be factored in when making this decision.
“The only disappointing thing is that we’re never healthy at the same time,” Gase said of all his running backs. “Every time we went out to practice it was four different guys. I feel like (Thomas) might have been the only guy that was consistently out there. We’ll see how this shakes out here in the next two days, and see who we wind up keeping on the roster.”