This is the second post I've done looking back at rookie performances over the first half of the season. The first was about first round pick Mike Pouncey, which you can read here.
Like Pouncey, RB Daniel Thomas wasn't an exactly a popular pick among fans. Many were hoping for Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett with the pick and many others didn't think it was necessary to spend a second round pick on a RB. Most surely didn't want Alabama RB Mark Ingram with a first round pick because they felt you can find a quality RB later in the draft. Instead, Miami didn't only select Thomas in the second round, a round still thought too high for a RB by many, but they traded up for Thomas. To make matters worse, Thomas wasn't the RB many people had their eyes on. Many wanted a home run threat that could score any time he touched the ball. RBs such as Jordan Todman, Taiwan Jones, and Derrick Locke were a few of the RBs many people loved. It's not that Thomas was a bad prospect, but he was a RB that was built to run between the tackles, not to take pitches to the outside and juke people en route to a 70 yard TD run. I too wasn't exactly thrilled about the pick, but that was because I was holding out hope for Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams, but obviously neither of those turned out to be. If you want to see the Phinsider reaction to Thomas' selection, just take a look here. The reactions were so bad that a white monkey I won't name already was starting the Andrew Luck bandwagon. Others complained they thought the selection of more of the Wildcat formation, that offensive formation that Rex Ryan calls gimmicky even as he runs it.
Thomas didn't get off to a hot start and struggled in the preseason. He looked good rushing against the Carolina Panthers, but he struggled mightily against the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His play improved a little in the preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Along with Thomas' struggles to run the ball, partly blamed on a terrible offensive line, Thomas struggled to protect the QBs on passing downs and wasn't good at picking up blitzers.
After an unspectacular preseason, fans were disappointed Thomas' first game came without playing a single snap as he missed the season opener against the New England Patriots due to injury. The disappointment stemmed because he was vital to Miami's offense, but not because of people wanted to back him. Fans were genuinely worried Miami lacked an inside rushing threat because it is not Reggie Bush's specialty, no matter how much Miami tried to make it so.
In his first regular season action, Thomas took fans by surprise when he ran for over 100 yards on only 18 carries. Thomas was quick to hit the holes and showed good vision in his first game. His future looked bright and even after Miami fell to 0-2 and the season looked bleak, Thomas was one of the few bright spots people looked to.
Thomas went to Cleveland and once again had another solid outing, nearly rushing for 100 yards and catching three passes for 27 yards, including a 10-yard screen pass for his first career TD.
After two weeks to recover thanks to a bye week, Thomas returned to action against the New York Jets, but he struggles as he picked up only 47 yards on 15 carries and fumbled for the second time of the season.
A week later, Thomas found little room to run against the Denver Broncos. Thomas' rushing wasn't rated poorly because of Miami's poor run blocking in the game, but Thomas had his worst game protecting the QB. Thomas allowed a sack and another QB hit, making the Denver game the worst game of his young career.
Frustration sunk in yet again as Thomas missed his third game of the young season against the New York Giants. This was not what fans wanted from their rookie RB. Players started to voice their opinion that Miami's coaches and training staff were forcing Thomas back too quickly. Until this point, Thomas has yet to be a full participant in practice during the entire week.
Thomas returned to the field once against when Miami went back on the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Thomas ran only 7 times, a season low, and was only on the field for 19 snaps. Not only did his role decrease, but he didn't appear as fast as he did earlier in the season, a strong indicator he may not have fully recovered from his hamstring injury.
Overall, Thomas has been hot and cold. He's been a hard player to gauge because of his lingering hamstring issues, but there are definite signs that he can be a good RB for the Dolphins for some years to come. His pass protection issues he showed in the preseason have greatly improved. He has only allowed one sack and one QB hit, both coming against Denver. He's also showing he is a viable threat catching the ball out of the backfield and he is hitting the holes faster than he did in the preseason. Perhaps the best attribute of Thomas has been his ability to push the pile when he gets into traffic. He has done a better job of lowering his shoulder and unlike Ronnie Brown circa 2010, Thomas is doing a good job of lowering his shoulder and picking up yards instead of dancing in the backfield. Thomas does have issues he needs to overcome, most notably being able to stay healthy and protect the football better, but so far he hasn't made me miss Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams.
Heading into this week's game against Washington Redskins, Thomas has been a full participant in practice for the first time this season and wasn't listed on the team's injury report. Let's hope this means Thomas' hamstring injury is finally behind him.