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Thunder, Lightning, and Hail: A closer look at the Miami Dolphins’ running back situation

History has shown that diversity is key to a solid run game

Center For Severe Weather Research Scientists Search For Tornadoes To Study Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of my favorite running back groups of all time has absolutely nothing to do with the Miami Dolphins. The duo of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott were the staples to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense that had never quite had a recognizable name on its roster. Nicknamed Thunder and Lightning by their peers, Alstott's bruising mentality was well complimented by the speed and savvy of Dunn.

Pain and Gain would be another apt nickname as short or long yardage situations presented opportunities for the duo to get the ball. However in today's NFL, the diversity in the back field can be found on almost every roster, as it has become a necessary evil in an attempt to reach the post season. The Dolphins are no different, and this article is to prove once and for all how a storm is brewing in South Florida.

Miami’s roster today boasts its own version of Thunder and Lightning in Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake, but the duo has a third member whom we shall call Hail for the sake of continuity, and the name actually fits for his role in the offensive scheme. Damien Williams is that sudden cold burst that pelts the opposition with a barrage of chilling opportunities and it shows in his eight total touchdowns last season.

We start with the Thunder which is Jay Ajayi, who despite pre-draft health concerns, stood up after his benching and showed us that he can handle a workload. He would prove wrong the pre-draft notions that a so called bone on bone issue with his knee would give him problems with both mobility and injuries. The naysayers forgot his one cut running style shows he does not have to run around you, when he can run through you. Most of his yards came after contact as the constant shifting of the offensive line did him no favors and most certainly didn't fully allow us to recognize his full potential, while showing us just how good he really is at making a play work for him. The end result was entering his name in the record books as one of a handful of backs to not only reach 200 yards in a single game, but to do it in back to back games and a total of three times last year. Will he be able to do it again? Who knows. However one thing is for certain, once the train leaves the station, its not stopping until it reaches wherever it wants to go.

Up next, we move on to the lightning-in-a-bottle, Kenyan Drake. Not only did he show bursts of speed and an ability to make edge defenders miss, but he also showed us he can handle the workload by returning kicks in an electrifying way. While he has scored two offensive TDs, his most memorable touchdown was one he returned on a kickoff. Quick, agile, and, more importantly, a perfect compliment to Ajayi's bruising style, a healthy season could show us Lightning can in fact strike multiple times.

That brings us to the Hail, the final version of the trio. Aptly named for suddenness of his attack style, the key to Williams’ success is his versatility. More than just a one-cut runner, he is possibly the best pass catching back, allowing him the chance to be moved all over the field. We saw last season where he was lined up as a running back, a fullback, and, yes, even at wide receiver at times. The best part about his game tape is not how many ways the Dolphins can line him up, but how many ways they can utilize his skill set out of each and every play design. Will he be the primary back in goal-line positions? Will he be a decoy and simply placed in there to pass block? Will he run a crisp route and become a match up nightmare for the opposition’s linebackers or safeties? Will he motion out and do damage from the slot position? Will he again be a blocker and open up a chance for the receiver, running back, or even quarterback to score? The tape will show that on any given play, no matter where he lines up, any and all things are possible for Williams. This negates a defensive coordinator’s ability to effectively game plan against the offense when he is on the field.

A lot will be said about this team’s ability to run the ball, or how effective quarterback Ryan Tannehill can be as the leader of the team. However it is this young stable of running backs that sets the tone for just how great of a season the offense as a whole can produce.

They can run the clock out, or even utilize these guys to score at will. So welcome to Miami football opposing defenses, a storm is brewing. Are you prepared?