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Mike McDaniel happy with running backs group, letting position battle work itself out

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins struggled to run the ball in 2021, finishing 30th in yards per game (92.2) and 31st in yards per rush (3.5). To change that in 2022, the team has reworked the offensive line and added several new running backs to the roster. Veterans Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Sony Michel join the team this year, while Myles Gaskin, Savon Ahmed, and Gerrid Doaks return; the Dolphins also signed ZaQuandre White as an undrafted free agent and added fullbacks Alec Ingold and John Lovett. Improving the running game was clearly a priority for the next coaching staff, and they have the pieces in place to do that.

But, how will it all play out? Who will take the lead in the Dolphins’ running back group? How are the running backs working through training camp?

“For me to sit here and say every practice is important and every rep is important and it’s a constant competition, the only way that I can really follow through with those words is I have to consciously – which I do – refrain from [setting a snap-splitting requirement] because I don’t want to limit an opportunity by having a preconceived notion,” head coach Mike McDaniel said on Sunday. “There’s guys that really got our running scheme early. Maybe they had more history in it. But you don’t short-change the process of learning, nor do you really allow yourself to get ahead and predict the future.”

In July, we asked Dolphins fans to do the predicting in a survey asking who will have the most carries for the Dolphins this year. Edmonds led the way with 62 percent of the votes, followed by Mostert at 18 percent, Michel at 16 percent, and Gaskin at four percent.

While the fans seem to believe Edmonds will eventually take the lead, McDaniel continued to state that he will let the depth chart work itself out throughout the summer. “We have a huge practice today followed by a couple of huge practices against Tampa before the first preseason game,” the coach explained. “My mindset is really just to coach guys and see what they do with it. And when the opportunities start to minimize, after people have earned the right in front of their teammates of who gets to play and who doesn’t, then I’ll kind of settle in on that. But right now, I’m very, very happy with that room. It’s one of my favorite rooms that I have been around.

Ahmed also met with the media on Sunday and discussed the position group. “It’s going to be competitive, but everyone in that room is super cool,” he stated. “I’m blessed to be with those guys. It’s been awesome. It’s been awesome getting to learn as much as I can from those guys – Sony, Chase, even Myles – this is Year Four for him and I’m still learning from him even though we went to college together – Raheem. So it’s been awesome just learning from those guys. Obviously, like I said, it’s competitive, but just taking as much as I can from them.”

McDaniel agreed with the competitive description of the group, but also point out, they are all rooting for each other as well. “The competition is fierce but they’re bringing the best out of each other. They get along and they’re really – just watch,” he remarked. “If your eyes can go fast enough, if there’s a good run, take your eyes and find Eric Studesville, the running backs coach, and find the running backs and they’re all fist-pumping and cheering. It’s awesome. They really root for each other and understand that they want to win the job. They don’t want to be given it at the expense of somebody else.”

Although nothing is decided and there is still a lot of time between now and the start of the regular season, the fan prediction of Edmonds taking the lead in the group makes sense. Edmonds joins the team after four years with the Arizona Cardinals. The 2018 fourth-round draft pick out of Fordham came up as McDaniel talked to the media. “I think the team realizes [Edmonds’ cerebral approach to the game] because the way that we go through film together, but this is – the scheme that we run is a little different than he was used to which we knew going into because we were evaluating him and we kind of projected it. What’s been really, really awesome to see is his feel for the game. His cerebral approach is real. Sometimes guys – that cerebral approach means they just know all the assignments, which uniquely he does. He knows every receiver assignment and he’s understanding of the blocking schemes and all that. But more so, he has a combination of feel to apply abstract coaching points. We want him to press the line of scrimmage and he’s working on that daily. He’s diligent with his tracks. He’s really getting a feel for the protection, so it’s been cool to watch him really to digest and start to get – you can see it on the field – his productivity is obvious. He’s doing a great job and really, really getting a feel and coming into his own for the position.”

Edmonds seems to be slightly ahead of the group in a tight position battle. We may get a little better picture as the team moves into joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting tomorrow, and then on to the preseason games beginning this weekend. Will someone solidify their position as the lead back? Will this be a running back committee throughout the season? Whatever the ultimate decision becomes, it sounds like McDaniel likes what he has been seeing from the group but will let the on-field performances decide the position.