The Miami Dolphins’ running back competition appears to be over, and the guy expected to win it all along — Lamar Miller — has done just that.
Late Monday afternoon, the Dolphins released their depth chart for this weekend’s season opener in Cleveland, and Miller — the homegrown talent from the University of Miami — occupied the top line.
Meaning: Short of a last-minute change in plans, Miller — and not Daniel Thomas — will start against the Browns.
If so, Miller will officially succeed Reggie Bush as the Dolphins’ featured back, which should come as little surprise. His soaring potential was a major factor in the team letting Bush walk in free agency back in March.
“It would be a great accomplishment,” Miller said, when asked about that scenario earlier in the day. “Everybody dreams about it.”
The Dolphins’ other position battles also played out as expected. John Jerry essentially won the right guard job when the Dolphins cut Lance Louis.
Dimitri Patterson did the same at corner when Miami released Richard Marshall. Both moves were made official by Monday’s depth chart.
As for defensive tackle, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks were again listed as co-starters, as they’ve been all summer.
So the only real intrigue was at running back, and even that played out as most predicted.
Miller, who starred at Killian High and UM before joining the Dolphins in 2012, won the job after being the statistically superior back in the preseason.
In five games, Miller had more yards (72 to 52), more touchdowns (1 to 0) and a better yards-per-carry average (4.2 to 2.7) than Thomas.
Miller was even a comparable pass blocker, according to Pro Football Focus, which had been a weakness early in his rookie season.
Still, the Dolphins held off on naming a starter until game week, saying recently that Thomas, a third-year back out of Kansas State, had a legitimate shot to start.
And on Monday, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman made clear he expects both to get significant carries this fall.
“I think because they are so different they offer ... a different dynamic when in the game,” Sherman. “I think there will be a challenge defensively to be able to put both running backs on the field separately.”
What remains unclear: Who will be the team’s short-yardage back. Intuitively, the job would belong to Thomas, who outweighs Miller by 17 pounds. But don’t discount Miller, who got most of the goal line work in the preseason.
Whoever plays that role needs to do it better than the Dolphins did a year ago, when they converted just 60 percent of their third or fourth-and-2 or shorter situations.
Tyler Clutts, the fullback claimed off waivers Sunday, believes he’s on the team for that very reason.
“That’s what they brought me in, to be a traditional fullback and to move guys and give some space for a running back to get through,” Clutts said. “That’s my job.”
Miller’s job will be to gain yards on most every down and distance. Center Mike Pouncey thinks he will, predicting a 1,300-yard season for Miller, and believes the offense will be at its best when Dolphins run the ball some 30 times a game.
“I think we have to,” Pouncey said. “Our biggest advantage is running the football. We’ve got a big offensive line. We’ve got the right zone scheme. And now we’ve got the speed on the outside so guys can’t stack the box. Our run game should be really good.”