23 carries. 20 yards. They're the Dolphins' rushing stats from Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns.
Lamar Miller received much hype heading into the regular season, but he was nowhere to be seen in Cleveland. The University of Miami product was constantly under pressure from defensive lineman after receiving the handoff, but that is no excuse for some of his vision miscues. There were several occasions where Miller had a clear hole to run through, but he instead chose to run forward into pressure. Another awful aspect of his game from Sunday was his poor aniticipation. A vital skill for a RB to have is the awareness to know what his first move will be after receiving the ball, this can be the difference between running into a pass rusher and finding a hole.
Daniel Thomas wasn't much better than Miller on Sunday. But his anticipation and awareness was clear on a number of plays. The most important example of this was the Dolphins' final rushing touchdown. A quick burst followed by a leap left no chance of a stop, something I'm not sure that Miller would have achieved. But still, his longest rush was for 4 yards and his final stats in total were 14 yards on 8 carries, something that on a normal day would look dreadful.
Let's not forget that the offensive line had as much influence on the poor running game as the running backs themselves. Tyson Clabo was terrible in his first Dolphins start, bringing back memories of Marc Colombo. John Jerry took a step back from his solid 2012 season, although he may still have been feeling the affects of his preseason injury. Even Mike Pouncey didn't have a great game, but it was still the best performance of the offensive lineman. Richie Incognito offered no support whatsoever to Jonathan Martin, who looked like he'd not improved one bit from his poor rookie season.
If you're going by the assumption that the offensive line will steadily improve, Lamar Miller has to remain the starting RB. He still has a lot of developing to do in terms of his running style and decision making, but unlike Thomas he's still got a lot of room to grow. He showed more in 2012 in limited snaps at 3rd on the depth chart than Thomas did in the backup role, he's also a much better fit for the offense.
There's no way that the offensive line will be this bad every week, but it should be of huge concern that they struggled with both pass blocking and run blocking. In week 2 they will face off against a much weaker Colts front 7 than the one they faced in Cleveland, so there will definitely be some improvement, but will that be enough to finally give some support to Ryan Tannehill on offense?