Assessing the In-house Talent pre-Draft: Running Backs
By: Rigel Spikes (Marinofan13)
The opening of Free-Agency marks the first time in a new league year that teams can acquire some of the coveted BIG names of the game who have not been re-signed by their former team…at least, that is the general fan’s view. While true, it also marks a time where teams can augment their rosters with solid, unsung players. It’s important to field a SOLID team from top to bottom, and that includes backups and third stringers. While we Phins didn’t breach the waters to make major splashes in Free-Agency (yet?) this year, we made a couple of solid waves under the surface in signing RBs Jerome Messam (Edmonton Eskimos) and Marcus Thigpen (Hamilton Tiger Cats) of the CFL. That brings us to the topic at hand.
PHINS’ BACKFIELD (RBs/FBs)
When you have a Running Back who ran behind what was arguably the worst O-Line in the NFL last year…and he’s still able to break 1,000 yards rushing and nearly make the Pro-Bowl…you know you have a winner. Bush was nothing short of amazing
last year in lieu of the deficiencies on the O-Line. He even showed proof-positive that he could be an every-down RB, proving nearly everyone wrong.
Bush is back for the 2012 campaign to add a formidable slash-n-dash dynamic as we transition to the WCO. His skill set, which includes great hands out of the backfield, is a match made in heaven for this new Offense. Reggie Bush ’11: 1,086 Rushing Yards (#11), 5.0 YPC (#1 of any back with 200+ carries), 6 TDs (T-#18).
A lot of people have been doubting Thomas. Barring the trade-up arguments (R3+R5+R7 for a RB in R2 last year), it should be noted that Thomas finished #3 in Rushing Yards (581) as a rookie RB, behind only DeMarco Murray of Dallas
(897) and Roy Helu of Washington (640). And he did this while battling injury, playing behind a porous O-Line, and as a rook who never went through OTAs and a full camp due to the lockout of ’11.
Thomas’ punishing running style is a great complement to Bush’s slash-n-dash style, giving our Phins the best of both worlds at the Running Back position. He also adds a unique dynamic of passing ability, as he is a former college QB. I’m not sure that Joe Philbin is into “Wildcat trickery”, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating dimension of Thomas’ game. If he cuts down on his fumbles (and I’m sure he will), there is great upside to the young Thomas.
Slaton has proven he can be a great back when healthy (1,282 Rushing Yards as a rook in ’08). Unfortunately, his health has precluded him from becoming that same guy we saw as a rook: he’s only carried the ball a mere 43 times over the last 3 years. He managed a TD last year on 17 carries with a long of 28 yards, and management saw enough to re-sign him for the 2012 season.
If Slaton can rekindle some of that magic from the past, he makes for an excellent spell-back for Reggie Bush.
At 6’3″ and 245 lbs, Messam is an imposing figure in the mold of Brandon Jacobs. He is the most recent recipient of the “CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award” after rushing for 1,057 yards on 195 attempts for an eye-boggling 5.4 YPC in 2011.
His 40-time is rumored have been clocked as a sub 4.4 in 2008…while still weighing 240 lbs. More recent reports have his 40-time as 4.5; does it really matter? If you can run as fast as he can at his weight, WOW!
He may be here to push Thomas and try to take his job, but one thing is clear: we have two ground-n-pounders on our current roster, and that’s a good problem to have as far as in-house competition.
Other RBs/HBs on our current roster include the aforementioned Thigpen and Richard Medlin, both who are probably competing for a spot on the Practice Squad or as a keeper on the final roster for Special Teams duty. Thigpen has an interesting story to be told, and I implore you to read up on him here:
My analysis: I think we are pretty well set at the RB/FB position entering the ’12 Draft. Barring a FREAK surprise in the Draft (Trent Richardson or LaMichael James), I’d expect little to no churning or addition at this position. There is much talent, youth, and potential on our roster at this position as is. But anything could happen…hence the suspense we all feel leading up to the Draft.