Who will emerge as Dolphins' workhorse running back in 2022? Maybe no one, but that's OK

·5 min read

MIAMI GARDENS — There might be days Chase Edmonds is the workhorse back for the Dolphins.

There might be times it’s Raheem Mostert. Or Myles Gaskin or Sony Michel.

But the chance any back will dominate carries over the course of the 2022 season appears slim. Even Edmonds — a strong choice to touch the ball the most — is fine with it. The “shelf life” of an NFL running back, Edmonds pointed out, is short.

“You still want the ball, but you’ve got to pick and choose where you want it at, I feel like,” said Edmonds, 26. “It’s all about staying fresh and staying healthy so you can have as many years in this league as you can.”

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Running back Chase Edmonds says he joined the Dolphins specifically to play in coach Mike McDaniel's offensive system.
Running back Chase Edmonds says he joined the Dolphins specifically to play in coach Mike McDaniel's offensive system.

It makes sense on a personal level, but also on a team level. Take Mostert. He missed nearly all of last season with San Francisco because of a knee injury. The Dolphins have taken a conservative approach with such players. Mostert has slowly ramped up his workload the past three weeks and says he plans to be ready for Week 1, but he’s also realistic.

“The primary goal for me is Week 1,” he said. “I’m not too sure what the preseason lies for me, you know.”

Meaning: After the Dolphins overhauled their running back corps by adding Edmonds, Mostert and Michel this offseason, there’s no way to judge the impact of the outside zone scheme being instituted by coach Mike McDaniel before the Sept. 11 opener against New England. Tampa Bay largely bottled up Miami’s run game last weekend, but that was without Edmonds and Mostert, the starting backs on the depth chart, plus veteran linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams.

Play-action still worked against Buccaneers

One encouraging sign is that despite the absence of a consistent running attack against the Bucs, the Dolphins’ play-action, run by rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson, was more effective than it theoretically should have been.

“It was very encouraging to see the way the play-action worked and just really the displacement of the defenders, really making them guard all aspects of the field,” Edmonds said.

Michel is the only player on the team who knows what it’s like to carry more than 200 times in a season, having done it three of his four years in the league. Gaskin is next with a career-high 173 attempts last season, but neither Mostert nor Edmonds have topped 140.

Now combine that with the fact that all four have shown they can gash defenses and you begin to see why running back by committee makes sense. Edmonds, for one, signed with Miami not in search of a quantity of touches, but quality touches. He said he didn’t even discuss his potential role with McDaniel before signing.

“I wanted to play for Coach McDaniel because the outside zone scheme intrigued me,” Edmonds said. “I felt like that’s something I could really do with my skillset. I feel like it fits my abilities and it’s something that once I get a grasp of, I’ll be an expert at it.”

Why?

“You’re stretching the defense laterally,” Edmonds said. “When you’re displacing the defense, you’re making them have to cover a lot more field. It opens up certain lanes and certain holes that I’m able to take advantage of.”

Edmonds recalled a carry he had around the left side early in camp. In front of him was an unblocked man. No problem.

“Because you have everyone stretching laterally, there can be an unblocked man in the hole and I can still press that hole, make him miss and get back to a back gap — a gap one space behind it and still make a positive run out of it,” Edmonds said. “Sometimes with inside zone, you’re working more vertical so the space is a little more tight. I feel like here when we stretch people laterally, that’s really what I do best.”

Pointing to his 5-foot-9, 201-pound frame, Edmonds said he appreciates the opportunity to read and react and pick his running lanes.

“Exactly,” he said. “I’m not the biggest back, obviously, but when I have a lot of space and a lot of holes to play from, I do a really good job, I feel like, of just playing cat and mouse with certain defenders.”

Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert was held out of Saturday's game in Tampa along with dozens of other veterans.
Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert was held out of Saturday's game in Tampa along with dozens of other veterans.

Having to ease his way back, Mostert is a bit more reserved, saying the unit still has “some pieces that we’ve got to work out.”

“The run game is getting up there,” Mostert said. “And we’ve just got to continue to make those connections, the blocking schemes and everything else that comes with the run game.”

Mostert wasn’t expecting this to be a finished product in mid-August. He returned to the practice field in late July and admitted, “It’s one of those things where coming back from a major knee injury, you have some doubt in your mind as an athlete.”

Still, Mostert is bullish on how the scheme will fit his game once he regains the form that made him one of the fastest backs in the league.

“This is my style of offense,” Mostert said.

Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Why Dolphins running backs can't be greedy in 2022