Miami Dolphins 2022: What's next at running back?
This look at running backs is part of a series from our Dolphins beat writers.
At a time when NFL teams are obsessed with the aerial attack, Mike McDaniel plans to do things a bit differently.
For the new head coach of the Dolphins, everything is based off the run.
McDaniel is determined to go against the grain, and go against recent Dolphins' history, by coaching up and scheming a powerful and effective ground game.
"He just looks at things differently," running back Matt Breida said of McDaniel.
Breida had his best seasons playing for McDaniel when he was run game coordinator of the 49ers. The former Dolphin would love to play for him again.
Lots of running backs should want to be a part of the offense McDaniel plans to install in Miami. Why? It's proven. It works.
Column: In Mike McDaniel, Dolphins clearly hired a unique person and coach
More Schad: Dolphins banking McDaniel's brilliant football mind will save franchise
It's on, bro: Can Mike McDaniel help Tua flourish?
McDaniel will base his scheme off The Shanahan Plan, which is a zone-blocking run scheme featuring the wide zone play.
The wide zone is a horizontal run play that attempts to stretch the defense enough to find a vertical running seam.
Think vintage Broncos rushing attack. Think Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis.
Think the 49ers in recent years. Think Breida and Raheem Mostert and Alfred Morris and Tevin Coleman.
This offense does not necessarily require a first-rounder in order to succeed. That's a plus. But perhaps it is time to for Miami to at least invest more in the position.
How they did in 2021
The Dolphins' run game in 2021 was atrocious.
Miami ranked 30th in the league with 92.2 rushing yards per game and 31st in the league with 3.5 yards per rushing attempt.
By contrast, the 49ers offense was 7th in rushing yards per game and 15th in yards per attempt. San Francisco had 22 rushing touchdowns, while Miami posted 12.
The Dolphins' run-pass option offense often faltered because it lacked the required run threat and because their offensive line was often overwhelmed.
A slew of new coaches with run game expertise should help.
Last season, Myles Gaskin averaged only 3.5 yards per attempt. Free agent addition Duke Johnson led the team with 4.6 yards per attempt.
Free agents of interest
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has shown little interest in recent years in spending big at the running back position in free agency.
It is also true that lower-cost backs like Jordan Howard and Malcolm Brown have not paid dividends.
There are few power backs that will be available in free agency, such as James Connor and Leonard Fournette. But perhaps a shiftier back would be a better fit.
Former Broncos running back Melvin Gordon could prove too costly, but he'd sure look good in aqua and orange. Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson would be intriguing, and Mostert will be available, too.
Ronald Jones of the Bucs and Chase Edmonds of the Cardinals are worth considering. Phillip Lindsay averaged only 3.1 yards per carry but could be a scheme fit.
Draft prospects to watch
The last four running backs the Dolphins have drafted were taken in the seventh round.
Fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage did not work out. Third-rounder Kenyan Drake had some good moments, including the Miami Miracle.
The Dolphins have only one pick in each of the first three rounds this season, and two in the fourth. Miami has needs at offensive tackle, running back, wide receiver, perhaps guard or center, and probably middle linebacker.
If Miami were to consider a running back at 29 or 50, among those worthy: Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State), Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M) and Breece Hall (Iowa State). Walker is explosive and sudden. Spiller and Hall have size, balance and vision.
It's possible Miami considers James Cook (Georgia), Kyren Williams (Notre Dame), Jerome Ford (Cincinnati) or Dameon Pierce (Florida) in the third or fourth rounds.
What the Dolphins should do
The Dolphins should draft a running back before the seventh round in 2022.
The success of coaches and executives utilizing the Shanahan Plan to unearth gems capable of putting up big numbers in the system is a game-changer.
But Miami has so much salary cap space it makes sense to at least explore what an addition such as Melvin Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson or Ronald Jones might cost.
A reunion with Breida or Mostert is always possible.
McDaniel will want to add at least one running back who can make one cut and dart upfield through a pre-planned lane. He'll want a disciplined, downhill runner possessing burst and acceleration.
Could Kenneth Walker III be that player? Perhaps.
McDaniel should be trusted to provide heavy input on whatever running back/s Miami adds. He knows what a wide zone running back looks like. And he knows what attributes will translate best into Miami's new rushing scheme.
It has to be better. It can't be any worse.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins 2022 running back options free agency and NFL Draft