The Dolphins have one of the trickier backfields to grade. There will be multiple backs involved, and the production isn’t going to be as good as last year.

Miami had that weird run early last season, where defenses couldn’t seem to figure out what they were doing. Over a five-game span, they averaged 204 rushing yards, with 14 rushing touchdowns. Most offenses didn’t score more than 14 rushing touchdowns all of last year.

But Miami’s ground game wasn’t as impressive in the second half of the season. It was more of a middle-of-the-pack group after that five-game run, averaging 111 rushing yards and 4.2 per carry. (It scored 12 rushing touchdowns in its final 11 games, which I’ll concede is still a top-10 number.)

They’ve got DeVon Achane, who ripped off 5 runs of 40-plus yards last year despite carrying the ball only 108 yards. He finished at 7.8 yards per carry, which is over a yard more than any other running back in the last 50 years. According to the search engine at Pro-Football-Reference, only 11 other running backs have averaged 6 yards per carry in a season (among those with least 100 carries).

2023DeVon Achane, Mia.1038007.778
1973Mercury Morris, Mia.1499546.4010
2010Jamaal Charles, K.C.2301,4676.385
2021Rashaad Penny, Sea.1197496.296
1997Barry Sanders, Det.3352,0536.1311
2017Alvin Kamara, N.O.1207286.078
2012Adrian Peterson, Min.3482,0976.0312
1973O.J. Simpson, Buff.3322,0036.0312
1978Ted McKnight, K.C.1046276.036
1984Hokie Gajan, N.O.1026156.035
2012C.J. Spiller, Buff.2071,2446.016
2020J.K. Dobbins, Balt.1348056.019

Statistics compiled using search tools at

But Achane is tiny (5-8, 188). They’ll want to keep him healthy and fresh, so I imagine they’ll be careful to control his touches. I don’t expect to see him getting 15 touches in many (if any) games, and I don’t think he’ll get too many carries around the goal line. He had 3 attempts inside the 5 last year.

They’ll need to work in some other back, with Raheem Mostert looking most likely. Mostert was their starter for most of last year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and scoring a league-high 21 touchdowns. Mostert isn’t as explosive as Achane, but he seems more likely to get most of their goal-line carries, giving him a good chance of again scoring more touchdowns.

Mostert, however, isn’t a usual starting running back. He’s 32, and has had a long history of injuries. Easy to see him vanishing into a nothing in a hurry. If I’m picking today, I’d be selecting streaky and speedy Achane before Mostert.

Miami probably will need to dip into some other running back at some point, with candidates including Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed and Chris Brooks.

—Ian Allan