If the ever evolving (we may be looking at a mini-camp holdout) Christine Michael/Marshawn Lynch conversation has taught us anything its that it is hard to affirm a true opinion of a player in June, particularly as it relates to any share of workload, perceived training camp battle, etc. With that said, there are plenty of situations to monitor and while the focus is on the storyline in Seattle, an equally intriguing situation is at play in Miami.
The offseason has not been kind to Knowshon Moreno. Let’s take a quick minute to review:
- He had a career year in 2013 heading into free agency. He left Denver, his home throughout his NFL career and the league’s best offense (not to mention a great scoring situation for running backs), which I speak about on the Touch ‘Em All podcast today (Saturday, June 12) on the Fantasy Sports Network.
- Despite the career year, he has limited interest in his services and takes a one year, $3 Million contract from Miami.
- He shows up to camp out of shape and overweight. Not only is that a bad thing for a professional, but “Fat Knowshon” has a much less enticing ring to it than the “Fat Eddie” nickname that caught on for Green Bay’s rookie RB last season.
- He’s now running with the threes and fours while Lamar Miller takes the bulk of the first team reps.
Not good. But, noting that it is early in the offseason what should we making of this?
Obviously, a slow start with a new team is not a good thing. Moreno intends to stay in Miami through the summer and work on his conditioning – I’m sure he’ll have himself game ready by the time that training camp rolls around. Moreno sees it that way, too (per Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald):
This is just the beginning. It’s just the beginning, getting your feet wet, and when you have time off, working at those little things, getting back to where you need to be, and once camp comes, it’ll be good.
He isn’t the first player to need a little extra time to get into game shape, but the missed reps now won’t help him as he tries to acclimate to a new offense. At the end of the day, Miller may hold the titular starter role at the outset of the season given his familiarity with the offense and the way the situation shapes up. Even if Moreno overcomes the issues that have cropped up at the start of his Dolphins’ career, you’ll want to avoid overpaying for his services this season.
As we mentioned in our review of Lovie Smith’s impact on Doug Martin, a coach’s philosophy has a big impact on a player’s overall production and on how they are used in an offense. For Moreno, he joins a Miami offense led by Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor under Head Coach Joe Philbin. Under Philbin, traditionally there is a fairly even distribution of work between running backs. Whoever is the starter shouldn’t be expected to dominate the touches.
Last year, playing 16 and 15 games respectively, Miller out-touched his backfield-mate Daniel Thomas by just 79 chances on the season (203-124). Miller was on the field for just over 60% of the teams offensive snaps, while Thomas participated in roughly 35%. The numbers in 2012 looked a little different, with Reggie Bush having an effective season but even he notched just 262 touches compared to 106 for Thomas (and 57 more bestowed upon Miller). Philbin did lean heavily on Ryan Grant during a few seasons in his tenure as OC in Green Bay, but even then other parties were in the mix. The lead role is important, but it should be noted that this is shaping up to be a full blown running back by committee.
Then there is the difference in the two offenses to consider. I could cut any number of stats and throw them at you, but we’ll stick with the straightforward: Denver scored 606 points last season, almost double Miami’s 317. While the Dolphins are expecting growth from Ryan Tannehill and have reworked an offensive line that was a severe impediment to strong QB play as well as the run game overall, even the most optimistic of projections would have them well below Denver’s overall output from last year. The situation represents a significant downgrade, and that much has to be acknowledged with Moreno.
In five NFL seasons the 26-year-old Moreno has never produced last year’s 1500 total yard, 13 touchdown production. In fact, he’s never been close. As much as the player deserves credit for his turn around, it should be apparent that he was a product of the system. With struggles to open the offseason, any belief I had in his ability to transition to Miami is quickly fading. Let the owner who believes last year represents a turn around for Moreno pay the piper on draft day.
As for Miller, owners who are snakebitten by his lack of production last season need to remember that the price tag heading into this year is considerably lower. Noting that he currently sits as the lead RB on the depth chart and is heading for a greater role than his current ADP (RB46) suggests you may find value in Miller, particularly if Moreno continues to falter.