DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins running game will revolve around someone new for the first time in three years.
Reggie Bush, the Dolphins’ leading rusher in both 2011 & ’12, bolted for the Detroit Lions via free agency in March.
Considering Bush’s mileage and salary expectations, it was little surprise Miami let the seven-year veteran run away.
More interesting, however, is how the Dolphins plan to replace Bush — internally. The team did not sign a veteran free agent running back, and selected only one rusher (Florida’s Mike Gillislee, fifth round) in this year’s draft.
“We liked the guys we had,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said during the team’s latest organized training activities on Wednesday. “We liked the guys we had in the locker room. We thought there was potential there. We thought there was opportunity for growth and development out of those guys.
“We’ll see how that goes here in the coming weeks and months.”
Lamar Miller, in his second year from the University of Miami, appears to lead the depth chart. Then there’s Daniel Thomas, the 2011 second-round pick from Kansas State. Marcus Thigpen, Jonas Gray, free agent Cameron Marshall (Arizona State) and Gillislee also are vying for time.
“Reggie was a good guy, but now it’s a lot of younger guys,” Miller said. “We’re all out here to compete and to try to win the starting position.
“Everybody’s mindset is to start, so we just have to come out here and compete every day and get each other better.”
Miller, who has worked out with fellow UM alum and current San Francisco 49ers star Frank Gore this offseason, reportedly has set goals of 1,500 yards and a 5.0 yard per carry average for 2013 – extremely lofty considering he hasn’t been tabbed the Dolphins’ starter.
Such confidence by Miller is understandable. In 2011, he became the Hurricanes’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Willis McGahee in 2002.
“I feel I’m more of an explosive guy, speed type of runner,” said Miller, who also ran track at UM. “I just want to show the coaches what I can do.”
Both Miller and Thomas saw action last season. Thomas carried 91 times for 325 yards (3.6 avg.) and four touchdowns. Miller ran 51 times for 250 yards (4.9) and one TD.
At 5-foot-10, 218 pounds, Miller is smaller that the 6-1, 233-pound Thomas.
But Philbin is looking for something other than size in his ball carrier.
“Versatility, somebody we can depend on,” the coach said at last week’s OTA. “And then somebody, quite frankly, who can break some tackles.”
That might bode well for Miller, but the coach wasn’t tipping his hand Wednesday.
“It’s wide open at this particular point in time,” Philbin said of the race to replace Bush. “What we’re doing now is we’re installing in every phase of the game and exposing our players to as many things we can possibly teach.”