As the NFL season approaches, there are hundreds of team-based storylines to track, interwoven with thousands of individual player storylines. A fascinating situation is developing in Miami, where the Dolphins have perhaps their most loaded backfield in decades: three guys who could serve as the bell cow if needed. The following are the three most likely scenarios for how this RB depth chart will shake out in 2023.
Most Likely Miami Dolphins Backfield Scenarios for 2023
Scenario 1: 2022 Redux
Miami drafted Devon Achane in the third round last month. He combines blazing speed with a small frame. In other words, his first season could be spent as a kick returner and little-used gadget player. The Dolphins have two wideouts who excel after the catch. Achane could be yet another after-the-catch threat, albeit a sparsely used one.
This would leave Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. as the main RB tandem, picking up where they left off in the second half of last season. Chase Edmonds’ absence could prove irrelevant — or at least, that’s what the Dolphins are hoping. Mostert and Wilson each hit 4.7+ yards per carry last year on this squad. They’re certainly capable of replicating that efficiency and helping power this offense.
Scenario 2: Age and Injuries
Injuries are part of sports, plain and simple. But Miami is taking on more risk than most teams. Yes, Mostert is one of the game’s most underrated running backs when healthy. Last year’s 4.9 ypc was the worst of his career. Yes, worst. Had he not struggled with injuries for years, he might be known today as one of the best RBs of the past five or six seasons.
But he’s an unusually high injury risk, which is compounded by his advancing age (31), as well as the fact that Miami plans to run the ball more. Prior to 2022, Mostert had never earned more than 151 touches in a season. But this past season, he netted 212.
For a typical 1A back, that’s not huge volume. But for a guy with Mostert’s injury history, it could spell trouble.
This might elevate the 27-year-old Wilson to the lead-back role, as the team paces Mostert to help keep him on track for a playoff push. As a result, Wilson might become the 200+ touch RB, with Mostert operating in a 1B role. Or a minor early-season injury to Mostert could serve as a wake-up call to head coach Mike McDaniel, compelling him to feature Wilson more prominently on early downs and conserve Mostert for higher-leverage situations.
Scenario 3: Youth Movement
As alluded to above, Achane’s slight frame might preclude him from being a starting NFL running back. But in a tough AFC East, the Dolphins might find themselves on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. A lot hinges on Tua Tagovaila’s durability, as well as how the team fares in their first nine games.
In those nine contests, they’ll face the Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, Patriots, and Chargers on the road. Home tilts vs. the Giants, Patriots, and Broncos could be challenging. Their one highly favorable matchup will be against the Panthers.
At their best, Miami could roll to a 6-3 record and assert themselves as legitimate playoff contenders. However, they might be underdogs in each of those five road games. A 4-5 record by early November is entirely realistic.
If the Fins limp through these first two months, then they could find themselves in must-win mode much earlier than expected. A lost season could compel them to expand Achane’s role. Additionally, any struggles by Mostert and/or Wilson could elevate Achane to greater prominence.
Despite his size issues, Achane averaged 19.6 carries per game in his final campaign at Texas A&M. He ran 16 times for 62 yards against eventual sixth-ranked Alabama, as well as 16 times for 111 yards vs. eventual 20th-ranked Mississippi State. In his final contest, he rolled for 215 yards on 38 carries against sixth-ranked (at the time) LSU.
The Dolphins drafted Achane in the third round because he’s a great running back. The main question is whether he can be great as a bell cow in the NFL. If Miami’s playoff hopes fade by November, then it would behoove them to give Achane the keys to the backfield to see if they have their bell cow ahead of 2024.