Friday, July 11, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 8: Backup RB

Assuming all goes well with Ronnie Brown's rehab and Ricky Williams'...being him, the Dolphins should have quite a 1-2 punch at running back for the coming season. Hopefully for the Dolphins, the backs behind those two on the depth chart won't see more than a carry here or there. That being said, the third running back will have to be up to the task if called upon, and just who that back will be has yet to be decided.

After Ronnie and Ricky, the lone holdover at the position from the previous season is Patrick Cobbs. An undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2006, Cobbs has established himself as a quality special teams player over the past two seasons with the Dolphins. He's a compact guy at 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds and has shown some ability in the preseason, though he's gotten very few chances on offense in the regular season with only 15 carries and one touchdown in his career.

Cobbs' main challenger is rookie Jalen Parmele, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Toledo. In addition to being a "Parcells guy", Parmele is more talented and has more upside than Cobbs. He doesn't have blazing speed or great power, but he's solid in all aspects and will at least be a backup in the NFL.

In reality, the battle here might be more between Cobbs and sixth-rounder Lex Hilliard. With the fullback job between Mauia and Grigsby, Hilliard is going to have to shine on special teams in order to make the squad out of camp. If he can do that, he should supplant Cobbs as a special teamer and No. 4 back. While teams often keep only three backs, four doesn't seem out of the question for the Dolphins given Ronnie's injury and Ricky's unreliability.

The position(s):Backup running back spots
Number of spots: 1-2
The contenders: Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele, Lex Hilliard
Predicted winner(s): Parmele and Hilliard
Reason: Cobbs hasn't much upside and is little more than a special teamer. Meanwhile, Parmele is more of a legitimate backup running back at this point and has a brighter future. If Hilliard showcases himself on special teams, his versatility at fullback and tailback will earn him the final spot over the holdover Cobbs.