On Monday I was standing on the sideline watching the Dolphins practice. On what is just a routine run play into the A-gap, Daniel Thomas took the handoff and this happened when there was no apparent hole:
The Dolphins running back took the handoff and turned his back to the line of scrimmage and backpedalled into the pile of offensive and defensive linemen facing the wrong direction.
I turned to Dolphins officials and said that play tells me all I need to know about Thomas as a running back. His instincts are wrong. Rather than lowering his head and pads and bullying his way into the line to create a hole or, at the very least, bouncing outside to salvage the play, he basically gave up on the play and protected himself.
Not what I would expect from the kid who is 6-1 and 228 pounds.
Not what I would expect from a second-round pick.
Not what I would expect from the player who is supposed to inherit the Miami running back spot after this year because Reggie Bush is in the final year of his contract.
Not what I would expect from an NFL running back.
That moment, in all its disappointment, came back to me when I watched Hard Knocks Tuesday. In the opening minutes of the show, amid all the players that are not getting the job done or getting cut or traded, we see Thomas called into coach Joe Philbin's office.
It wasn't so the coach could give the player a standing ovation. Seems Thomas was late to the team plane that carried the Dolphins to the Carolina game two weeks ago. And he apparently did not meet dress code requirements.
And then last week he was late to a weight lifting session.
"Last week you were late to the plane and you weren't in the proper dress code," Philbin tells Thomas. "Now, I come to find out you were 15 minutes late today. From where I sit I get concerned about that stuff. Obviously, you're going to get fined, but that's not the point. The point is I don't want to be fining anybody. I want guys that do what they're supposed to do and be where they're supposed to be and right now, two times in four days, that's not a good thing."
"And I'm just telling you, this can't happen, that kind of stuff can't happen," Philbin adds. "I'm getting a little queasy about you. You got to take responsibility for your own career, what you're doing and when you're doing it. I don't want to come talk to you again. I want to see you out there and next time I want to talk to you on a positive thing, not this kind of stuff."
So what does all this mean?
Look, the Dolphins are fishing for bodies or draft picks or anything that can possibly help them rise from the mire that currently threatens to sink them to the bottom of the AFC East standings once the season begins.
The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, are searching for running backs. And so it's only logical that the Lions might be looking at Miami's supposedly well-stocked running back stable and think maybe Bush might be available for a receiver or draft pick.
And if I'm the Dolphins, I would love to be able to consider the option. Except that the heir to the job can't be on time and isn't exactly producing on the field and isn't exactly following in the tradition of Larry Csonka, either.
So what can the Dolphins do but hold on to Bush, right?
Well, you might say, they can offer Thomas. That's a fine idea except Thomas hasn't done anything of high regard in this league and his tardiness was now on national TV. Also, the head coach said on national TV that he's starting to feel "queasy" about the guy. Yeah, that's going to bring a bigtime dividend in trade from Detroit ... or anybody.
It's just disappointing. That's all I can say. Disappointing.