Even through the pains of a 7-6 2018 year and a seemingly unwatchable offense, you clearly saw that the Hurricanes had plenty of talent on that side of the ball. Guys like Brevin Jordan, Cam’Ron Harris, Mark Pope, and with the addition of dual-threat QB Tate Martell, it just adds another dimension to that attack. Now with new offensive coordinator Dan Enos heading the play-calling, expect to see a lot more of that talent being implemented in 2019.
Two of the most versatile and dangerous players on Miami’s offense this season is running-back DeeJay Dallas and receiver Jeff Thomas. Dallas is someone who played quarterback in high school, and is a jack of all trades when it comes to what he brings to the table. The Canes have lined him up at WR, out of the Wildcat and obviously in the backfield as your tailback. Thomas at receiver has eye-opening skills, and whenever he touches the football it’s going to be a special play. His blazing speed and incredible ability in the open-field is why NFL scouts are talking about the junior.
Now, in todays age of football, offenses are looking for multiple ways to use a player and their skill-set, so let’s look at a few ways Dallas and Thomas can and should be used.
Let’s start with DeeJay, and how his variety of abilities with the ball will be able to move the Hurricanes up and down the field. In his first two years at Miami, Dallas is averaging 6.2 yards everytime he touches the ball, whether taking the handoff or being on the receiving end of things.
When he first got to UM, and for the first few games of the 2017 season, Dallas was a receiver, until Mark Walton got injured and thrusted DeeJay to move to RB. In 23 games as a Hurricane, Dallas averages 12.6 yards every reception, so it’s obvious he can be used that way.
Running backs being used in the passing game isn’t new to football, but it’s certainly becoming a bigger part. Last year, Christian McCaffrey set an RB NFL record with 107 receptions.
Many offenses in the NFL today have been able to use their backs in different situations, one of my favorite is the Saints with Alvin Kamara. Here, you see Kamara lined up out wide as a receiver, and his speed allows separation.
Similar to Kamara, the Cardinals have used David Johnson in that same role as a receiver. Here, we see Arizona and Johnson connection in the passing game.
Back in his freshman year of 2017, Miami used Dallas similarly on a play against UNC and it worked very well.
Another play I like with backs being used as receivers was in 2015. The Browns, using pre-snap motion, line up in the basic I-formation and then audible sending out the two RB’s wide as receivers. With tailback Duke Johnson now as a receiver, he’s paired up against a linebacker who of course isn’t fast enough to cover him, and the result is a touchdown.
Last back I want to highlight is Todd Gurley. I really like how the Rams use Gurley, and I think Miami can use Dallas in a very similar way. The first example of that is a jet sweep against the Raiders last year. Lined up far to the left, Gurley runs the play to perfection into the end zone.
Beside the jet sweep, the Rams have been able to use Gurley in the screen game, though Sean McVay likes to run it in the play-action sense, as opposed to the traditional way, and it worked wonders. In 2017, Los Angeles called 26 screens off of play-action, and in total it averaged 11.7 yards per play.
With the Hurricanes triple-threat of backs with Dallas, Harris and Lorenzo Lingard, UM could easily use these sort of formations.
Now let’s move to Jeff Thomas, one of the most exciting players Miami has had in recent memory. With the ability to catch, run and even return kicks, Thomas is the Hurricanes most explosive weapon, period. Through his two years at UM, Thomas averages 18.0 yards per reception, and 17.8 anytime he touches the ball at all. The dude can flat out change games, and it was an absolute shame to see him used as little as he was in 2018.
Let’s look at some of the ways I believe Thomas can be used in 2019.
For our first example here, we’re going to stay with the Rams and see how they’re able to utilize Cooper Kupp. In the first video, you see the Kupp lined up pretty much on the line of scrimmage almost looking like a tight end, then flaring out like a screen pass after the play-action.
In the next play, Kupp is again lined up near the offensive line, but this time runs his route behind the quarterback who then hits him for the touchdown.
However, the player I like the most and think Thomas resembles is Tyreek Hill. Like we mentioned before with Dallas, I'm a fan of the jet-sweep, and the Chiefs run it with Hill to perfection. In the first video, KC is near the goal-line and you see Patrick Mahomes look like he’s handing it to RB Kareem Hunt, though Hill takes it and strolls into the end zone. Last year, Miami was awful in short yardage situations, and Thomas can provide that extra weapon.
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In the play above, Hill is lined up as a running back next to Mahomes, though using pre-snap motion, Hill goes out wide for the screen pass.
The Chiefs have also used Hill as a running back in a formation I love, when KC puts Mahomes in the shotgun with a back at each of his sides. Thomas only had one rush in 2018, going for 19 yards. Putting him in this formation with any of Miami’s backs would be problematic for opposing defenses.
Now obviously Dan Enos is a much brighter man than I when it comes to football and formations, especially when it comes to putting the ball into his biggest playmakers, so seeing more touches from both Dallas and Thomas will be happening in 2019.