There are only two 2020 Training Camp previews left for the Miami Dolphins offense, and the next group up is the running backs. After an abysmal 2019 season running the ball, the Dolphins have made significant changes to their backfield. While the wide receivers are the most proven commodity with star DeVante Parker, the running backs could provide a big spark this coming season.
Below, I will break down the contenders in the Dolphins’ backfield by the starters and important backup running backs in 2020. The running game should be more respectable behind a few newcomers to South Beach. However, the question remains how much that unit will help Miami’s overall success in getting back to the playoffs once again?
Breida is a home run threat that could be among AFC’s best in 2020
Former Dolphins’ starter Kalen Ballage averaged a measly 1.8 yards-per-carry in 2019 and recently has found himself to be surplus to requirements in Miami. Behind Ballage were a stable of equally disappointing contributors in Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird. However, Miami took significant steps toward jump-starting the rushing attack with some strong offseason moves.
One of those moves was a trade with the San Francisco 49ers on the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft. The team acquired former Georgia Southern star and burner Matt Breida for a fifth-round draft pick. The acquisition of Breida for 2020 NFL Draft assets shows a new commitment by the coaching staff and the likeliness that Breida sees a plethora of snaps in 2020. As a prospect heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, Breida posted some incredibly impressive athletic numbers.
In terms of RAS (Relative Athletic Scores), Breida scored a nearly perfect number of 9.43 out of 10. His 4.39 forty-yard dash, 42-inch vertical jump, and a 20-yard split of 2.5 seconds were some of the more impressive scores by a running back in the entire class.
His home run ability and untapped potential make him a candidate to start and a dark horse for the most valuable player on offense for the Dolphins in 2020.
Howard is a steady and productive addition to the Miami backfield
Another significant offseason acquisition for the Dolphins was the signing of former Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles running back, Jordan Howard. PFN’s own Lucas Ellinas recently discussed Howard’s fit in the Dolphins RB room going into 2020. In the piece by Ellinas, Howard’s OSM grade shows a top 25 running back from 2019 that could make a significant impact for the Dolphins if he can improve his efficiency carrying the football.
I’ve mentioned both Breida and Howard as top-25 snubs at the RB position for the 2020 season. Breida has been a flashy, big-play producer early on in his career. With increased carries in Miami, he could reach the next level in his career in the NFL as a top back in the AFC. Howard has already been a steady contributor and top producer at the professional level with both the Bears and Eagles.
Despite a dip in production since his star-studded rookie season in 2016, Howard has accumulated the third-most rushing yards among active players during that time span. He is a bruising presence with underrated catching ability that will pair nicely with Breida for the Dolphins. This duo could be among the best in football in 2020, but frankly, any improvement from the running game will be a welcomed sight for fans in South Beach.
Gaskin and other young runners looking to carve out a role this season
Behind Breida and Howard, the Dolphins have a trio of talented and unproven backs vying for a place in this offense long-term. That group includes a pair of former Washington Huskies in Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed as well as Laird, a 2019 fan-favorite. Gaskin is the early favorite in the battle for the number three role in this backfield.
Gaskin, a 2019 seventh-rounder of the Dolphins, posted 133 yards and a touchdown in seven appearances last season. He has looked more explosive this season in camp as he enters his second season with the Dolphins. Gaskin is a sneaky good prospect as a receiver and gives this team an excellent change-of-pace option to spell the new starting duo of Breida and Howard.
Laird is a solid if unspectacular option in the battle for the number three running back spot in Miami. He received plenty of fanfare as a four-game starter for the Dolphins in 2019. Laird managed 168 yards, one touchdown, and 23 catches during that time. Ahmed is a player recently awarded off waivers from San Francisco after going undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11 scores for the Huskies last season. The talent in the backfield is undeniable, and it could be a significant catalyst for the success of the Dolphins in 2020.