What an exhilarating offseason it has been so far for the Miami Dolphins. The front office has been hard at work over the last several weeks making some very intriguing moves in preparation for the upcoming 2020 NFL season. Miami began the excitement last month with some key defensive acquisitions in free agency but really turned up the heat during the NFL Draft. One of the more intriguing decisions was the trade to bring in Matt Breida from the San Francisco 49ers. It’s easy to be hopeful with this newest addition at running back, but what does the Breida signing really do for the Dolphins offense in 2020?
Matt Breida and the Miami rushing attack
Matt Brieda joined the San Fransisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and was a regular in the running back rotation over the past three seasons. During the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins added Breida to the roster via trade in exchange for a fifth-round pick. The Dolphins offense definitely had flaws as a whole last season, but the running back position was a glaring disaster, making the Breida signing during the draft a particularly exciting one.
The Dolphins had a revolving door of running backs during the 2019 regular season. Depending on which point in the season you checked the roster, the depth chart for the running back would have a different name listed on top. Between Kenyan Drake, Mark Walton, and Patrick Laird, the Dolphins just couldn’t find their sweet spot at running back. In fact, if you’re looking for Miami’s top rusher for last season, you won’t find it anywhere in the running back position. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the leading rusher on offense in 2019 with 243 yards.
With the sour taste of last season’s rushing game still in the mouth of Dolphins fans, the new running back additions this offseason so far are a welcome change. Matt Breida is a particularly effective back even though he has been utilized by his offense mostly as a backup so far. In his past three seasons with San Francisco, he has averaged five yards per carry on all attempts. And it’s not just the run game where Breida has been effective — he has averaged over eight yards per reception making him very useful as part of the passing offense as well.
What OSM says about Breida and his skillset
The OSM data on Breida illustrates why the Dolphins can start to get their hopes up here. According to the Offensive Share Metrics data, which is focused on a player’s individual performance, Breida has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL for the last two seasons. He had an overall OSM grade of 16.68 in 2018 which ranked him as RB13 among all NFL running backs. In 2019, his overall OSM grade increased to 17.31 and ended the regular season again as RB13 in the league.
Breida’s OSM data for the 2019 regular season is pretty telling of his productivity. Since Breida was used primarily as a backup, he only has eight games with a recorded OSM grade — the running back must have at least ten attempts to record a grade each week. However, in half of those eight games, his OSM grade was far above the league average in backs. In Week 2 for example, Breida’s OSM grade for the week was Very Good at 30.02 and ranked RB04. This was more than twice the NFL’s average grade for running backs that week which was just north of 13.00.
Here’s what that means: Matt Breida hasn’t carried the majority of the rushing workload for his offense. But, when his number is called, he is one of the most productive players on the field. Breida rushed for 623 yards averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. His 5.1 yards per attempt, by the way, was the third-highest average among all NFL backs last season. He recorded these numbers while being one of the most defended against backs in the league in 2019 — running against eight or more defenders in the box on over 30% of his snaps; the 11th most in the NFL.
And we can’t go any further without talking about Matt Breida’s speed. In Week 5 of last season against the Cleveland Browns, Breida hit a top speed of 22.30 miles per hour on his 83-yard touchdown run. This is the fastest speed recorded by an NFL ball-carrier since the beginning of the 2018 season. The second-fastest speed over that same time period is Chicago Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson. The third? Also Matt Brieda. He hit 22.09 miles per hour during Week 12 of the 2018 season.
What does it mean for Miami?
So what does this bring to Miami? Breida is joining Jordan Howard (who was added to Miami’s roster from free agency recently) as the pair of running backs currently listed on top of the depth chart. Between the two, they have an average OSM grade of 15.51 for production last season. Miami’s two backs that they ended the 2019 season with, Laird and Gaskin, had an average OSM grade of 8.23.
In just a matter of weeks, the Dolphins went from having one of the worst running games in the NFL to having a real contending force. And of course, having a strong running game opens up the playbook for the entire offense. It’s still too early to say definitively but there is some promising hope for Miami right now.
There’s still plenty of time before the kickoff of the 2020 regular season, but as of now, things are looking up for the rushing attack of the Dolphins offense. Their current pair of backs between Breida and Howard are twice as productive on the field than last season’s. And with Breida moving to the Dolphins, he will finally get the opportunity to show he’s able to handle the workload of a starting NFL running back.
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