What’s worse than finding out the person you’re dating is flirting with another?
That’s the reality tailback Myles Gaskin had to stomach this past week while the Miami Dolphins pursued Le’Veon Bell after he was released by the New York Jets and was picking between the Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
Bell eventually signed with the defending Super Bowl Champions with the hopes that he’ll contribute to Kansas City’s postseason run, and Gaskin said he didn’t used Miami’s flirtation with a three-time Pro Bowler as motivation.
Gaskin, a 2018 seventh-round pick who used training camp to earn a contributing role this season, delivered his best NFL performance on Sunday.
Gaskin gained 91 rushing yards on 18 carries, and contributed 35 yards on four receptions in Sunday’s 24-0 victory over the Jets.
That’s a total of 126 yards from the former University of Washington standout, who is pushing to gain the respect most NFL starters possess.
“He’s been playing well these first six weeks. Guys on our team are motivated to play, period,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said when asked if Miami’s pursuit of Bell provided a little added motivation to Gaskin. “They don’t need any extra motivation.”
Gaskin personifies the type of player Flores is trying to build the Dolphins with: underdogs who are driven to work harder than the man next to them, and put on blinders to do it.
That type of work ethic is what allowed Gaskin to leapfrog Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, the two veterans the Dolphins added this past offseason, on the depth chart.
So far this season Gaskin has gained 340 yards on 82 carries, and averages 4.1 yards per carry.
He also ranks second on the team in receptions, bringing in 27 passes, which he’s turned into 182 yards.
Heading into Sunday’s game against a dejected Jets team, who had been battling some injuries on defense, the Dolphins were averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks 30th.
And even worse than that was the yards per carry average from the team’s top three tailbacks — Gaskin, Breida and Howard — who collectively are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on 109 carries in the first five games.
“We ran the ball effectively at times,” Flores said about Sunday’s performance, which delivered 110 rushing yards on 25 carries. “Like everything else, we’ll improve in that area. Myles in tough. He’s a competitor. Hopefully we can keep building.”
According to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been a champion for Gaskin, the defensive front the Jets were giving the Dolphins encouraged Miami to check into runs, and Gaskin capitalized on them.
“He’s a guy that just continued to work really hard. The improvement he made from last year to his year is awesome,” Fitzpatrick said, comparing Gaskin to his rookie season, where he didn’t play until the second half of the season, and averaged 3.9 yards on 64 carries.
“We’re always out there cheering for Myles and he wants to get better every single day,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s why you see such a big jump from him.”
Gaskin credited his career game to the work Miami’s offensive linemen were putting in against the Jets defense.
“I’m coming in more comfortable playing with guys, knowing where they are going to be and what they are going to do,” Gaskin said, referring to the offensive line’s blocking habits.
Run games do take time to evolve, and they are often driven by the holes the offensive line creates.
The Dolphins offensive line, which has utilized three rookie starters, have been working to create a run-game identity since training camp, and Sunday’s performance was the first time they seemed to get into a groove.
The hope what Miami did against the Jets isn’t just a tease, and that the emergence of the run game can open up the Dolphins' play-action passing attack, which is the style of play Fitzpatrick has excelled at the most.
It is possible that Gaskin will likely have the opportunity to prove that he deserves to be the Dolphins' main man, showing South Florida that this offense doesn’t need another tailback.
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