This week the Miami Dolphins didn’t just lose their starting tailback Myles Gaskin, who was placed on injured reserve because of a knee injury he suffered in last Sunday’s 28-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
The Dolphins will also be without Matt Breida, the team’s second-leading rusher, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Rams and has been ruled out of Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Receiver Lynn Bowden Jr., a former Kentucky quarterback who was utilized in some of Miami’s Wildcat packages this season, will also miss Sunday’s game after being played on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list. Bowden, a rookie Miami traded for before the season, joins a Dolphins assistant coach as the second Dolphins personnel placed on the COVID-19-reserve list this week.
However, it is unclear if Bowden tested positive or is being isolated from the team because of his exposure to someone who has contracted the coronavirus.
Complicating matters is that DeAndre Washington, the tailback Miami acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday for a swap of 2021 sixth- and seventh-round picks, won’t be available for Sunday’s game because of the NFL’s COVID-19 rules, which requires players have five negative tests before they can join their new team.
That leaves Jordan Howard, Patrick Laird, who is nursing an ankle injury he suffered last week, and rookie tailback Salvon Ahmed are the only tailbacks available for the Rams game.
The injuries to Gaskin and Breida, which the Dolphins have known about since last Sunday, will likely force Miami to alter it’s offensive game plan and running style for Sunday’s game.
Since the season began, the Dolphins have been tailoring their offense to a spread attack with Gaskin and Brieda as the lead backs, and that style doesn’t exactly fit Howard’s skill set — which helps explain why he’s been inactive for the past three games.
Howard, a fifth-year veteran who has started 50 games in his NFL career, is a physical back who typically is at his best running out of a power package, utilizing zone inside runs.
The 2016 Pro Bowl selection has rushed for more than 935 yards three times in his five seasons, accumulating 3,909 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns off his 915 carries and 83 career receptions. But Howard hasn’t found his footing in the Dolphins’ offense, gaining just 14 yards on 18 carries this season. He’s averaging 0.8 yards per attempt, but plenty of his runs have been in goal-line situations, which explains why he leads all Miami tailbacks with three rushing touchdowns.
“Jordan Howard, he’s always practiced hard,” coach Brian Flores said, referring to the fifth-year veteran Miami signed to a two-year deal worth $9.75 million in the offseason. “I think he’s a good runner that’s why we brought him here. He’ll get an opportunity. Salvon Ahmed and Patrick Laird will get an opportunity."
Laird hasn’t handled a carry this season. But he’s gained 11 yards on three catches. Last season, Laird gained 168 yards and scored one touchdown on 62 carries.
The former California standout who made the team as an undrafted rookie also caught 23 of 30 passes thrown his way, contributing 204 receiving yards last season. But he’s viewed more as a third-down back, which makes him an ideal complement for Howard.
The mystery in the backfield is Ahmed, who spent most of his collegiate career as Gaskin’s backup at Washington. But he gained 1,020 rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 188 carries in his final collegiate season. He’s been with the team since September, initially joining the practice squad, but got called up to the 53-man roster in October.
Ahmed is familiar with the spread and run-pass-option offense Miami has been utilizing because it was used during his collegiate career. But he hasn’t had an NFL carry yet because he hasn’t been active for a game.
The Dolphins also have Malcolm Perry available to handle carries. Perry rushed for 3,359 yards during his four seasons at Navy, where he ran an option-based offense. But he’s spent the majority of the three months working as a receiver in Miami.
Cornerback Jamal Perry, who missed last week’s game because of a foot injury, is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Perry is the backup nickel cornerback and a key special teams contributor.
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