Omar Kelly: Le'Veon Bell could make Dolphins a playoff contender

Omar Kelly, Sun Sentinel

DAVIE, Fla. — If the Miami Dolphins believe they have a team with enough talent to become a playoff contender this season, then adding star free agent running back Le’Veon Bell is the right move to make.

Bell already calls South Florida home, living and training here in the offseason, and sources told the South Florida Sun Sentinel he’s open to considering the Dolphins (2-3) if “the money, and situation is right.”

Bell seemingly wants to be utilized as a featured back, getting the bulk of the carries like he did during his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and playing on third downs. He also hopes to join a team that will give him an opportunity to compete for a title.

“As far as Le’Veon, that’s more of a question for Chris (Grier). My focus right now is on (facing) the Jets (Sunday) and the talent they have as a team. I’ve said this before he’s a very good player,” said Dolphins coach Brian Flores when asked to address the rumors about Miami’s interest in Bell, who was released by the Jets on Tuesday night.

“He’s a good player,” Flores repeated about Bell, who ESPN is reporting has narrowed his choices to Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami.

The Dolphins have a ton of decent players, but are missing the “good” ones. Elite talents like Bell, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his seven seasons and scored 46 touchdowns in the regular season.

That kind of production could immediately bolster the Dolphins’ struggling running game.

The Dolphins are averaging 104.2 rushing yards per game, which is respectable considering they rank 21st in the NFL heading into Sunday’s game against the Jets (0-5). But Miami is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks 30th.

And here’s the eye-opening part of the problem. Miami’s three tailbacks — Myles Gaskin, Matt Breida and Jordan Howard — are collectively averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on 109 carries in the first five games.

That’s horrendous, and clearly needs to improve because the inability to run the ball consistently and effectively will stifle Miami’s play-action passing game.

“We have to improve the running game, play action red zone, two minute … Those guys are working hard along with the offensive line, the fullbacks and tight ends to get the blocking where we need it and running it better,” Flores said. “We’ve run it effectively in some instances but we can be better overall. These guys are working to get better and improve.”

Part of the problem centers around Miami’s offensive line not being able to open up respectable running lanes. That could continue to be an issue until left tackle Austin Jackson, the 18th selection in April’s draft, returns from a foot injury, and fellow rookies Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt, Miami’s starting right guard and right tackle, gain their footing as NFL starters.

The Dolphins don’t have a run game identity at the moment, but Bell’s patient running style could be just what the doctor prescribes because it gives Miami’s big linemen time to work.

“We have our core runs that we get in, and I think Myles Gaskin has done a good job contributing to that, along with the other running backs as well,” said Jesse Davis, who has started 46 games for the Dolphins the past four seasons. “I think for us each week, it’s how do we establish the run game early and often to open up our pass game? Not sit there and drop back 45 plays, and trying to figure that out.

“I think we’ve done a good job,” Davis continued. “I think we have a long way to go with it, but so far, I think, it’s better than it’s been.”

But having a rushing attack that’s better than the worst rushing attack in franchise history, which is what Miami possessed last year, isn’t the goal.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Without a respectful rushing attack, the Dolphins aren’t going anywhere in 2020. A healthy and motivated Bell could fix that, elevating the Dolphins into a legitimate playoff contender.

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