Part 5 of a series: Examining the Miami Dolphins’ running backs and where they stand

Barry Jackson
·6 min read

During a two-week period, we’re taking an in-depth look at every player on the Miami Dolphins roster, with metrics, how they compared to others in the league, their contract status and their future here.

Today, we cover running backs in Part 5 of an eight-part series:

MYLES GASKIN

Contract status: Two years left on his four-year rookie deal. Will earn $850,000 in 2021.

The metrics: A seventh-round pick who was initially considered on the bubble simply to make last year’s team, Gaskin was a revelation in 2020, finishing 10th in the league in average yards from scrimmage — 97.2 per game — despite missing games because of knee injuries and a bout with COVID-19.

In 10 games and seven starts, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 142 rushes — which ranked 40th in the league and 36th among running backs.

He caught 41 of 47 targets for 388 yards with three drops.

He was an effective pass blocker, allowing just two pressures and no sacks in 68 pass blocking chances.

Two reasons he would ideally be a No. 2 back on a playoff team: Excluding his exceptional catch-and-run in the Las Vegas game, he didn’t produce a lot of chunk plays; his longest run was 26 yards.

Also, Gaskin averaged 2.54 yards after contact, which was 83rd among 142 backs rated in that category. Pro Football Focus ranked him 59th in its “elusiveness” metric among 162 backs rated in that category.

Overall, PFF rated him 26th of the 70 backs that the website deemed had enough playing time to qualify for its overall rankings.

The future: Will enter camp likely competing with a high draft pick or a free agent (Aaron Jones?) to start. In his best-case case scenario, he starts. In his worst-case scenario, he falls to No. 3 on the depth chart behind both a new addition and his buddy and former Washington Huskies teammate Salvon Ahmed. In the most likely scenario, he’s Miami’s No. 2 back.

If the Dolphins use one of their three second-day picks on a running back, the expectation is that player should be the starter by some point next season. But Gaskin proved in 2020 that he shouldn’t be underestimated. And he was a productive starter on a 10-win team.

SALVON AHMED

Contract status: Due to make $780,000 in 2021, the final season of his contract.

The metrics: Ahmed proved to be one of Miami’s best under-the-radar pickups of 2020. He was claimed off waivers from San Francisco in August and then moved to the 53-man roster when the Chargers offered him a deal in October. Ahmed averaged 4.3 yards on 73 carries, displaying impressive burst.

PFF ranked him 36th of 70 qualifying NFL running backs.

Ahmed could do a better job breaking tackles; he averaged 2.32 yards after contact, which was 107th of 142 running backs rated in that category. PFF ranked him 110th of 162 running backs evaluated in its elusiveness metric.

One problem: He allowed two sacks and four pressures in just 29 pass blocking opportunities.

The future: Figures to compete with a rookie draft pick or free agent and Gaskin for the first, second and third jobs on the depth chart. The No. 3 spot might be most likely, but there’s seemingly potential for more than that.

MATT BREIDA

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

The metrics: Acquired from the 49ers for a fifth-round pick, Breida never made the impact expected, in large part because he didn’t get the opportunity.

He received 105, 153 and 123 carries in his first three seasons in the league with San Francisco and produced the league’s third-highest per carry average (5.0) during that time.

But Miami gave him only 59 carries all year — largely because of the emergence of Gaskin and Ahmed, partly because of the early usage of Jordan Howard — and Breida didn’t top 37 rushing yards until running 12 times for 86 yards (7.1 average) against New England in Week 15. Curiously, he didn’t get a single carry in the two games to close the season.

His rushing average (4.3) tied for the best on the team, excluding Patrick Laird, who had just 13 carries.

Two things that hurt Breida: He averaged 2.41 yards after contact, ranking 100th of 143 running backs. (PFF ranked him 107th of 162 in its elusiveness metric.) And his blocking was in the bottom quarter of running backs, per PFF.

The future: Unlikely to return, by mutual decision. This was a marriage that should have worked out and yet oddly didn’t.

PATRICK LAIRD

Contract status: Due to make $850,000 in 2021, the final season of his contract.

The metrics: In 2019, Laird looked like he might be Miami’s best third-down back, catching 23 passes for 204 yards. But Gaskin and Ahmed passed him on the depth chart, and he caught just 10 passes (in 12 targets) for 68 yards in 2020, with three of those receptions going for first downs.

His carries also plunged, from 67 to 13. On the positive side, he gained 72 yards on those 13 carries, a 5.5 average.

In 2019, he played 27 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps. In 2020, that dipped to 14 percent, even though he played in 16 games this past season, compared to 15 in 2019.

In pass protection, Laird allowed three pressures and no sacks in just 24 pass blocking chances. He was a run blocker on just 11 snaps.

The future: Laird’s aptitude on special teams — and his ability to play on any down — give him value as a No. 4 back. But he will face a challenge for that role in training camp.

DEANDRE WASHINGTON

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

The metrics: Because of depth issues at running back, Miami acquired Washington and a 2021 seventh-round pick from Kansas City for a sixth-round pick. As it turns out, the Dolphins might have found somebody better on the waiver wire. Washington gained just 86 yards on 28 carries (a meager 3.1 per carry average) and caught four passes for 28 yards in three games.

The future: Running backs coach Eric Studesville, the new co-offensive coordinator, praised the skill set, but he did nothing that necessarily earns a contract here in 2021.

ALSO UNDER CONTRACT

Jordan Scarlett, who has four career carries for 9 yards, all with Carolina. He signed a futures deal with the Dolphins last month. I wrote more about him here.

Here’s part 1 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ receivers.

Here’s part 2 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ tight ends.

Here’s part 3 of this series on each of the Dolphins’ defensive linemen.

Here’s part 4 of this series on all of the Dolphins’ linebackers.

Here’s my Friday Heat piece, including Miami being linked to Blake Griffin and perspective on where Heat players stand at the All Star break.

Here’s my Friday UM 6-pack, with lots of news.