Breida, Ahmed and Other Running Back Stories
The Miami Dolphins running back had been filled with different plots early in the 2020 season, and there are more in store heading into the game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5.
The first and most obvious for this game is the return of Matt Breida to San Francisco, where he spent his first three NFL seasons after being an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern.
Breida, of course, joined the Dolphins in the offseason in a trade for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
“It’s just going to be fun, finally getting to play against those guys that I played with the last three years, finally in a real live game," Breida said. "Probably a lot of smack talking with them on the field, but at the end of the day, it’s a game. We’re all brothers, so I’m looking forward to it and like I said, I’m not treating the week any different as if we played Seattle last week. It’s going to be the same preparation, same thing. I’m not going to go out there and do anything extraordinary that I don’t do. I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do.”
Breida became a bit more of a factor in the passing game against Seattle last week when he caught three passes, including one for a 26-yard gain in the first half.
That performance would lead one to believe he'll become a bigger factor in the game plan this week and moving forward.
But for the time being the running back with the most playing time still figures to be Myles Gaskin, whose improvement from his rookie season to this year has been nothing short of remarkable.
Head coach Brian Flores explained Gaskin's emergence earlier this week.
“I think you saw a lot of improvement a year ago," Flores said. "From training camp, to being inactive let’s call it the first half of last season. You could see even when he was inactive, he was in here on his off days training. He and Patrick Laird were training on their own. I’d walk into the bubble and they’d be off in the corner with bands and just trying to get better. He’s spent a lot of time with (Running Backs Coach) Eric (Studesville). I think Eric has done a good job with him as far as getting the mental side of the game down. He took this past offseason and really trained and got his body fit for an NFL season after having been through one. He felt like he needed to make some changes and he made them. Then he comes to training camp and he was very consistent throughout training camp. I’d say that’s the history behind it. All of those things happened. I think that’s happened with a lot of different players. Ultimately, if you get in the game and you’re productive, you get more opportunities, which has been the case for him.”
Gaskin's emergence has come mostly at the expense of veteran Jordan Howard, who the Dolphins signed in the offseason as a free agent.
Outside of a rushing touchdown in each of the three games, though, the start of the 2020 season has been a disaster for Howard.
In the first four games, he is averaging a microscopic 0.8 yards per carry, which is even worse than Kalen Ballage's numbers last year.
Howard certainly hasn't benefited from great blocking so far this season, but it's also fair to point out he hasn't made much happen on his own.
“I think it starts with me; I’ve got to find ways to help him and get him in positions where he can be more productive for us," running backs coach Eric Studesville said. "He’s doing everything we’re asking. He’s working, he’s practicing hard, he’s preparing. He knows what to do. Things haven’t gone well to this point, so we’re just going to go back and keep working. I’ve got to find ways to help him more and more and put him in a position where we can find some productivity.”
The Dolphins added another option at running back Friday when they promoted Salvon Ahmed from the practice squad.
Ahmed actually succeeded as the starting running back at the University of Washington in 2019 after being his backup.
Ahmed's arrival has made five running backs on the 53-man roster — Gaskin, Howard, Breida and Laird are the others — and that's not counting fullback Chandler Cox.
That obviously is a very large number of running backs and one has to wonder exactly how long the Dolphins will be keeping that many around.