It's easy to overlook Lynn Bowden Jr. on the Miami Dolphins offense as he prepares for his third NFL season, but maybe he shouldn't be.
The performance of Jaylen Waddle as a rookie, and the offseason additions of six-time Pro Bowl selection Tyreek Hill, free agent Cedrick Wilson Jr., and even rookie fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma, have made him somewhat of an afterthought, but he remains an intriguing player.
Bowden's journey since entering the NFL in 2020 is one that’s provided more questions than answers. He was drafted by the Raiders with the 80th overall pick as a prospect who brought dynamic potential as a multi-positional player.
Bowden, who was a high school quarterback, became a do-it-all weapon in college for the Kentucky Wildcats. In his final year, he had over 1,800 all-purpose yards with 14 touchdowns as a hybrid running-back/receiver. That’s not including his 74 pass attempts for 403 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
That made it all the more surprising when he was abruptly traded right before the start of the regular season. Las Vegas sent him, along with a sixth-round pick to Miami for their own fourth that they’d sent Miami in a previous trade (Raekwon McMillan). Amid speculation about maturity and off-the-field concerns, then GM Mike Mayock cited that it was a “football decision only” possibly stemming from his struggle transitioning to a full-time NFL running back.
It’s not often a team moves on from a developmental prospect on whom they spent a third-round draft pick just months earlier.
BOWDEN'S START WITH THE DOLPHINS
Bowden wouldn’t see regular playing time as a rookie with the Dolphins until Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had a breakout performance just a week later, recording seven receptions for 82 yards in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The rest of the season Bowden showed flashes of his playmaking talents, especially with his ability to make defenders miss. That left the impression of promising things to come.
Fast forward to today, and Bowden has yet to play a snap since the end of that 2020 rookie season. He suffered a hamstring injury late in training camp in a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons that resulted in his placement on injured reserve, ending his second season. The decision to put Bowden on IR became more mysterious amid reports that his injury wasn’t severe enough to to warrant shutting him down for the whole season.
BOWDEN AND HIS FIT IN A MIKE McDANIEL OFFENSE
Regardless of whether the Dolphins soured on Bowden last year, the new coaching staff has offered returning players a clean slate. In fact, it’s easy to assume the situation would favor Bowden, as his skill set translates favorably in Mike McDaniel’s scheme.
McDaniel, serving as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, used Deebo Samuel in a hybrid receiver-running back role last season. Samuel had 1,770 all-purpose yards and 14 TDs, and was named a first-team All-Pro.
His offensive scheme employs creativity and focuses on yards after the catch, two things that should excite Bowden. While he doesn’t possess Samuel's size, nor should be compared to Samuel, there should be a myriad of ways for McDaniel and OC Frank Smith to maximize Bowden’s potential.
When asked about Bowden’s skill set this week, McDaniel said, “He does have an interesting skill set” and, “I’ve always been drawn to players that have multiple positions, specifically quarterback experience, because of how they see the game.”
Bowden, who has been training this offseason at Per4orm, the same facility as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, was not seen practicing at the first OTA open to media. McDaniel said before that practice that Bowden has “been battling some hamstring stuff,” but “he’s been diligent in the meeting room."
One great indication of Bowden's roller-coaster ride since arriving in MIami is that he'll be wearing in 2022 a third number in three years, from 15 in 2020 to 6 in 2021 and now to 3.
One thing for sure with Bowden, he’s arrived at a crucial point in his journey. This coming summer should finally start providing some answers, including the most important one of whether his intriguing skill set could end up being of use to the Dolphins.