The running back position has seemed to plague the Miami Dolphins for the last couple of seasons after losing a key piece in RB Jay Ajayi a few seasons ago in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, Miami had added three new backs in the offseason and has a true picking to try and right the ship in 2020.
Ajayi played for the Dolphins for three seasons with his best season coming in 2016. He rushed 260 times for 1,272 rushing yards and had eight rushing touchdowns. Currently, Miami has six RBs listed on its depth chart.
In no particular order, it features Kalen Ballage, Matt Breida, Myles Gaskin, Jordan Howard, Patrick Laird, Malcolm Perry and additionally has fullback Chandler Cox. There is plenty of talent on the depth chart, but only one can assume the true No. 1 spot to lead the team in 2020 and the future.
Ballage was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Arizona State University. The 131st pick came in that trade that sent Ajayi to the Eagles.
Ballage would make his NFL debut against the New England Patriots in a losing effort in 2018’s week four. However, he saw little action though as he rushed just once for three yards.
Fast forward to week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings. Ballage’s role expanded as he was given 12 carries that he took for 123 yards and a score. He finished his rookie season with 191 rushing yards and one rushing TD.
In 2019, Ballage entered the season as the No. 2 RB behind Kenyan Drake, who has since been traded to the Arizona Cardinals, in a battle that lasted the entire offseason. Drake snaked out the job, but once he was traded, Ballage took over the reigns until a season-ending injury landed him on injured reserve. Ballage finished the season with 135 rushing yards and three rushing scores, while adding 14 catches for 63 yards through the air. Ballage will look to keep his job over newly-acquired veterans Howard and Breida.
Breida is coming off a three-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers. He saw the field often in his time in California and aided the 49ers on the ground and as a pass-catching back even as a rookie. He finished his rookie season with 465 rushing yards and two rushing TDs, combined with 21 receptions for 180 receiving yards and a lone receiving TD.
His first start came in week two of his sophomore campaign against the Detroit Lions. He finished with a career-high 138 rushing yards.
Breida would go on to lead the injury-plagued 4-12 49ers with 814 rushing yards and three rushing scores. He was second on the team in yards-per-scrimmage to only tight end George Kittle who amassed 1,075 total yards.
Breida was plagued by injuries in 2019 and saw his usage be cut into from guys like Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson. He finished with 623 rushing yards and one rushing TD, along with 19 receptions for 120 yards and a TD through the air. During the 2020 NFL Draft Breida was traded to the Dolphins for a fifth-round pick.
Breida will compete for the starting job.
Gaskin was drafted in the final round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He didn’t see the field a whole lot as a rookie until Miami went well into its reserves at the position late in the season. In Week 16, in the 38-35 overtime victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, Gaskin scored his first career TD on a two-yard run. He appeared in seven total games and recorded 133 rushing yards along with seven receptions for 51 receiving yards. To put how poorly the Dolphins run game was in 2019 into perspective, with approximately 150 more yards, he would have been the team’s leading rusher.
Howard was drafted by the Chicago Bears during the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He made his NFL debut in week two of that following season after starting RB Ka’Deem Carey suffered a hamstring injury and did not play a full game. Howard finished the game with three carries for 22 rushing yards and two receptions for nine yards.
Howard earned his first career start against the Detroit Lions in October of that season and finished the game with 23 carries for 111 rushing yards, along with three catches for 29 yards in the victory.
He would go on to finish his rookie season with a Bears’ rookie rushing record of 1,313 yards.
Howard entered the 2017 season sharing the backfield duties with newly-drafted rookie RB Tarik Cohen. Still, Howard had a 1,000-plus-yard season, rushing for a total of 1,122 yards. He added nine rushing TDs, 23 receptions and 125 receiving yards.
In 2018, repeating as the main backfield duo for the Bears, Howard and Cohen both made a big impact. Howard finished the season with 935 rushing yards on 250 attempts and led the team with 9 rushing TDs again. After a very successful two-year stint with the Bears that concluded with 3,370 rushing yards, and 24 rushing TDs, Howard was traded in the offseason to the Eagles in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick.
Howard would go and make his Eagles’ debut in the season-opener against the Washington Redskins. He finished the game with six rushes for 44 rushing yards and caught two passes for 11 yards. Howard would finish his only year in Philadelphia will downed numbers after a split workload with rookie back Miles Sanders and an injury that caused him to miss the latter half of the season. He rushed for a total of 525 yards on 119 attempts and six rushing TDs. He added 69 receiving yards on 10 receptions and one TD.
Howard signed a two-year contract in the offseason with Miami with the deal reaching almost $10 million dollars.
Howard will compete for the starting job.
Laird was one of the many draft-hopefuls that would end up not hearing his name called in the 2019 NFL Draft. He would go on to sign with the Dolphins and first appeared in a few preseasin games for the club. Laird would go on to start four games after losing Drake, Ballage and Walton in trades, injuries or suspensions later on in the 2019 season. He scored his first career TD in a 37-31 upset victory over the Eagles, finishing the game with ten carries for five yards. Laird would finish the season with 168 rushing yards on 68 carries as well as 204 receiving yards on 23 receptions and the one rushing TD.
Perry is an offensive utility player out of the United States Naval Academy. He has the ability to play quarterback, RB and wide receiver and is officially listed as a RB on Miami official depth chart. He was drafted in the final round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Naval Academy ran more run options and ground plays than most could keep track of and rarely ran receiving plays. The QB undoubtedly learned the running back position because of the way the Midshipmen run their program. But, when needed, he also jumped out wide and was a wide receiver.
Perry’s rushing attacks improved yearly, all the way to the point to where he broke the Football Bowl Subdivision single-season rushing record. His 2,017 yards on 295 attempts (21 TDs) matched what just seven NFL players have eclipsed in their professional careers.
While Perry will likely not earn the starting job, his abilities to play multiple positions will see the former Midshipmen get a lot of snaps in 2020.
Chandler Cox (FB)
Cox was drafted in the seventh round 2019 NFL Draft. Cox has started three games in his career, primarily as a blocker. He currently has no catches, carries, or yards. Cox has taken 83 offensive snaps and 27 special teams snaps in his career. He will likely be used in the same fashion going forward, especially with the addition of three new backs to the roster.
Who Wins The Starting Job?
Every man listed on the RB depth chart will have the opportunity to become the No. 1 RB when the regular gets underway, but not all have a realistic chance to secure that role.
All signs seem to point toward Howard and Breida as the main two competitors for the starting job. Howard may see his Bears days repeat itself in a shared backfield with Breida. If only one guy is officially named, fans should look for Howard to become the team’s No. 1 guy at this point in this May prediction. He has the most experience and has proven to be able to handle various workloads in multiple offenses.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.