MIAMI (AP) — With two new running backs, the Miami Dolphins’ ground game will look a lot different in 2020, and that's good.
“There aren’t a whole lot of things that we can be certain of this year,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, “but I would put a lot of money on me not being the leading rusher.”
He was last year. The achievement was a testament to the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick’s pluck, but also a reflection of the dismal productivity by Miami's running backs.
The Dolphins believe veteran newcomers Jordan Howard and Matt Breida represent a significant upgrade at the position, providing more punch and versatility for an offense that last year averaged 72 yards rushing per game, worst in the NFL since 2006.
“We brought in some dynamic talent, and guys that are hungry,” Fitzpatrick said.
Last year the Dolphins went 5-11, and their running backs averaged less than 3 yards per carry. Kalen Ballage led the team with 74 carries but averaged 1.8 yards, the lowest figure for a running back with at least 70 carries since 1936.
Fitzpatrick bested any of the running backs with 243 yards and a 4.5 average. Breida smiled Wednesday when asked about Fitzpatrick's odd accomplishment.
“At first I thought it wasn’t true,” Breida said. “Me and Fitz talked about that the other day. I just told him, ‘You can still run, Fitz. You’re going to have to give me a run for my money this year.'”
The Dolphins hope not; they would prefer Breida and Howard do the bulk of the ball-carrying. The duo will run behind a line that should be more formidable after Miami added tackle Austin Jackson and guard Robert Hunt in the first two rounds of the draft.
A better ground game may be a necessity. Two of the Dolphins' top five receivers, Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns, this week opted out of the season because of the coronavirus.
Howard, a power runner, signed as a free agent in March. Breida, a speedy breakaway threat, was acquired in April from the San Francisco 49ers for a fifth-round draft pick.
They're expected to share playing time under new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who has a long history of success in the ground game.
“I know he has big plans for the running backs and how he is going to use us,” Breida said.
Those plans likely include getting Breida into space. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry in three seasons with the 49ers, and last year 15 percent of his runs went for at least 10 yards, best in the league.
The native of Brandon, Florida, considers himself the NFL's fastest player.
“I got a Lamborghini not too long ago,” he said. “I like doing everything fast.”
Breida helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last season, but Howard has appeared in only one playoff game in his four NFL seasons.
“I definitely feel overlooked,” Howard said. “When I was racking up a lot of those yards I was on a losing team, so people don’t really pay attention to that, and I don’t really blame them.”
This season, unlike last year, the Dolphins' running backs might be worth watching.
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