How the Miami Dolphins’ top four running backs compare in various areas


What has become clear, through 10 days of training camp, is that Chase Edmonds looks poised to become the Dolphins’ lead running back. He’s fast, hits the hole quickly and has capably adapted to the team’s wide zone scheme, which is new for him.

But difficult decisions await, in terms of allocating additional carries among Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and potentially others and determining whether Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed should be on the roster.

Edmonds and Mostert were listed as co-starters in the Dolphins’ first training camp depth chart released Monday. Michel and Gaskin are both on the second team.

“I’m very, very happy with that room,” coach Mike McDaniel said. “It’s one of my favorite rooms that I’ve been around. The competition is fierce but they’re bringing the best out of each other.”

How do the Dolphins’ top four backs compare over their careers? Here’s a look, in various categories:

YARDS PER CARRY IN THEIR CAREER

1). Mostert at 5.7 on 284 career carries, which would be best among all active players if he met the minimum attempts requirement.

2). Edmonds at 4.7.

3). Michel at 4.2.

4). Gaskin at 3.8.

Comment: Michel has been limited in camp but might be the front-runner over Gaskin for a roster spot for six reasons: 1) He’s a better between-the-tackle runner; 2) He’s the better back in terms of per carry average.

3). He’s a player hand-picked by this coaching staff; Gaskin wasn’t; 4) There would be a bigger cap and salary savings by releasing or trading Gaskin than cutting Michel.

5) Michel is better in pass protection than Gaskin. 6) Michel has a bit more special teams value.

Last season, Michel averaged 4.1 yards per carry behind a good Rams offensive line. Gaskin averaged just 3.5 yards on 173 carries behind a subpar Dolphins offensive line.

So Michel seemingly has the edge, except in one major category: pass receiving. Consider:

YARDS PER RECEPTION PER GAME/YARDS RECEIVING PER GAME IN THEIR CAREERS

1). Edmonds 7.2 yards per reception (on 128 catches) and 16.2 yards receiving per game

2). Gaskin 6.9 yards per reception (on 97 catches) and 19.8 yards receiving per game

3). Michel 8.2 yards (but just 47 catches) and 7.0 per game

4). Mostert 10.0 yards per reception (but just 36 catches) and 6.1 receiving yards per game

Comment: As Pro Football Focus’ Ryan Smith said: “Michel is the best pass-blocking running back on the roster. Michel is the worst pass-catching running back on the roster.”

So that’s the conundrum with Michel. His blocking makes him an ideal option as a third-down back, but his pedestrian receiving skills make him less appealing as a third-down back. Edmonds is probably best equipped for the third-down job, because he is essentially a better Gaskin.

Edmonds averaged 7.2 yards on his 43 receptions last season. Gaskin averaged 4.8 yards on 49 receptions. What’s more, Edmonds was 17th among all NFL backs and receivers in average receiving yards after contact.

YARDS AFTER CONTACT PER RUSH/CAREER

1). Mostert 2.1

2). Michael 2.0

3). Gaskin 1.8

4). Edmonds 1.7

Comment: Those numbers are courtesy of Pro Football Reference. But don’t take the YAC to mean Edmonds is overrated. Edmonds was sixth in the league in per carry average and was eighth in the NFL in rushing yards “over expected per attempt” and fifth in the league in efficiency (which measures a player running north and south without unnecessary added motion), per the NFL’s Next Gen statistics.

YARDS BEFORE CONTACT/CAREER

1). Moster 3.5

2). Edmonds 2.9

3). Michael 2.2

4). Gaskin 1.9

Comment: Keep in mind that Edmonds led all NFL running backs with 3.6 rushing yards before contact per attempt last season. So that’s excellent but also a byproduct of playing behind a pretty good offensive line.

The success of Mostert and Edmonds in gaining yards before contact is partly a credit to them but also partly a credit to their offensive lines in San Francisco and Arizona, respectively.

Conversely, Gaskin likely would have averaged more yards before contact had he played behind a better Dolphins offensive line.

PERCENTAGE OF RUNS CONVERTED TO FIRST DOWNS WHEN A TEAM NEEDS 1, 2 or 3 YARDS FOR a FIRST DOWN IN THEIR CAREERS

1). Edmonds at 70 percent (40 for 57 converted into first downs). Edmonds averaged 4.8 yards on those carries, which is excellent.

2). Michel at 58.8 (80 of 136), with a 2.6 average on those carries

3). Mostert at 53.3 (24 for 45), with a 4.4 average on those carries

4). Gaskin at 52.2 (35 or 67), with a 3.0 average on those carries

Comment: If you look at only third and fourth down carries where a team needs three or fewer yards to convert for a first down, Michel is 35 for 53 in his career, a very solid 66 percent. So if the Dolphins intend to run on third and short, he and Edmonds make the most sense.

WEAR AND TEAR

1). Michael. He has 743 career rushes and has played 36, 37 and 33 percent of New England’s offensive snaps in his three seasons there and 49 percent with the Rams last season.

2). Gaskin. He has 351 career carries, playing 25, 69 and 50 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps the past three seasons.

3). Edmonds, He has 333 career carries, playing in 21, 24, 46 and 58 percent of Arizona’s snaps the past four years.

4). Great aunt. He has 284 career carries, playing 15, 34 and 43 of the 49ers’ snaps in 2018-2020 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Mostert has had some good runs in camp, clocking in as the Dolphins’ fastest player on at least one occasion.

SPECIAL TEAMS VALUE

Edmonds will be on the team, and it’s highly likely Mostert will.

So who has more special teams value between Gaskin and Michel?

Gaskin played on only 4 percent of Miami’s special teams snaps last season and never more than 17 percent in his career. Michel has played on 21, 15, 16 and 21 percent of his team’s special teams snaps.

Michel has never returned a punt but has eight kickoff returns for 167 yards (20.9 average).

Gaskin has no punt returns and 2 for 29 kickoff returns.

BOTTOM LINE

It seems likely that Edmonds will be the starter, and Mostert is well positioned to get the second most carries.

If it comes down to a Michel/Gaskin battle for the No. 3 jobs, Michel seemingly has an edge for the reasons listed above. If Gaskin is cut, Miami owes him nothing, compared with $2.5 million if he’s on the team. If Michel is cut, Miami owes him $500,000, compared with $2.1 million if he’s on the team. But Michel – who has been limited – needs to play at least decently in preseason.

It’s also quite possible that both Michel and Gaskin make it, with Salvon Ahmed being cut. But that would mean paying a combined $4.6 million to your third and fourth backs. Ahmed would make $895,000 if he’s on the team; none of his salary is guaranteed.

South Carolina rookie ZaQuandre White has had some impressive runs and has a good shot to stick on the practice squad and an outside shot to make the 53-man roster. Gerrid Doaks is a long shot to make the 53.

And Alec Ingold is well positioned to make the team as a fullback, a position that is used somewhat in McDaniel’s offense.

This story was originally published August 8, 2022 4:27 PM.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.

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