Monday, January 18, 2021

Is Salvon Ahmed the Dolphins answer at RB?

With Myles Gaskin placed on IR prior to the Dolphins week 9 trip to Arizona, little know Salvon Ahmed was given the bulk of the ruling back duties. He followed that up in week 10 by adding more snaps, and nearly become the first Dolphins 100-yard rusher since December 2018.

So is Salvon Ahmed the answer, or is he merely keeping the seat warm for Myles Gaskin’s return later in the season? With Gaskin out at least one more game, Ahmed will get a chance to prove himself again against a Broncos defensive front that has been decimated by injuries.

Who Is Salvon Ahmed?

Undrafted out of Washington, Ahmed was originally signed to the 49ers as an UDFA on the 26th April. However, when the 49ers released him on the 25th August the Dolphins claimed him. In college Ahmed had been teammates with Myles Gaskin, and even took to racing each other at times.

Salvon Ahmed made a splash against the Cardinals
Salvon Ahmed made a splash against the Cardinals

As Ahmed told it, “There was a night we both were going back and forth, because in high school he had beat me in the 4×100 (meter relay). It came down to inches and he had beat me. I was 15 years old, and he was a senior at the time. We were just talking about that. It was late. We were like, ‘All right, let’s just go race.’ ”

That friendly rivalry now looks set to continue on the Dolphins active roster in the weeks ahead. In just two games, Ahmed has 4 runs of over 10 yards on 28 carries. Gaskin has only 8 on 100 carries. While that’s obviously not a large sample size for either guy, Ahmed has so far looked the more explosive back.

In college Ahmed played second fiddle to Gaskin for two of his three years, with his production ultimately well below that of the Dolphins 2019 draft pick who gained a total of 5,323 yards on 945 totes.

YearSchoolConfClassPosGAttYdsAvgTD
*2017WashingtonPac-12FRRB13613886.43
*2018WashingtonPac-12SORB141046085.87
*2019WashingtonPac-12JRRB1218810205.411
CareerWashington 35320165.721
Salvon Ahmed College stats

Ultimately Ahmed saw his college average sit around 5.7 yards per carry, a hair above Gaskins 5.6. But while college may lead to early judgements in the NFL, what will really matter is what happens on gameday, and now Ahmed has his chance he’s beginning to shine.

Salvon Ahmed making early gains

Just two games into his NFL career Salvon Ahmed leads the Dolphins running backs with more than 20 carries in yards per carry at 4.4. Gaskin sits in second with 3.9, and Matt Breida is third at 3.5. While the two are much the same in yards after contact per carry, Ahmed at 2.54 and Gaskin at 2.58, the stat that stands out is avoided tackles.

When we look at avoided tackles we see a marked separation between the two. Myles Gaskin has 22 avoided tackles on 100 attempts, while Salvon Ahmed has just 2 on his 28 carries. Does this mean that Ahmed is the beneficiary of an offensive line that is finally making some solid run blocks? Possibly, but PFF have actually graded the Dolphins offensive line worse the last two weeks.

Could it be that the Dolphins have played two teams who at worse against the run the last couple of weeks? Again, possible, the Cardinals rank 26th, and the Chargers 19th. But Gaskin faced off against the Bills (32nd), and the Patriots (30th) so that doesn’t account for it all either. Even if we ignore PFF and we judge on total rush yards given up, again the Bills and Patriots are worse against the run.

What it looks like to the eye, is that Ahmed is making better choices on the field. Whether that continues remains to be seen.

Salvon Ahmed already has 4 runs of 10+ yards
Salvon Ahmed already has 4 runs of 10+ yards

One thing that has definitely helped Salvon Ahmed in the last two games is the play of Tua Tagovailoa. But Ahmed is actually facing 8+ men in the box more often that Myles Gaskin has this season.

In week 10, Salvon Ahmed faced those 8+ men in the box on 28.57% of his carries. On the season Gaskin has faced it 24% of the time.

Only time will tell whether Salvon Ahmed is the Dolphins true answer at running back. All the signs point to him being an improvement on Myles Gaskin, but 28 carries is far too small a sample size to judge on. But on the play we have seen from him in his two games as the main back he has definitely earned the opportunity to find out what he has.

But much like the Dolphins rookie QB, this rookie RB is bringing some sparkle back to the Dolphins offence. If he can continue to make those 10+ yard runs he will be a valuable option out of the backfield for the foreseeable future.

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