One year ago Myles Gaskin was as fringy a member of the Miami Dolphins’ 53-man roster as it gets.
The Lynnwood native and University of Washington record-breaking running back was one of the last players selected in the 2019 NFL draft. He was considered a bubble candidate to make Miami’s initial roster, and only did so because the Dolphins elected to keep six running backs instead of five. By Week 4 of 2019 he was still six weeks away from appearing in his first NFL game.
But Gaskin has flipped the script. No longer is he the player who has to check the inactives list to see if he’s going to dress that day. Instead, Gaskin is primed to be the feature back when his hometown Seattle Seahawks come to town for Sunday morning’s game.
“Last year was definitely a learning experience, definitely a humbling experience,” Gaskin said after he carried 22 times for 66 yards and caught five passes for another 29 yards in last week’s 31-13 road win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “It makes you hungry not playing the game you love.”
Gaskin did everything he could during his four years at Washington to show the NFL scouts what he could do. He annihilated the school’s career rushing (5,323 yards) and touchdown (62) records, and he joined Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the only players in NCAA history with four straight seasons of 1,200-plus yards. His accomplishments made him The Herald’s 2018-19 Man of the Year in Sports.
But without the big measurables — Gaskin measured at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds and ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the draft combine — the scouts were unconvinced, and Gaskin had to wait until the seventh round of the draft to hear his name called. Last season he didn’t play until Miami’s Week 10 game at Indianapolis, and his first real action didn’t come until Week 15 against Cincinnati, when he carried 16 times for 55 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown before exiting with what ended up being a season-ending ankle injury.
Gaskin wasn’t considered a lock to make the team this year, either. But he survived cutdown day and was part of the running-back rotation the first two weeks of the season, combining for 86 yards on 16 carries and catching 10 passes for 62 yards in Miami’s losses to New England and Buffalo.
Then in the Thursday night game against Jacksonville Gaskin was handed the reins — he was on the field for 75% of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps — and performed capably in what was Miami’s first victory of the season.
Since then Gaskin has been the subject of praise by his coaches and teammates.
“Myles is everything we’re looking for in a Dolphin,” Miami coach Brian Flores said when speaking with Seattle media this week. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s competitive, he loves to play, he loves to practice, team-first guy. He’s done a really nice job, especially making the year-one to year-two leap.”
“If you’ve been around here, you’re not surprised at all about Myles,” Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker said when addressing Miami media. “He goes hard. He’s smart and he truly works hard not just during practice, but outside of practice. Even this week, we had a few days off. If I come in and just do some stuff in here, he’s on the field doing ladder drills, running. He’s a guy that does way more than they ask him.”
Gaskin credited Miami running backs coach Eric Studesville for helping him reach this point.
“I didn’t play at all, really, until the last game where I got hurt, and he was just coaching me through trying to get better each and every day,” Gaskin said. “Then during the offseason E just always talked to me saying, ‘Hey, this is what we need you to do, this is what we’d like you to do, this is how you can get better.’
“Then there was everybody in that running-back room,” Gaskin added. “Jordan (Howard) being the older guy, kind of just saying, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to look like,’ or, ‘This is how you should go about this in the run game.’ Even off the field, taking care of your body. It’s the same with Matt (Breida), those two guys being older. Then Pat (Laird), me and Pat came in together, we trained together for the combine, that’s been my boy since day one. Just the whole room, Salvon (Ahmed) included, I know he’s on the practice squad, but that’s my Dawg from UW. So I think that whole group of guys has been a blessing for myself.”
Did Gaskin think the distribution of touches against Jacksonville indicated he’d separated himself from the rest of the Miami running-back pack?
“I guess it was just how it went today,” Gaskin answered. “As always it’s by committee. We go into every week prepared for it as much as we can as a unit.”
But one thing is certain: Gaskin is in a far better position now than he was this time last year, and he’ll get a chance to prove it against the Seahawks.