Less than a week after the Dolphins rolled up a season-high 250 yards on the ground in a 22-12 over the Patriots, more reinforcements to the running game could be are arriving.
Wednesday, the Dolphins activated running back Myles Gaskin off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Thursday, Head Coach Brian Flores updated the media on Gaskin's status for Saturday.
"It was good to have him back out there," Flores said. "I thought he looked good, had some juice, energy. We'll see how practice goes today and make a decision whether or not he's ready to go."
Miami's most-effective rushing day of the season came courtesy of 122 yards from Salvon Ahmed and 86 yards from Matt Breida. Ahmed received the lion's share of the work with 60 percent of the offensive snaps, but the Dolphins mixed in all three backs available for the game. Breida was on the field for 26 percent of the snaps and Patrick Laird, who chipped in with 20 rushing yards including a key conversion on third-and-8, was in the game for 11 percent of the workload.
In seven games this season, Gaskin's played 69.3 percent of the offensive snaps (354 out of 511). So, the Dolphins have options at the position.
Regardless of who totes the rock, creating lanes with the big guys up front is the surest bet to establish a solid ground game.
"I think as an o-line, we had a hat on a hat and got to the second level, and our backs had great vision and hit the hole fast," center Ted Karras said. "Our tight ends – Adam (Shaheen) and Durham (Smythe) – really had some key blocks that sprung us to some big gains. We've been working on that for a long time. It felt really good to get a bunch of yards on the ground and continue our push here in late December."
As Karras mentioned, Miami's two tight ends helped move bodies out of gaps and create consistent lanes off the edge. Last Sunday, the Dolphins carried the ball eight times off left or right end for 75 yards.
"We take good pride in being some dogs in the trenches," Shaheen said of the tight end and offensive line rooms. "I think last week was awesome as far as rushing for 250 (yards). Just staying on them like we did all game, eventually wearing them down and finally broke open some big ones. We could feel that momentum and them being drained and us just taking over."
One step further, in the absence of wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant, Mack Hollins showcased one of his greatest traits – his run blocking. Hollins' 75.7 run-blocking grade was second on the team in Sunday's game behind only right tackle Robert Hunt, who scored an 83.1 run-blocking grade thanks in part to a punishing block that sprung Ahmed for 31 yards off the right end).
On the season, Hollins' 73.2 run-blocking grade leads the Dolphins.
"You seldom have a long run without those guys blocking," Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey said. "That's something we've been working on and trying to get better at each week is how we can control those guys in the secondary, how we can affect them and get them blocked. They're getting better every week. I thought they've been getting better each week doing that. So we've got to continue that."
The Raiders rush defense is 25th in the NFL allowing 125.8 yards per game. Opponents average 4.6 yards per rush vs. Las Vegas, tied for the sixth-highest clip in the league. Like the Dolphins ground game, the Raiders defense could be getting reinforcements.
Safety Johnathan Abram, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Nevin Lawson have all practiced in some capacity this week after missing last week's game.
Thursday Injury Report
Offensive guard Solomon Kindley is OUT Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant, tight end Mike Gesicki, defensive end Shaq Lawson and offensive guard Ereck Flowers are all QUESTIONABLE for the game.
Defense end Clelin Ferrell, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, cornerback Darryl Worley and safety Erik Harris are OUT.
Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is QUESTIONABLE.
For the full Week 16 injury report for Dolphins-Raiders, click here.
Derek Carr practiced in full for the last two days at Raiders practice.
In the Week 16 game preview, we looked at the different stylistic approaches and compared and contrasted the production of Carr and backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, who made his Raiders debut in last Thursday's loss to the Chargers.
Thursday, Flores weighed in on the two quarterbacks.
"Marcus is very talented, obviously can extend plays, make plays with his feet as well as with his arm," Flores said. "I think with any quarterback, you want to try to keep him in the pocket, especially one who's as athletic, fast and skilled as Marcus. But (Derek) Carr, he's also been able to step up and make plays with his feet as well. I'm not really sure which one we're going to get. I think the game plan for both guys is to try to keep him in the pocket in the pass game and we've just got to do a good job with reading our keys on the some of the zone-read things that they do with both quarterbacks, but I would say I think we all know that Marcus is more apt to probably keep the ball and can make plays with his legs."
Saturday night under the bright lights of Vegas, a win would be a perfect post-Christmas gift for Dolphins fans. It's the second prime time game of the year for Miami, who beat Jacksonville 31-13 in Week 3. Improving to 2-0 under the lights would get Miami to 10 wins for the first time since 2016, it would break a regular season all-time deadlock in the series with the Raiders (17-17-1), and it would create a win-and-in scenario next week in Buffalo.
Dolphins Rookie Gives Back
In the spirit of the holiday season, Dolphins rookie defensive tackle Raekwon Davis is doing his part to give back. 'Rae's Elves,' a team of family, friends and volunteers, helped give away 950 gifts to children in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi.