On a day where the Miami Dolphins took some major hits on the offensive side of the ball, the team may have actually come away from its Week 14 narrow defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs with one significant victory. His name is Lynn Bowden Jr., and he might just become Tua Tagovailoa’s new best friend.
Back in September, the Dolphins traded a fourth-round selection acquired in the Raekwon McMillan trade to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for Bowden and a 2021 sixth-round selection. Bowden had just been drafted in the third round (80th overall) by the Raiders a few months prior, but the hybrid playmaker wasn’t quite meshing with head coach John Gruden and the way Gruden and the coaching staff in Las Vegas were trying to deploy him. Bowden, a star player for the University of Kentucky, has experience playing quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. It appeared that Gruden wanted to use Bowden as a gadget running back, but it just wasn’t the right fit.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores saw an opportunity. With Miami having a need at wide receiver following the opt outs of Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns, Miami struck a deal with Las Vegas to bring Bowden to South Florida, and now, with 14 weeks down in the regular season, it looks like that deal is starting to pay dividends.
Bowden has seen increasing snap counts in each of the last three weeks (32% in Week 12, 45% in Week 13, and 71% in Week 14). After a promising outing in Miami’s Week 13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (four receptions for 41 yards), Bowden put together a fantastic performance on Sunday and was a key piece of Miami’s comeback bid against Kansas City. The 23-year old rookie was targeted nine times and hauled in seven passes, compiling 82 receiving yards and several important first downs. Bowden also was the focal point of two trick plays where offensive coordinator Chan Gailey schemed the ball his way in the hopes of giving Bowden a chance to make some throws downfield. One ball fell incomplete, and Bowden had to tuck it and run for a couple of yards on the second attempt, but a concerted effort is clearly being made to get Miami’s shiftiest offensive skill position player the ball.
Bowden isn’t just starting to fill the stat sheet. He’s passing the all-important eye test. At about 6’0” and 201 lbs, Bowden seems to make the first defender miss every single time he gets the ball in space. I’ve seen very few players with the ability to stop on a dime like the former Wildcat, and he’s got speed to burn when he gets outside the numbers. His connection with Tagovailoa was on full display on Sunday. Miami’s rookie QB looked Bowden’s way in several key moments late in the game, and Bowden delivered.
With Miami’s two offensive stars in tight end Mike Gesicki (shoulder) and wide receiver DeVante Parker (leg) going down on Sunday, and with the team already missing wide receiver Preston Williams (foot) and running backs Myles Gaskin (COVID-19), Matt Breida (COVID-19), and Salvon Ahemd (shoulder), Flores desperately needs playmakers on offense to step up and buoy the team during its playoff push. If Parker and Gesicki can’t return for next weekend’s bout against the division rival New England Patriots, there’s a very realistic chance that Bowden is counted on to once again lead the team in receiving yards.
If he continues to stack standout performances the way he did against Kansas City, Bowden will have proved himself more than worthy of the mid-round selection that Miami dealt in September. As of now, it’s looking like Grier swindled a very promising playmaker from Gruden and the Raiders.