At the beginning of November, the Miami Dolphins made a move to acquire edge rusher Bradley Chubb from the Denver Broncos, sending a 2023 first-round draft pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick, a 2025 fifth-round pick, and running back Chase Edmonds to Denver in exchange. Adding a pass rusher to the Dolphins defense filled a critical need for Miami, where the typical blitzing defensive system they planned to use was sidelined for much of the year as injuries to the secondary forced the team to keep more players in coverage and limit the additional rushers they could generate. Losing Edmonds, a key free-agent signing for the team before the season, brought the depth of the running back position into question.
Edmonds had struggled with the Dolphins. On 42 carries in eight games, Edmonds ran for 120 yards, giving him a 2.9 yards per carry average, and scored twice. With the Broncos, in five games, Edmonds carried the ball 26 times for 125 yards for a 4.8 yards per carry average. Something about the Dolphins’ offense and Edmonds did not mesh perfectly, and Miami decided to move him as part of the answer to another question surrounding the team. But in adding to the pass rush, Miami appeared to deplete their running back depth, even if Edmonds was not having the success they had hoped.
Then Miami’s second trade-deadline move happened. The Dolphins acquired running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick. The move reunited Wilson with his former offensive coordinator, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel, and his former backfield mate Raheem Mostert. Wilson had become the expendable piece in the San Francisco backfield after they acquired Christian McCaffrey, but he had been successful for the 49ers, running 92 times for 468 yards, giving him a 5.1 yards per carry average, with two touchdowns.
Since arriving in Miami, Wilson has 84 carries for 392 yards, giving him a 4.7 yards per carry average, with three touchdowns. He has played in eight games but only started one as he and Mostert worked as a two-man tandem for the position. On Sunday, as Miami makes its first playoff appearance since the 2016 season, Wilson appears set to start as Miami is potentially forced to move from using multiple running backs to featuring one main runner as a broken thumb likely sidelines Mostert.
Mostert has not been ruled out as of Friday morning, but he has not been able to practice this week and the team is still trying to assess his status for the weekend.
The Dolphins are heading into a playoff game against the team largely considered the Super Bowl favorite all season, and they are going to be looking to pull off the largest upset in Wild Card playoff history. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Buffalo Bills are 13.5-point favorites over the Dolphins in this game as of Friday morning. Miami and Buffalo played twice this season, splitting the series with one win each, and finishing with a combined 51-50 score favoring the Bills.
Miami had a much healthier roster in those games. This weekend, the Dolphins will be without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is still dealing with the after-effects of a concussion he sustained in Week 16, and will only have second-string quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as an emergency option as he continues to try to rehab a dislocated finger on his throwing hand, an injury he suffered during the team’s Week 17 contest. Rookie Skylar Thompson will make his second-straight start and third start of his career in a win-or-go-home game.
He will be doing it behind an offensive line that could see plenty of changes this week. Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead is dealing with injuries to his toe, pectoral, knee, and hip; he explained this week that he was advised to have surgery on his toe after Week 1 of the season but he elected to play through the injury rather than having the season-ending procedure. Miami also has guard Liam Eichenberg, tackle Kendall Lamm, and tackle Brandon Shell on the injury report this week, all of them joining Armstead as a non-participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Tackle Greg Little is also on the report, but he has been a full participant in the first two practices of the week.
Miami will update their injury report, including game status determinations, on Friday, but with so many of the offensive linemen on the injury report, the Dolphins will have a tough task facing them against the Bills.
This brings us back to Wilson. Sunday, in a cold Buffalo and during a playoff game, with so many injuries mounting, Miami is going to need to turn to Wilson to make an impact. The Dolphins have to take the pressure off of Thompson, both the figurative pressure of a rookie starting a playoff game and the literal pressure of the Bills’ pass rush. The Dolphins acquired Wilson for this exact moment. They have a veteran runner in his fifth season with a career average of 4.5 yards per carry who knows the offense McDaniel runs. They have a running back who had career-highs in carries and yards this season and now will be in the spotlight in the biggest game the team has had in at least six years.
Wilson discussed this weekend’s situation during his media availability on Thursday and was asked if he felt the team needed to run more this week in an effort to alleviate the pressure of Thompson. “No, I don’t necessarily feel that way, because the way Skylar (Thompson) is developing and learning the plays and getting more comfortable playing the quarterback position in our offense, I feel like we don’t have to alter all of those things,” Wilson explained. “We just have to play good complementary football, and that’s not offense and defense – that’s on offense. The run got to help the pass, the pass got to help the run and that’s how we win the game.”
When asked about his role if Mostert is unavailable, Wilson replied, “I’m always ready. You have to prepare for everything in this league. Regardless of if he’s there or not, we’re going to prepare as if he was and if he wasn’t. We’re just going to stay ready and be ready to play a good game of football.”
Offensive coordinator Frank Smith, also speaking with the media on Thursday, was asked if the philosophy of the offense changes if Mostert is unavailable for the game. He explained, “No, I think that we feel very confident with the way the group has responded overall. I think that with what we do, trying to build consistency within our system with running our core concepts and allowing everyone to really get an understanding of what the play’s intent is, what are the stress points of the play or what are the critical factors of the play. So ultimately, the running backs room overall has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do. I don’t think that we necessarily are having to tailor; I think more of it’s just it’s a great opportunity for the next guys in the room to show what they can do in the situation when their number is called.”
It would appear Wilson’s number is going to be called this weekend and likely called many times. The running back may be saying the right things about Thompson and his development, but Miami is going to need to get Wilson established early and use him often if they are going to pull off an upset over the Bills. Wilson will be ready.
Wilson was acquired for this moment.