Dolphins RB Brandon Bolden has a simple understanding on why they were defeated by the New England Patriots.
When teams sign other franchises’ discards during the season, the rate of success is decidedly spotty.
But the Dolphins — thanks to savvy decisions, fortuitous timing and some persuasive recruiting by Danny Amendola — are extracting helpful contributions from a half dozen players who were cut elsewhere since the end of August.
All six contributed in Sunday’s win against New England, but two were particularly impactful: running back Brandon Bolden and receiver Brice Butler.
Bolden, an ace on special teams all year, has become a revelation on offense the past two weeks, with three carries (his first three of the season) for 70 yards, including the 54-yard touchdown against the Patriots.
So why, all of a sudden, has Bolden become a factor on offense?
“We’ve lost all of those other guys, whether it’s Jakeem [Grant] or Albert [Wilson],” coach Adam Gase said. “Brandon has a very wide skill set. He can do things out wide, in the backfield. He’s a really good pass protector. He can do all three phases of the game.
“It’s probably my fault that we haven’t done it sooner. We started doing it last week against Buffalo. That was just kind of the starting point for us. Really, we just got to the rest of his plays and now we can start over and try to build some more off of it.”
Plus, Gase knew Bolden was a very good runner at Mississippi, where he averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 486 career rushes, with 27 rushing touchdowns.
And he has been effective, for the most part, when used as an NFL running back, with a 4.5 average on 219 career carries and eight touchdowns.
But New England gave him just 14 combined carries during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning he now has just 17 rushing attempts during the past three years. He has never had more than 63 in a season.
When the Patriots released him Sept. 1, the Dolphins immediately called, but then New England tried to re-sign him. Amendola, the Dolphins and ex-Patriots receiver, was crucial in convincing him to come to Miami.
Amendola told Bolden that Gase is “a real personable person, a players’ coach. He told me it’s a different environment here. Danny was so excited I got released.”
Gase said Monday it helped that Bolden and Amendola “are very close. Danny was a big help with that as far as talking to me about how much he could help us, what he could do for the locker room and on the field. He even said at the time, ‘He’s a really good running back; he hasn’t played that spot in awhile.’
“Mike [Tannenbaum] did a good job of working with his agent to get it done. I know I was talking to Brandon quite a bit during that time just to explain to him kind of what our situation was and what we were looking for and how I thought he could impact our team.”
It also helped that Bolden’s wife, Arianna, preferred Miami.
With Butler, the Dolphins pounced quickly during their bye week, knowing Grant would be lost for the season.
“As far as Brice, he came in and worked out, did a good job,” Gase said. “Once we got him on the practice field, then we kind of started figuring out how he could help us.”
Butler has helped with five catches for 48 yards in three games, including the 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter Sunday.
Butler — who caught 73 passes and averaged nearly 16 yards per catch in his first five NFL seasons for Oakland and Dallas — was shocked when Arizona released him Sept. 1, five months after signing him as a free agent.
“When the Cardinals let me go, it was laughable,” he said. “You see how [ineffective] their passing game has been.”
He returned to Dallas for a month before being released Oct. 22 when the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper from Oakland.
“When Dallas cut me, I was relieved,” he said. “I hurt my foot in the spring, and they could see I didn’t look the same. But that allowed me to rehab and work on my foot” before the Dolphins signed him to a two-year deal.
Four other post-Sept. 1 additions also are helping: center Travis Swanson (Pro Football Focus ranks him 24th among 38 qualifying centers this season), tight end Nick O’Leary (rated 18th among 68 qualifying tight ends) and defensive linemen Sylvester Williams and Ziggy Hood, who have given Miami decent work in recent weeks.
New England averaged just 2.6 yards per carry Sunday (30 for 77) and Hood — besides deflecting a pass — combined with Williams, Akeem Spence and Davon Godchaux to clog the interior.
Here’s my story from Tuesday about why Ryan Tannehill has thousands of his cells stored in a refrigerated lab in Grand Cayman.