The Miami Dolphins may have an answer for their running back position in 2018 after a breakout performance from Kenyan Drake this past Sunday. Drake, against the Denver Broncos who were fourth in the league in rushing yards allowed and first in the league in yards per rush attempt allowed this season, ran for 10 yards on 23 carries, both career highs, giving him a 5.2 yards per attempt average along with one touchdown.
After the game, he told reporters he felt like he could have another 20 carries in the game. He also caught three passes for 21 yards.
Drake’s touchdown against the Broncos came on a 42-yard run, a big play in which he made a cut around the linebacker and was simply gone. On Thursday, head coach Adam Gase said of the play, and of the idea that Drake can break a big play like that regularly, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. I think it just happens. When you’ve got a guy with that much speed and he has the quickness to make guys miss in the open field, it’s something that you hope to expect, especially as his career goes on; but right now, I don’t want him pushing to try to do that. I want to let the play come to you. I think he’s trying to do that.”
Drake has been splitting playing time with Damien Williams since the Dolphins traded opening day starter Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles mid-way through the season. One of the issues with Ajayi this year appeared to be his desire to look for the big play and try to make it happen every carry, rather than taking the guaranteed yardage available on any given play.
And, Drake wanting more carries, or more playing time, is not new to the team, either. “I think Drake is a unique guy,” Gase said of the running back. “I’ll never forget before we drafted him, one of the first things out of his mouth was, ‘I’m still allowed to play kickoff, right, if I ever become the starter?’ The fact that that’s kind of his mindset, I love that. That special teams, that’s important to him.”
“I’m up for whatever they put on my plate,” Drake said Wednesday. “Whatever helps this team win.”
When asked if that means being on special teams and returning kicks, even as he picks up 23 carries, Drake replied, “Yes, if they ask me to go in there, whatever the case may be. If they call my number, I’m going to be prepared to step up and play in any situation.”
Last week, when I wrote about the top three needs for the Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft, I wrote running back as one of those needs. I explained, “The Jay Ajayi trade has made running back jump up the needs list for this upcoming Draft. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams could be an effective pairing for the team, but Senorise Perry and De’Veon Smith as the depth options behind them leave some question marks. Grabbing a mid-round running back to either challenge for a starting role or provide depth behind Drake and Williams seems to be a requirement.”
Could Drake’s breakout game push running back off the top three list? Does Miami have a running back that can carry the load throughout the remainder of this season and during the 2018 season?
The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero wrote on Thursday:
Let’s address Drake first: He doesn’t look like a bell cow back. But then again, neither did Chris Johnson. And neither does Mark Ingram Jr. And NFL teams don’t care about bell cow running backs anyway because they figure they need at least two guys worthy of playing time.
The Dolphins seemingly have one in Drake. He’s averaging 4.9 yards per carry now. He’s scored two rushing touchdowns for a team that had none when Ajayi (who blocked me on Twitter) was traded. And Drake’s tied for the NFL lead with three carries of 40 yards or more, including a 66-yard touchdown run.
Williams, meanwhile, is still a question mark. He has had some flashes, but he has not been as consistent as Drake. He also has been injured recently, leading to the team getting a much better look at Drake. Could the team go into 2018 with Drake the “feature” back, while Williams is the backup? As Salguero points out, Williams held out last offseason because he was given a restricted free agent tender that paid him $1.797 million this season. Will he demand more next year, and would the Dolphins be willing to meet his desires?
The Dolphins may have found the starting running back of the future in Drake. They probably still need to address a running back in the Draft, especially if they do no want to pay Williams or they do no trust Perry or Smith to take on a larger role, but Drake may have just established himself as the future of the Dolphins’ running back position.
Do you believe Kenyan Drake is the future of the Dolphins’ running back position?
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