DAVIE – With the departure of Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins’ run game will feature Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. Gase prefers to feature one running back, but at this juncture he feels a running back by committee approach will best serve the Dolphins’ offense.
Drake, a second-year running back is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, which is a cause for concern for fans, but there is a big difference between getting spot duty (coming in for the starting running back when he’s winded) at the running back position, and being featured.
The biggest difference for a running back when featured is the opportunity to establish a rhythm, and Drake will have the chance to do just that this week against the Oakland Raiders.
“With the opportunities I had, I tried to make the most of them,” Drake said. “Now obviously I’ll probably get more opportunities in one game than I’ve had the whole season, so I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Drake, who was good friends with Ajayi, learned a great deal from him, and will take lessons he learned watching the Dolphins’ 2016 leading rusher with him into his new role.
“Just his [Ajayi’s] patience. When he gets in the hole, he bursts through with a lot of power and acceleration. I feel like that’s what made him a special back because not only could he get to the hole with power, he could get to the hole with speed.”
Drake has a decided speed advantage over Ajayi and many other backs in the NFL. He also has the versatility necessary to contribute in the passing game, which is an area Gase expects his running backs to thrive in for the remainder of the season.
In previous weeks, Gase was critical of his backs for their inability to pick up the correct defender in pass protection, but he seemingly has a great deal of confidence in Drake. With Cutler nursing broken ribs that kept him out of Thursday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Drake’s ability to protect the quarterback will be an integral part of their success.
“He’s actually pretty good [at pass protection],” Gase said. “If you haven’t seen him as much as we have, he’s a little more stout than what people realize. His height and I think he looks like he’s thinner than most backs, but he’s put together well. When he steps up … He does a good job of stepping up and meeting contact and delivering the blow instead of waiting for the linebacker to hit him. Any time you got a guy that has done as much special teams as he has – whether it be punt, punt return, kickoff coverage, kickoff return – he has had over his career, including college, there has been a lot of opportunities for him to do those type of blocks.”
Gase was also very complimentary of the job Drake has done in spot duty and fully expects him to be effective with more opportunity, despite his current yards per carry average – and rightfully so.
“You have to know what we’re asking him [Kenyan Drake] to do on certain plays. Some of the stuff that he was brought in for were situational type things. Every play has a different story. If it’s 2nd-and-1, he gets one – he did his job. The last thing I usually look at is average.”