The Miami Dolphins decided to trade starting running back Jay Ajayi not only for his refusal to “buy in to the system,“ but also due to a desire to give Damien Williams and, in particular, Kenyan Drake more playing time. Drake has taken his expanded role and run with it, so to speak. In the past two games, he has emerged as the Dolphin’s featured tailback.
Always used as more of a complementary piece by his alma mater Alabama, Drake’s usefulness in the passing game left him stamped with the dreaded “third-down back” label by most scouts during the 2016 draft. It was for that reason that draft analysts considered him to be over-drafted, when he was taken by the Dolphins in the third round. That narrative was enforced after he spent essentially the entire 2016 season on the bench. After rushing for a combined 234 yards while catching eight passes for 100 yards against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, it appears that he can be more than just a “third-down back.”
The sophomore running back’s biggest strengths are his feet and his size. On tape, his ability to make quick cuts and get up the field quickly allow him to shine on zone-blocking stretch plays, as well as draw plays. The Dolphins like to mix in several of those on each drive. He’s also a good finisher on runs; tough to bring down and always falling forward. He likes to bounce plays outside, sometimes to great effect but occasionally to the detriment of a decent gain. Like the Buffalo Bills’ own LeSean McCoy, he can squeeze out a decent gain even if the blocking in front of him leaves much to be desired. Coach Adam Gase likes to target him in the passing game as well. Against the Patriots, Drake was split out wide and outran a linebacker on a deep sideline pass from Jay Cutler for a 47-yard gain.
Bills coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are likely concerned with stopping Jay Cutler and the Dolphins passing attack, but they shouldn’t ignore what has become the Dolphins best offensive weapon.