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Why Kenyan Drake may never become Dolphins feature back

Roy Cummings

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Kenyan Drake looked every bit the part of a feature back during the Dolphins 35-9 victory over the Broncos last week, running 23 times for 120 yards and a touchdown.

There’s a good chance, though, that as long as Adam Gase is coaching the Dolphins, Drake never settles into that every-down role. Not because he doesn’t suit the role. But because the role doesn’t suit Gase.

It turns out that there’s more behind Gase’s decision to not only dump former feature back Jay Ajayi, but to use Drake and Damien Williams in tandem as Ajayi’s replacement than Gase originally let on.

Gase said initially that he planned to split the carries between Drake and Williams because neither was accustomed to working every down and that he feared fatigue would become an issue if one of them did.

That’s a valid reason and it makes sense, at least in the short term, to use both players evenly, but Gase has another reason for using the duo as he has that far overrides his concern about their fitness.

Put quite simply, Gase just isn’t a feature back kind of guy. Though plenty of other coaches like to use a feature backs and use them rather well, Gase prefers a completely different approach.

“I don’t know if I’m every going to have a feature-back situation,’’ Gase said recently. “I like using multiple guys. I like guys moving in and out and I like having guys that can do multiple things.

 “I like to have guys in there who can really put pressure on the defense to the point where (the defense) can’t focus on just one thing. So, I don’t know, we might be out of that game.’’

 That’s not the only game the Dolphins may be out of. They would appear to be out of the game in terms of looking for a new lead back in free agency or the draft as well.

For many, the trade of Ajayi immediately put running back at or near the top of the Dolphins list of offseason needs. But that need won’t be so great if the Dolphins don’t plan to use that back as a workhorse.

Given what it seems Gase wants in a back, which seeming amounts to yet another third-down, change-of-pace type, the Dolphins could wait until the second phase of free agency or the third day of the draft to find that.

And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The Dolphins may not have a lot of money to play with in free agency anyway this year and if they can wait until late in the draft to add a running back.

That will allow them to use their premium picks on other, obviously more important positions and given the change in emphasis on the run game that would probably be the best approach.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. El Rono

    December 9, 2017 at 12:42 am

    Running backs are a dime a dozen. No sense paying a ton of money and eating up cap space with a 12 mil Peterson or an 8 mil DeMarco Murray. Every high dollar RB has to have backups anyway given the frequent injuries. Let’s face it, if you don’t have a Bell or McCoy or Elliot, the offensive line is where you need to invest. How many times have you seen a “great” back sign a big contract in free agency, then look human behind a OL that is not as good as the team he left. I like Gase’s approach. The way the league is right now, you need at least two backs that can catch outbof the backfield and pick up blitzes. After that, he can probably run well enough behind a good OL.

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