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Miami Dolphins

Miami has a new home run hitter and his name is Kenyan Drake

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Al Diaz/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake is a home run hitter. Maybe not to the degree that for-now Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is, but he’s a home run hitter nonetheless.

We’ve learned that in the weeks since the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles and turned the running back duties into a time share between Drake and Damien Williams.

When Drake broke off the 42-yard house call that allowed the Dolphins to start sealing up their 35-9 victory over the Broncos on Sunday it marked the third time in five games the second-year back has gone deep.

That’s the sign of a legitimate power hitter. So is this: Of the 120 yards Drake gained on Sunday, 106 of them came after contact as he chalked up seven missed tackles on the day, according to Pro Football Focus.

 “You think he’s one of those guys that has to have a wide-open edge and use his speed, but that’s not the case because he’s tough,’’ Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He’s tough between the tackles.

 “He’s a good-sized guy for a running back and he’ll deliver the blow as much as any running back that I’ve been around. And when he gets to the open field and it’s one-on-one, he’s a tough guy to bring down.’’

Indeed he is. Drake’s first big gainer was the 42-yarder he had against the Raiders in the second game following Ajayi’s departure. He then ran 66 yards for a touchdown a week later against Carolina.

Both of those runs came while Drake worked in a platoon with Williams. There was no platoon on Sunday, not with Williams out nursing a sore shoulder. The day belonged to Drake. And hit was a busy one.

Drake ran the ball 23 times and caught three passes for 21 yards, making it by far the busiest day he’s had as a running back since his days at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Ga.

The question that has to be asked now is how does Drake respond to the heavy workload. It’s literally been years since he’s had a work day like that, so he now has to prove he can bounce back and keep on going.

That’s what feature backs do. They string together several games in a row like the one Drake had on Sunday and force opponents to game plan against them. The Dolphins still aren’t sure Drake can do that, but Drake is.

“I put my body through (a lot) during the offseason, the (regular) season and practice,’’ Drake said. “I try to finish every play 30, 40 yards down the field, so I can keep my wind. I feel like I’m built for this.’’

We’ll see. There’s little doubt that watching to see if Drake does indeed have feature back ability is one of the things that will make watching the last four games of the Dolphins season worthwhile.

Besides, you never know when he might hit a home run.

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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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins hit big plays against Raiders to remain unbeaten

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another Sunday of big plays and another win for the Dolphins, who for the first time since 2013 are 3 – 0. This after dealing the Raiders their third straight loss in a 28-20 come-from-behind victory at Hard Rock Stadium.

After Oakland scored almost immediately, when quarterback Derek Carr hit Jordy Nelson on a long completion and then with a red zone touchdown pass, Miami found themselves trailing quickly 7 to nothing.

But from there on, the Fins began to hit the Raiders with one big play after another. That started with a 34-yard beautifully thrown touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a streaking Kenny Stills to tie the game 7-7.

The Raiders actually took a 10-7 lead into the locker room and then put together a lengthy Frive capped with a Marshawn Lynch up and over touchdown in a 17-7 lead.

However, the Dolphins were not fazed and 2 minutes of clock time later had marched into Raiders scoring territory. That’s when Jakeem Grant took an inside flip hand off from Tannehill (above) and raced around the right end to cut the lead to 17 – 14.

Next, head coach Adam gase went into the” bag of tricks” and after a double hand off, receiver Albert Wilson fired this long pass to Grant down the right sideline:

The 52-yard trick play touchdown, gave Miami the lead for the first time at 21-17.

The Raiders tried to mount a go ahead drive but Derek Carr’s the pass for Martavis Bryant was picked off by Xavien Howard ending their threat.

Next, Wilson caught another short pass from Tannehill and did the rest, racing around the left sideline for a 72-yard score at the 2-minute warning, which put the game away.

Tannehill finished 17-23 for 289 yards and the three TD passes. Carr had 345 yards and a TD in the losing effort, but also two costly interceptions.

The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2013. That team finished 8-8 and still missed the playoffs.

The Raiders fanfare of hiring Jon Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth is over, as they are now 0-3 and already three games behind the Chiefs, who won Sunday.

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Miami Dolphins

Gameday- Dolphins host Raiders looking to remain unbeaten

Florida Football Insiders

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Who:  Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Spread: Dolphins by 3 (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)

Miami has opened by winning the first two games for the first time since 2013 and now has a golden opportunity to get to 3 – 0 today. Here’s what we’re watching

Progression of Ryan Tannehill

Coming off a solid start by spreading the ball around to numerous receivers, Ryan Tannehill will look to keep it up. The Raiders defense is obviously reeling after the trading of Khalil Mack on the eve of the season, and Tannehill may be able to take advantage of the Oakland secondary.

Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson as the deep threats could do significant damage later today. Look for coach Adam Gase and coordinator Dowell Loggains to test them early.

Does Derek Carr follow up last week’s performance?

Oakland’s 5th Year quarterback was tremendous for much of the Denver game a week ago, completing 23 of his first 24 passes. With the Raiders getting acclimated to Jon Gruden’s new offense and terminology, it’s still obvious they want to get the ball out of Carr’s hand quickly with short throws.

Another part of Oakland’s offensive success is the early running of Marshawn Lynch, who is questionable for this game with an injured shoulder. They would like to set up play action with Lynch or backup running back Jalen Richard. If Miami can stuff the run, it will help greatly in stopping the Raiders attack.

Dolphins defense continues its optimistic play?

Whether it was surviving the two lengthy weather delays two weeks ago against the Titans with key sacks and takeaways, or last week in New York with frustrating rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, Miami has been able to make plays at times.

That needs to continue on Sunday. Safety Reshad Jones will be a game-time decision with his injured shoulder and that could affect their defensive scheme for coordinator Matt Burke.

If Miami’s pass rushers, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, Etc can get to Carr it will make life easier at Hard Rock Stadium.

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Miami Dolphins

Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil

Florida Football Insiders

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.

The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.

However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.

Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.

So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.

Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.

It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.

The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.

The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.

And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.

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