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.
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“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.
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