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.
— Renegade Denver (@TRSNDenver) December 3, 2017
“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.
Dolphins new policy threatens to suspend players for anthem protests
We already know that the NFL has enacted a new national anthem policy being left up to teams to enforce and it has caused controversy. Well, now the Dolphins have taken that to a new level by threatening to suspend players next season for protesting on the field during the anthem.
Details of @MiamiDolphins anthem policy from @AP_RobMaaddi: Anthem conduct one point under "conduct detrimental to the club." NFL rule forbids players from kneeling or sitting during anthem on the field. Up to clubs to punish players directly. https://t.co/BQYHcGiwqG
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) July 19, 2018
In a section titled “Proper Anthem Conduct,” there is a sentence dealing with anthem protests under a large list of “conduct detrimental to the club” acts. All of which, could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension or both. This is according to an anonymous team source familiar, who provided the policy to the AP.
The new NFL policy voted in by the owners in May allows teams to discipline players for anthem protesting, while on the field. The policy does allow for players who are objecting to the anthem to remain in the locker room, if they so choose.
The NFL declined comment, when the Associated Press reached them about the leaking of the Dolphins team policy. Dolphins officials also had no comment to the Associated Press on Thursday afternoon
Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, and former safety Michael Thomas and former tight end Julius Thomas are shown above kneeling during the anthem in a game in November of last season.
Thursday’s leaking of the policy is the latest in the national anthem Saga for Miami, where owner Stephen Ross defended players protesting the anthem, previously.
However, earlier this year, Ross made comments at a New York event where he was being honored, suggesting he wanted the anthem protests to be over with, and even hinted then that there could be punishment down the road.
Ross quickly backpedaled and clarified those comments the next day after a firestorm of controversy that started.
ESPN NFL reporter Jeff Darlington, who is formerly a Dolphins media member, reported Thursday evening that the policy submitted to the league and to be given to the players isn’t a “this for that” definite suspension threat:
Dolphins submitted the same discipline schedule that all other teams will also submit, outlining what could be considered conduct detrimental to the club. It declares vague maximums. I’m told this is NOT a public declaration of intentions to suspend for protests during anthem.
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) July 19, 2018
However, the Fins clearly have anthem protests spelled out as a punishable offense, according the AP, which has seen it.
The interesting dynamic is that the teams themselves are being left to impose penalties, as they see fit and not the league doing so with a black and white policy that lays out specific punishment.
Dolphins cornerstone player for 2018?
It’s a pivotal year for the Dolphins, their head coach Adam Gase, their front office of Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier, and most importantly, QB Ryan Tannehill.
Miami is certainly taking a risk bringing back Tannehill off of missing all of 2017 with re-injury to his ACL. A risk, because they didn’t elect to make a play for a “quarterback of the future” in this year’s draft. This despite flirting heavily with the likes of Baker Mayfiled, and a player like Lamar Jackson being readily available for them, when they drafted at #11.
And, the Fins dealt away Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry for not much in return, because they didn’t want to pay him huge dollars. And then, with getting rid of fellow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to save on the salary cap, the clear star or leader remaining is Tannehill.
And Tannenbaum, Grier and Gase are banking that he will be back to his 2016 pre-injury play of 2016 that put the Dolphins in position to make the playoffs.
Gase has made it no secret that they have made their decision and have built around Tannehill. As we wrote about early last month, the third year coach has repeatedly backed his QB, who’s about to play for his sixth season. Gase saying to SI.com’s Albert Breer last month:
“Just being around him (Tannehill), this being my third year, the guy competes as hard as anyone I’ve been around, especially at that position. And it’s a good feeling as a coach when we’ve got him back out there.”
And they hope to have at the level where he was, when he injured the knee in the week 14 home game with Arizona two years ago. Through 13 games, he had his highest completion percentage (67.5%), yards per attempt (7.7) and quarterback rating (93.5).
There are new veteran faces on offense like RB Frank Gore, and WR Danny Amendola, who both have years of winning and post season experience to bring to the huddle.
Still, in most NFL locker rooms, the QB is the “face of the franchise,” the leader and the one most scrutinized.
And Ryan Tannehill will be that for this fall.
He’s the foundation, for at least the start of this year, that Miami will try to build their fortunes.
Dolphins moving eventually to new facility near Hard Rock Stadium?
It’s not as earth shattering as a huge free agent signing or hosting a playoff game, but the fact that the Dolphins are close to moving locations from their current training complex in Davie to a more convenient one next to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens is a big deal.
— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) July 14, 2018
From the Herald’s item, there is definitely some competitive interest in luring the Dolphins away:
Miami Gardens might defray the cost of security in and around Hard Rock Stadium to help seal the deal, and Miami-Dade County could amend the existing stadium renovation agreement that pays the Dolphins a bonus for hosting major events.
“Twenty-five years ago, the Dolphins moved their football headquarters from North Dade to Davie, and I’ve wanted them back ever since,” Miami Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan said. “When I heard Mr. Ross was considering a new $50 million practice facility in Broward, I knew we had to have a conversation about bringing this massive private investment to Miami-Dade. To me, it’s a perfect fit for our community and will bring a lot of economic activity to Miami-Dade.”
Added Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert: “From Top Golf to the Super Bowl, Miami Gardens has become a destination for world-class entertainment, and venues that attract visitors on a consistent basis are a critical component of economic development. Between the Miami Open and Miami Dolphins training camp, we can generate $100 million-plus in privately funded construction, hundreds of good-paying jobs, a significant boost to our tax base and new opportunities for residents to live, work and play. It would be great to bring the Miami Dolphins training facility back home to the 305.”
So, clearly there’s some “wooing” going on, and if Fins owner Stephen Ross is going to privately fund the new facility to the tune of at least $50 and maybe as high as, $75 million, then there is ample reason to try to lure them. Ross has already put over $500 million of his own money into a three year renovation of Hard Rock Stadium.
The Dolphins training adjacent to the stadium where they play or in the same complex area, is not uncommon. In the cases of Florida’s other two NFL teams: the Jaguars train adjacent to TIAA Bank Field, and the Bucs complex is across the street from Raymond James Stadium.
And, there are other examples of the Bengals, the Texans, and the Patriots who train either next to or in the same complex as where they play on Sundays.
The reality is that the new facility will not be ready for at least another two seasons, no matter where it’s located. Still, the convenience and new design will also be an asset for the Dolphins to attract players, too.
Now it’s up to the franchise to decide where and how soon, they want to build.
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