DAVIE — Dolphins running back Damien Williams is missing practice time again this week because of a shoulder injury, meaning the job of workhorse stays upon the shoulders of Kenyan Drake.
And he’s fine with that.
Drake carried 23 times for 120 yards against Denver last week — both career highs — but said after the game he felt so fresh,”I could have run it 20 more times.” And in case anyone had any doubts about Drake’s eagerness to get his hands on the ball, coach Adam Gase relayed a story Thursday dating back to before the Dolphins drafted him in the third round last year.
“I’ll never forget before we drafted him, one of the first things out of his mouth was, ‘I’m still allowed to play kickoff, right, if I ever become the starter?’ The fact that that’s kind of his mindset, I love that. Special teams, that’s important to him.”
Of course, once Drake cooled off later Sunday, reality set in. Thursday, he admitted he was “pretty sore” afterward. Yet almost in the next breath, he said he would have welcomed a chance to return kickoffs in addition to his 23-carry load.
“I want to help this team win any way possible, whether it’s special teams, offense, whatever the case may be,” Drake said. “So anytime I feel like I could get extra touches … I’m all for it. I want to be a great football player, not just a great running back.”
Although everyone else may be looking at this as Drake’s audition to be the No. 1 back for this team moving forward, Drake insists he is not.
“I look at it as a situation where we’re 5-7 now,” Drake said. “We’ve got the hottest team coming into our stadium on ‘Monday Night Football.’ It’s a great chance for us to make a statement to the rest of the league that we’re not down and out. We’re ready to continue fighting the rest of the season and make a playoff push.”
Unfortunately for Drake, he hasn’t returned a kickoff since the Oct. 26 game at Baltimore, but he’s finding plenty of other ways to contribute as his game evolves. For the season, Drake is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, good for 320 yards, and has 18 receptions for 110 yards.
Gase talked about how Drake is gaining a better understanding of how his running style affects the offensive line and, therefore, how he can help minimize holding calls.
“When you have a guy with his ability to jump laterally and really get guys pulled off the offensive linemen, that they don’t expect you to do certain things, that’s kind of when you have that miscommunication,” Gase said. “That’s kind of the good and the bad of having a guy with his ability.”
Late in the third quarter against the Broncos, Drake faked out linebacker Brandon Marshall, then had clear sailing for a 42-yard touchdown.
“When we called that play I didn’t think he was going to do what he did,” Gase said. “When you call those plays, he knew there was going to be one guy unblocked and he did a good job of setting that guy up and then making him miss and then the O-line had the rest of those guys taken care of and gave him a big-enough crease to where once he got to that second level, he’s a tough guy to catch.”
There’s a good reason.
“I’m going to try to get into the end zone as fast as I can,” Drake said. “I feel like it’s a 100-meter dash every time I get the ball. That’s my whole mentality.”
Drake also had a 42-yard run against Carolina and a 66-yarder against Carolina. Gase started to say it’s not unrealistic to expect such runs every other week, then caught himself.
“I think it just happens,” Gase said of Drake’s home runs.
The only caveat: Gase wants Drake to capitalize on such opportunities when they’re presented, but not go out looking for them.
“I don’t want him pushing to try to do that,” Gase said. “I want him to let the play come to you and I think he’s trying to do that.”
After a couple of fumbles earlier this season, including against the Patriots, Drake didn’t commit any turnovers against the Broncos.
“I thought he did a great job with his ball security this last week,” Gase said. “You saw a different guy when he got into traffic, making sure that he protected the ball.”