Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: Transition to 2-headed RB exceeding my expectations

Kenyan Drake en route to a 66-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. Somewhere outside the frame: Damien Williams, ready to celebrate with Drake in the end zone. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

DAVIE — Was Damien Williams throwing a flag on himself?

Williams was discussing Kenyan Drake’s 66-yard touchdown run against Carolina on Thursday when he blurted out a confession.

“If you watch film or the TV copy, I’m the 12th man on the field,” Williams said. “We could have gotten a penalty. I’m running full speed right behind him. As soon as he turned around, I was there.”

Williams was joking — we think — but the bigger point is no joke. It speaks to where the Dolphins stand at running back now, which will go a long way toward determining whether this team can right itself in time to make a playoff run.

Dolphins running back Damien Williams battled a rough illness leading up to the Carolina game. (Getty Images)

The Jay Train isn’t roaring through that door, obviously, leaving things in the hands of Drake and Williams, whom the coaches have decided will be a running back-by-committee. For two players who have patiently waited their turn, that could be an issue if they let it.

But they’re not letting it.

“They’ve really exceeded my expectations with how easy the transition has been when one guy takes a series and then another guy comes in,” Gase said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure of how smooth that would go — if things would change up for us — but those guys do a good of playing off of each other from series to series.”

Williams has been the starter, but he’s averaging 2.3 yards per carry this season. Drake is tripling that at 6.8, leading some to wonder if the roles shouldn’t be reversed. Those who wonder that might be spending more time doing so than the coaches.

“We look at it as really they’re both starters,” Gase said. “They’re both going to play. Who’s out there on the first play of the game is really irrelevant a lot of the times, because we go three wide receivers, one tight end or two tight ends and two wide receivers. We could put them both out there one game. What does that mean? It’s really irrelevant.”

It’s easy for a coach to say that. What about the players?

“Nope, not at all,” Drake said of whether he worries about who starts. “Just playing the game and helping the team win in any way possible.”

Williams: “Because I’m still on special teams and a lot of it – I feel like the coaches do a good job of kind of mixing us in in different game situations and certain downs. I feel like they’re doing good at rotating us.”

The Dolphins are on a three-game losing streak and Williams and Drake haven’t had a Jay Ajayi-like, 200-yard rushing day, but in the two games since Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia, they’ve accounted for 296 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, the other score being Williams’ 10-yard pass from Jay Cutler. They’ve been targeted a combined 17 times, accounting for 16 receptions for 112 yards. On the ground, they have 32 attempts for 184 yards, a 5.8 average. Drake has had a 42-yard run to go with the 66-yarder, with Williams riding shotgun.

“It felt like as soon as I scored, I turned around and he was standing there tackling me,” Drake said. “So it was cool to have your position mates celebrating with you.”

The coaches think so, too.

“So far, so good,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “I do think even with Ajayi that him having those couple a hundred, 200-yard games, all of a sudden you think that’s the norm and that can be a curse sometimes. Just getting back to just settling, just keep pushing pockets, pushing piles for 2-, 3-, 2-, 3-(yard gains) and then all of a sudden it pops. So far, so good. I think sometimes that the impatience comes with success or a gross failure, and all of a sudden you’re trying too hard to make something happen. But these guys have been excellent so far.”

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