Former Miami Dolphins running back, Kenyan Drake, felt like he didn’t fit in Miami when he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. He became frustrated because he was not being utilized as the running back he believed he had potential for. As a rookie in 2016, Drake played behind the Dolphins leading rusher, Jay Ajayi. Posting good numbers in both 2017 and 2018 with almost 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns in 253 rushes between both seasons, Drake was looking forward to a great 2019 year as the Dolphins leading back.
However, 2019 did not become the year Kenyan Drake was hoping for as a Miami Dolphin. In 6 games he was only given the ball to rush 47 times for 174 yards. For some games while playing for Miami in 2019, Drake only had 6 or less carries. Last year, during an interview with the Miami Herald, Drake had said that he didn’t feel productive sitting out of the game until certain plays when he was with the Dolphins.
After Drake was traded to the Arizona Cardinals, Miami fans realized that Kenyan Drake was not the problem when he had 110 rushing yards with a touchdown during his first game with the Cardinals. At the end of the season, Kenyan Drake had rushed for 643 yards with 8 touchdowns in only 8 games for Arizona, with his season totaling 817 yards in 14 games between both teams he played for in 2019.
When the 2019 season came to an end for the Miami Dolphins, the Dolphins had what fans would call a “Are you kidding me?” moment when quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick was Miami’s leading rusher with only 243 yards. At no fault to the Dolphins’ running backs, it was evident that the Miami Dolphins did not have a running game. That is why Matt Breida and Jordan Howard was added to the Dolphins for the 2020 season, whom didn’t pick up the workload they were expected as running backs.
Because the general thought was that Kenyan Drake was going to be the starting running back, Myles Gaskin was not drafted by the Dolphins until the seventh round as the 234th overall pick in 2019. Gaskin didn’t see much playing time as a rookie, only rushing for 36 times in 7 games.
Seeing playing time would be an understatement for any running back for the 2019 Dolphins season. Miami came in last place for rushing in the NFL during the 2019 season. Many thought part of that had to do with Chad O’Shea, as an offensive coordinator, not being able to…well, coordinate an offense, which eventually led to his termination from the team after one season. With a soft spot for receivers, as a former wide receivers coach for the Patriots, O’Shea probably thought he could duplicate Brady like passes for the Dolphins, which in the end appeared that running backs were neglected.
Despite the traditional phrase, “The NFL is a passing league,” the running back has always been a key player for any winning team. In fact, the Miami Dolphins is the only NFL team to have an undefeated season in NFL history due in part to a heavy run game. The undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins had the rare feat of having two 1,000 yard rushers, (Larry Csonka for 1,117 yards and Mercury Morris for 1,000 yards), which has only happened 7 times in NFL history.
Former Miami Dolphins head coach and now Alabama Crimson Tide head coach has successfully won with a running game, producing NFL running backs with the likes of Heisman winner Mark Ingram (whom was one of the seven 1,000 yard rushing duos), Heisman winner and NFL’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry, Heisman candidate Trent Richardson, Heisman candidate Najee Harris, NFL rookie of the year, Eddie Lacy, Josh Jacobs, Bo Scarbrough, T.J. Yeldon, and Kenyan Drake. Saban even coached Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the same season as head coach for the Dolphins.
The way Miami now treats the running game and how Kenyan Drake’s run game was with the Dolphins, especially in 2019, is important to Myles Gaskin in 2021. After all the pieces have been sorted out, unless there is a blockbuster trade from Miami for a top tier RB, Myles Gaskin has found himself at the top, going into 2021 season as the starting running back.
KENYAN DRAKE WAS NEVER USED PROPERLY
Because the free agent market is limited, even if Miami picks up a RB in free agency, they would only be for added support, playing as an RB2 or RB3 behind Gaskin, despite their past performances with previous teams. Even with the loaded receiving corps Miami has built during the offseason, unless their is a balance with the running backs, it will be difficult for Miami to win. Unlike Drake for Miami in 2019, Gaskin will have to get the touches to be effective for Miami in 2021. Ultimately, it will all depend on the coordinators for the Dolphins.
If Gaskin doesn’t get the ball, then like any good running back, he won’t be able to help the team. That is why Kenyan Drake was so ineffective for Miami. Drake had an OC in Miami that did not utilize his ability as a running back, missing out on what the Arizona Cardinals was able to attain. If that happens with Gaskin, then history will repeat itself in Miami for the starting running back, resulting in poor rushing numbers and losses for the Dolphins.
Running backs have to have touches to be effective for their team. A good offensive coordinator knows this and capitalizes on it. The Tennessee Titans is a perfect example. Like Drake’s tenure in Miami, until the Titans changed its OC, Derrick Henry wasn’t getting the ball. When they hired a new offensive coordinator in 2018, he recognized the talent Derrick Henry had, gave him the ball, and it resulted in Henry having his first 1,000 yard season and being the NFL’s leading rusher the past two seasons.
Hopefully for Miami, the new co-offensive coordinators (George Godsey and Eric Studesville) will realize the talent they have in Myles Gaskin, the first Pac-12 college player to rush for over 1,000 yards for 4 straight seasons. If Chad O’Shea had recognized Kenyan Drake’s talent and coordinated the Miami offense differently, the narrative would definitely be different for Drake and the Dolphins today.
Just as Tua Tagovailoa mixed his passes to his receiving corps in college and feeding Najee Harris the ball for a 1,000 yard rushing season, the hope in 2021 for Miami and Myles Gaskin, is that the results will be the same.