Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake not 100 percent, but fast enough to play vs. Titans

Kenyan Drake, the explosive running back, finally is healthy enough to play in the Dolphins’ preseason finale.
Kenyan Drake, the explosive running back, finally is healthy enough to play in the Dolphins’ preseason finale. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

People mangle Kenyan Drake’s first name all the time.

It’s not ken-YAWN. It’s KEN-yun. Like the nationality.

Drake doesn’t know the origin of the moniker. He doesn’t have family in the African country.

“I asked my mom,” Drake said. “She said my dad named me. I didn’t get around to ask my dad why.”

Maybe it was prescience. Because Kenyan Drake can run like the wind.

“I feel like it’s a unique name,” Drake said. “I guess it’s kind of ironic, being in my profession, being a running back, having my name represent the name of people who are known [as the best runners in the world].”

Granted, there’s a big difference: Kenyans are known as elite distance runners, and Drake is a burner.

On Thursday, after a frustrating summer, Drake will finally get a chance to show Dolphins fans just how fast he is.

Drake, who missed several weeks of training camp with a lingering hamstring injury, will make his Dolphins debut in the team’s preseason finale against the Titans. Coach Adam Gase intends to give him plenty of exercise.

“With the minimal practice snaps we’ve really had, little time he was out there, we were feeling good about his progress compared to where he was at in the spring,” Gase said. “At least mentally, we were feeling light years better. Him not practicing as long as he has, him not being hit in a real game yet, this will be important for him.”

The hamstring has been an issue for Drake since he injured it before his senior season at Alabama. And that wasn’t his only issue in college. He sustained at least seven different injuries while he was a student, missing games every season of his career. That, of course, led to widespread questions about his durability, and likely hurt his draft stock.

Even still, Drake was one of the Crimson Tide’s better players. Drake’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the national title game helped lift Alabama past Clemson. Coach Nick Saban was (and remains) a big fan.

“Football’s a tough sport,” Drake said. “People get hurt. It’s about how you come back from an injury. … Hamstring injuries are very lingering. The training staff will tell me whether to go 90 [percent] or go as fast as I can. I’m a competitor, so when I go out there, it’s instinct.”

Drake will play Thursday even though he acknowledged he isn’t yet 100 percent healthy. But he’s out of time. Drake understands that he must show Dolphins coaches something now, or he might not get another chance to do so for some time, at least on offense.

Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster have locked down the top two spots on the depth chart. Damien Williams is probably ahead of Drake too. And the best Dolphins running back this preseason has been Isaiah Pead, who sustained a hard-luck hamstring injury in last week’s Falcons game that will him out for a while.

There is no doubt that Drake, a third-round pick, will make the team’s 53-man roster, but it’s unclear if he’ll be regularly activated on game day.

“It’s important for me just to get on the field in general, see the speed of the game,” Drake said. “Carries, special teams, no matter what the case is. I’m ready to play.”

Said Gase: “I would love to see what he can do, as far as routes go in the passing game. But at the same time, he showed us in the run game that he’s very effective, at least in the limited snaps we saw in practice. … You’d like to get him touches in both areas.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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