During the early part of Thursday’s practice that was open to the media, there was a moment when coach Adam Gase happened to be within five yards of where I was standing. And I took the opportunity to offer him my help.
I inched closer, pointed to running back Kenyan Drake, who was sprinting past us, and offered to introduce Drake to Gase.
And at first Gase didn’t hear what I was saying or didn’t understand my meaning. So I repeated my offer to introduce the head coach to the offense’s potentially most dynamic player.
And realizing what I was saying, Gase glared for a second then he punched me in the nose for being cheeky.
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Seriously. This happened.
Well, the introduction offer part of the story happened. I really did make the offer. But Gase did not actually punch me in the nose. He might have wanted to. But he didn’t.
So what’s the point? Well, I really want Gase, the team’s play-caller and ultimate authority on which players get the football and how often, to recognize Drake more. I want him more excited about getting the football to Drake.
I want Drake’s name coming out of Gase’s mouth a lot when he’s calling plays into quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s ear.
I want the Dolphins, a team struggling on offense in many respects, to understand getting the football to Kenyan Drake might be a solution to some of their problems.
The problem is I’m not sure that’s a priority right now for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins offense this week is concerned with cutting down on penalties. And improving third -down conversions. And protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill better.
The Dolphins offense this week is focused on integrating a new center and getting the offensive line right before it faces Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
Getting Drake more touches is about No. 25 on the things to do list.
Part of that is because the Dolphins don’t think they have a real issue. Drake carried the ball three times last week. He gained three yards.
And the Dolphins believe the reason for that is that the team ran only 49 offensive plays in a 38-7 blowout, so of course, the running back is not going to factor much.
Questions about the topic are also not going to factor much for Gase, who has all those other priorities to get straight before he begins to believe getting Drake more plays is a problem.
“There’s about six other guys, too, that are sitting with their ... They’re not getting enough touches,” Gase said. “We need more plays. You go 70 to 75 plays, now everything’s going to look a little different. But when you go 50 ... We went 47 this week and 44 the week before. That should be one game.
“You get more snaps, convert some third down and stay ahead of the sticks, everybody gets more touches.”
Here’s the problem with that: In the same game Drake got three carries, fellow running back Frank Gore got 11 carries. And, yes, Gore got a lot of his work in the fourth quarter when the game was decided and even quarterback Ryan Tannehill was on the sideline.
So there were mitigating reasons Gore got more work than Drake against New England. But the Dolphins have given Gore more carries than Drake for two consecutive games.
Against Oakland, in a victory, Gore got six carries and Drake got five.
For the season, Gore has 35 carries to Drake’s 33.
Am I the only one who thinks that’s backward?
My understanding of how this was going to play out was Drake was going to be the main weapon in the backfield and Gore was going to be a valuable change of pace.
And I thought this would be the case because last year Drake finished the season averaging 4.8 yards a carry as Miami’s primary ballcarrier in the season’s second half. And at 24 years old, and in his third season, one expects Drake’s on an upward trajectory.
Gore, meanwhile, is 35 years old and still fresh and still valuable. But anyone who argues his best games are ahead of him is kidding themselves.
The Dolphins, who have started Gore and Drake in every game this year, might not see it that way.
Because even in games when the snap count expands for the offense, Gase said Thursday that what we’ve seen is how it’s going to continue to play out.
“These guys are playing the way we want them to as far as the play count compared to what we’re getting,” Gase said. “We’re just not getting enough plays. [Drake’s] snaps should be anywhere from 35 to 40 snaps a game between him and Frank splitting that stuff. But we’re getting 20 to 23 snaps in the game because we’re just not having enough plays in the game.”
Did you catch that? The Dolphins are thinking Gore and Drake “splitting” snaps is the right thing.
And they’re the experts. They have reasons for believing the two players should play about the same amount.
Me? I have reasons for thinking Drake should play more.
He’s a more versatile in that he’s a matchup problem as a receiver out of the backfield.
And he’s a big play waiting to happen.
You give Drake 30 touches in a game, he’s going to give you some ordinary carries or catches, just like everyone else. But he also is likely to give you a 60-yard run or catch out of the backfield and perhaps two of those.
That’s the reason he needs to have more opportunities than Gore. Because that explosive play cannot happen if he’s on the sideline and Gore is running for four yards instead.
Last season Drake had a 66-yard run against Carolina.
And a 42-yard run against Oakland.
And a 32-yard run against Buffalo.
And 47-yard pass against New England.
The Dolphins had 17 runs of 15 yards or more in 2017. Drake had nine of those in only 133 attempts. So Drake had at least one run of 15-yards or longer every 14.7 carries.
Despite this the Dolphins say they’re going to determine the distribution of the football by feel. Drake will factor because the team recognizes his potential, but there are no promises on the number of touches or carries each game.
“I think it depends individually each game and who has the hot hand,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We don’t go into a game saying, ‘We want to get this guy this many touches. Sometimes it changes ...
“...Each week it will be different.”