Barry Jackson

Drake’s conundrum; potential position switch; and Dolphins nuggets

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs in to score in the second quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Sat, Dec. 24, 2016.
Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs in to score in the second quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Sat, Dec. 24, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of notes from Dolphins’ OTAs:

▪ In an attempt to appease his coaches – and avoid the prospect of them “hurting” him – Kenyan Drake has made a concession:

He will be more measured, more disciplined, in deciding whether to take the sure yardage than take a risk to try to make a big play on a rushing attempt.

Drake on Wednesday was asked about this March comment from Adam Gase: "There's, occasionally, where I want to possibly hurt Drake every once in a while. But he’s my guy. He does so many good things, but he always does one thing, whether it be on or off the field, that'll test me every once in a while. I kind of like it."

Drake said he believes Gase was referring, in part, to “those critical spots where on a third down play, I need to be aware of the situation and get the first down. That’s priority number one.

“I just have to be more consistent with my play on the field. I am real critical of my performance. So if I do something that wasn’t planned, it works sometimes like the [December] Buffalo game and sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I have to put my head down and [get] two, three yards. I want to make a big play every time I touch the ball.”

For example, Drake said in practice Wednesday, he caught “a quick hitch out of the backfield. Instead of catching the ball and falling backwards for the first down, I tried to make people miss.”

Miami Dolphins Kenyan Drake talks with reporters after OTAs on May 31, 2017.

But he said he knows he needs to “understand the situation. Let those big plays come when they come and not force them. I feel like he brought me in to be that big play maker – I press on myself – but it’s not like I’m going off script [a lot]. Big plays happen when you follow the rules. Those plays will become more numerous.”

Gase said he wants Drake to be “an all-around back. We don’t want him to get stuck in one phase. We’ve got to be ready to go if Jay Ajayi [gets hurt]. Jay takes a lot of hits. They [Drake, Damien Williams] have got to be able to do everything to have two guys backing up Jay who have strength in the passing game but they are good runners” also.

Drake averaged 5.4 yards on 33 carries last season and caught nine passes for 46 yards. He also had a 96-yard kick return as a touchdown.

▪  Walt Aikens was a special teams standout last season but didn’t play a single snap at safety during the regular season. The Dolphins are now experimenting with him at corner, where there’s already considerable depth. Gase said a decision hasn’t been made on his longterm position.

“There were times we would move him out there to make sure he’s ready to go,” Gase said of last season. “If someone goes down, he has to be ready to go. We’re trying to find the best fit for him. One of our better athletes for sure. Whatever spot we end up finalizing with him, whether corner or safety, gives him the best chance to have success.”

▪  Because of something close to a logjam at boundary corner (Byron Maxwell, Xavien Howard, Tony Lippett, Cordrea Tankersley and possibly Aikens), Dolphins GM Chris Grier has spoken of using one of them in the slot in nickel packages, providing competition for Bobby McCain.

But Gase said he’s not ready yet to experiment with any of his boundary corners in the nickel.

He said “we will try some guys inside” but “we don’t want to do it too quickly. We don’t want to start hitting contingency plans” this early in the offseason program.

Asked if he believes McCain did enough last season for Gase to feel comfortable with his entering the season as the likely nickel corner, Gase said: “Bobby improved a lot through the year, started to understand what we want him to do…. [In OTAs], he has had some [passes defended], gotten tight on some coverage. He’s got a tough challenge going against Jarvis [Landry].”

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonzo talks to the media after OTAs on May 31, 2017.

▪  Linebacker Koa Misi, who had hoped to be cleared in May after neck surgery last fall, still isn’t practicing and isn’t at the point of being able to even “run around” at practice.

“We’re not there yet,” Gase said.

Incidentally, Kiko Alonso said the top linebackers continue to play multiple linebacker positions and have not been given clarity on where they will line up this season.

• Aside from a bunch of short completions, this was a rough day for the offense.

Ryan Tannehill threw two picks – one to safety TJ McDonald, who stepped in front of Anthony Fasano in a red zone drill – and another to safety Nate Allen on a poorly thrown deep pass to Kenny Stills.

Xavien Howard knocked away a Tannehill pass to Parker and later broke up a red zone pass from Moore.

Gase said Howard “has a way better grasp of what we’re asking him to do. He’s more confident. Talking a lot right now, which is good. You want him to have that swagger.”

The good news: The chemistry between Tannehill and Julius Thomas is improving. Thomas had several reception Wednesday, including one in which he dove to the ground to make a nifty catch with Nate Allen in coverage.

• From my perspective, Arkansas’ Drew Morgan remains the most impressive of the eight young receivers competing for jobs behind Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. He caught at least four passes Wednesday, the second OTA open to reporters and the fifth overall.

Jakeem Grant made a nice catch from Moore on one pass, but then immediately dropped the next pass – a hard, short throw from Moore on a slant.

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