Barry Jackson

The reasons behind Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake’s success as a starter

Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake runs for a third quarter touchdown against Denver this past Sunday. Drake has thrived since the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia.
Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake runs for a third quarter touchdown against Denver this past Sunday. Drake has thrived since the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia.

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

▪ Kenyan Drake clearly is having more success than Jay Ajayi did early this season. And the reasons are twofold:

1) Drake is doing something that coach Adam Gase wanted Ajayi to do more of: hit the hole hard instead of hesitating or trying to create a big play out of nothing.

2) ESPN analyst KC Joyner, who tracks every running play in every game, said the run-blocking has improved considerably since Ajayi was traded after Game 7.

Joyner tells us that Miami was at a 31.5 percent good blocking rate through seven games. They are now at a 33.3 percent GBR, which is due to their 36.3 percent GBR from games 8 through 12. (Last week’s Denver game has not been graded.)

The 36.3 percent GBR “is still more than five points behind the 41.4 percent GBR league-wide average, so they went from abysmal to mediocre in this time frame,” Joyner said.

There have been some changes on this offensive line since Ajayi’s late October trade, with Jesse Davis playing more, Ted Larsen returning from injury and Ja’Wuan James and Anthony Steen lost for the season because of injury. Davis and Sam Young have played well the past two weeks.

Let’s do a few Ajayi/Drake comparisons:

1) Career rushing averages: Ajayi stands at 4.5 (476 for 2,153 yards). Drake has a better average with far fewer carries (5.1 average, 98 for 499).

2) Ajayi/Drake comparison in their Dolphins work this season: Ajayi averaged 3.4 yards per carry for the Dolphins this season behind this offensive line (138 for 465). Drake is averaging 4.9 (65 for 320).

3) Since the Ajayi trade to Philadelphia for a fourth-rounder: Drake is averaging 5.4 yards per carry (55 for 295). Ajayi is averaging 7.9 for Philadelphia with fewer carries (29 for 229).

4) Ajayi has a slightly higher per catch average in his career (6.3 to 5.8), but Drake seems the more natural receiver. Drake has two fumbles since the Ajayi trade, and Ajayi has one for Philadelphia…

Among all NFL running backs with at least 60 carries, Drake’s 4.9 average this season ranks ninth….

Drake is one of only three NFL running backs with at least three 40-yard runs this season. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (193 attempts) and Chicago’s Jordan Howard (212 attempts) also have three 40-plus-yard runs but both have at least 100 more rushing attempts than Drake’s 65 carries this seaso.n

And from Gase’s standpoint, this is important: Unlike Ajayi, Drake isn’t a complainer. Ajayi’s attitude wore thin on the coaching staff. Drake doesn’t do everything perfectly but he doesn’t sulk or make waves. 

▪ Though ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Dolphins are a possibility to acquire Giants quarterback Eli Manning this offseason, multiple team sources called that highly unlikely because of the team’s commitment to Ryan Tannehill.

Plus, Manning is under contract for next seasonwith a $22.5 million cap hit and has a no-trade clause; Jacksonville is a possibility if the Giants trade him.

• Five of the last nine passes thrown to DeVante Parker have been intercepted and Gase said: “I think we just haven’t been able to get him back in that rhythm, like we had him earlier in the season when he got injured. We’re going to keep working to get his confidence back to where it was.

“I thought he had a really good week at practice. I was a little bit surprised that we really couldn’t get him going this last game because I really felt going into the game that we had all three guys in a good place, plus the tight ends and the backs. I was really feeling good about it. We just couldn’t get anything to DeVante this last game.”

▪ Bobby McCain has risen to 23rd of 115 cornerbacks in the Pro Football Focus cornerback rankings after posting the third-highest grade of any NFL cornerback this past weekend. He allowed one of five targets to be caught for 6 yards.

And with Cordrea Tankersley limited to eight snaps because of injury, McCain did good work playing the boundary at times instead of his usual slot position.

“Bobby, I know not a lot of people have seen him play corner too much but he does a really good job out there,” Gase said. “We’ve seen him in games play nickel mostly; but he plays corner in practice quite a bit and he’s a challenge for our guys to get open and he does a good job, especially in any of the zone coverages. He has a really good feel there, which obviously with his ability to play nickel, it kind of goes hand and hand when we’re playing zone coverages.”

▪ For the first time in awhile, the Dolphins might be able to enter an offseason without a pressing need at defensive tackle. Though Ndamukong Suh will be making $16.9 million next season, at least the other three will be cheap: Jordan Phillips at $1 million and Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor at $555,000 apiece.

▪ Quick stuff: Rookie Matt Haack’s seven punts inside the 20 were the most in the NFL this season and most by an NFL punter since Dec. 27, 2015, when Tennessee’s Brett Kern had seven against Houston. It also tied for the third-most in the NFL since records date to 1976. The record is eight. … The Dolphins are 11.5-point underdogs to the Patriots. WINZ’s Andy Slater said Miami hasn’t been a bigger home underdog in a game since going 1-15 in 2007.

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