Toward the latter half of the 2017 season, a new star was born in Miami. In the aftermath of a shocking midseason trade, that sent running back Jay Ajayi to the eventual Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles, someone had to step up to the challenge. An immediate competition ensued between two young backs – Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake.
Right off the bat, the coaching staff appeared to favor Williams, due to his knack for churning out extra yards and finishing off runs, combined with his better pass blocking chops relative to his younger teammate. But Drake’s clutch and big play performances made it difficult to keep him off the field. Drake broke off many long runs, including game-winning touchdowns. Those big plays are often the difference between winning and losing, and you can’t teach a guy to be a home run hitter. When Williams sustained an injury, it gave Drake the opportunity to take over the bellcow role, and he responded very well.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins spent the offseason looking to improve on both sides of the ball. One of their free agency signings was Frank Gore. But how big of a role can Gore really expect to garner in Miami? Gore just turned 35 years old in May. There hasn’t been a running back 35 or older to even receive 150 carries in the past decade. The last one to get such a workload was Emmitt Smith in 2004.
Nevertheless, Gore was practically the only bright spot for the Colts’ offense in 2017. He is coming off a solid season in Indy, in which he was fed a robust 261 carries on the year. He turned those into 961 yards, despite running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the entire NFL. While it makes sense that the Dolphins will want to mix in Gore in certain situations, it is difficult to believe that he will be much of a threat to Drake’s overall workload, particularly since Williams is now in Kansas City and his workload is up for grabs. Gore will more likely serve as a change of pace back as well as a mentor to the rising stud. As a team, Miami rushed the ball just 360 times last season, and Drake received 133 of them, despite getting just 42 carries in the first 11 games combined.
Comparatively, Miami’s opponents totaled 431 carries against them. This is a discrepancy that the team will obviously look to overturn. But even if they don’t, there should be enough carries to satisfy both backs. This is of course assuming that the coaching staff wants to limit Drake’s workload in any case, in order to keep him fresh and to reduce his risk of injury. Drake’s ability to maintain pass-blocking prowess will go a long way in assuring that he retains a three-down role in most situations. It’s very easy to imagine Drake receiving anywhere from 15-18 rushes per game, as well as some opportunities in the passing game.