Kenyan Drake ready to carry the load for Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Third-year pro Kenyan Drake has been with the Miami Dolphins longer than any other running back on their roster, which gives him seniority of sorts — except that new backup Frank Gore is 35 years old.
Even so, Drake considers his maturity an asset for a change entering his first full season as the starter.
He performed well in the No. 1 role after starter Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia at midseason last year. Drake gave Miami a much-needed big-play threat, had back-to-back 100-yard games, finished with 644 yards rushing and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, which ranked sixth in the NFL.
Drake has touchdowns of 96, 66, 45 and 42 yards for the Dolphins, with the longest coming on a kickoff return. But as they prepare for another season during this month’s OTAs, Drake said he should have made more of an impact sooner.
The third-down draft pick out of Alabama in 2016 had only a small role his first year.
“My rookie year was a big learning experience,” Drake said Tuesday. “I just wasn’t mentally prepared to handle the workload of an everyday starter. I came up short.”
Now, he said, he’s ready. And he needs to be, given typically heavy recent roster turnover.
“I’m the longest-tenured running back, which is pretty interesting,” he said. “Two years ago I was coming in fresh-faced. Funny how time flies. I’m definitely embracing this role, and trying to help this team win a lot more games in the coming years.”
He said he’ll benefit from guidance by Gore, the NFL’s active career rushing leader, who signed with his hometown team as a free agent in March.
“I always remind Frank that when he first came into the league, I was in fifth or sixth grade,” Drake said with a chuckle. “If I have half the success he has had in his career, that would be a win in my book.”
Coach Adam Gase expects a lot of success for Drake, and confirmed the young pro has matured.
“When you’re in this league, sometimes there’s a little bit of a feeling-out process,” Gase said. “You’re trying to figure out, who are you? You’re starting to get older. You really realize this is a job, and it’s different than college.
“I see a different guy — the way he prepares, knowing the situation he’s coming into this year. I think we just have a guy that’s really looking to bust out.”
Drake is part of a much different offense this year. Ryan Tannehill returns at quarterback after missing all of last season because of a knee injury, and the Dolphins added several new pass targets and two starters on the offensive line.
Miami sputtered to a 6-10 finish in 2017, and the dismal season was a new experience for Drake, who lost six games in four years of college.
“I love to win,” he said. “That’s why I went to Alabama.”
The championship pedigree was one reason the Dolphins drafted Drake. It also factored into their decision to take Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round of last month’s draft.
Good choice, according to Fitzpatrick’s former and new teammate.
“At Alabama, Minkah was a professional from the jump,” Drake said. “It’s rare you see a freshman come in and have that mentality of, `I want to work, I want to be the best.’ I feel like he is going to be in this league a very, very long time.”