Where is Kenyan Drake? Dolphins must find bigger role for RB

Kenyan Drake averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season and 3.5 yards per carry through four games in 2018. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Over the last two weeks, Kenyan Drake has been missing.

The Miami Dolphins have gone away from their lead back and he hasn't capitalized on the few opportunities he has been given. Just take a look at these stat lines:

  • Week 3 vs. Oakland: 5 carries, 3 yards.

  • Week 4 at New England: 3 carries, 3 yards.

Drake was supposed to be a central piece, if not the central piece, of the Dolphins offense when the season began. He's arguably Miami's most explosive offensive weapon, but he has been virtually invisible.

This can be ignored when other play-makers shine with trick plays and creative schemes, but when that well dries up the way it did Sunday, you need your bread-maker.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase doesn't make it a secret that he prefers to pass over run when given the choice, but to get this offense back on track, they've got to find Drake. Gase seems to know that.

"I've up got to do a better job of making sure we're giving the backs more touches and just be more consistent," Gase said. "I've got some ideas on what we're going to do."

Those ideas must start with getting better production up front or being more creative with how to feed Drake the ball. Gase has shown a willingness to abandon the run if it's not successful early in games.

Gase also builds in a lot of quick routes and speed options into his run calls, which can lead to run plays quickly changing into pass plays. But he figures "that's football."

Starting Sunday at Cincinnati, Gase can't let that be an excuse for Drake not getting touches. Before the season began, Gase estimated that Drake could see 20 to 25 touches a game if they got their ideal play count: 70 plays.

Well, Drake has been nowhere near 20 to 25 touches a game and Miami has been nowhere near their ideal play count. Drake's touches have decreased every week: 17, 15, 7, 4. The Dolphins' play count has decreased dramatically as well: 62, 60, 44, 45.

Drake was a big-play weapon in 2017. He averaged 128.2 scrimmage yards in the five games in which he had 15 or more touches and tied for the NFL lead with six rushes of 30-plus yards. Among running backs with more than 100 carries, he was among the fifth in the league with 4.8 yards per carry. In his last seven games of 2017, Drake had five plays of 30-plus yards -- four rushes and a reception.

Drake and veteran Frank Gore have shared the backfield, and they will continue to do so even if it frustrates fantasy football owners or fans, but neither has been able to get things going on the ground or had the opportunities to even try.

Through four games, Drake has 43 touches for 162 yards and a touchdown. Gore has 38 touches for 174 yards and a touchdown. Gore had more snaps Kenyan Drake (25 to 22) for the first time this season on Sunday. Gore did eat up nearly all of the reps on the Dolphins' lone scoring drive in garbage time.

The Dolphins' running game hasn’t been the same since they lost left guard Josh Sitton for the season due to a torn rotator cuff. Center Daniel Kilgore suffered an arm injury Sunday, and if he has to miss any time, Miami doesn’t have the depth to plug these injuries. They’re running out of quality players.

  • Miami’s run game in the first two weeks: 255 rushing yards on 60 carries.

  • Miami’s run game over the last two weeks: 97 rushing yards on 31 carries.

"We were searching," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "We tried to get the run game going a few different times in the game and they were doing a good job up front of shedding our blocks and making tackles around the line of scrimmage."

The Dolphins' biggest challenge this week should be pressing their offensive line to give them more in the run game with a goal of finding ways to feed Drake.