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Drake and Williams are re-defining Dolphins' running back position

Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Football

The Miami Dolphins' two-headed running back tandem of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams produced 165 yards from scrimmage last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. But the most interesting one-game glimpse into how that position now relies on versatility instead of power came from the passing game.

Drake and Williams combined for 12 receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown in one game. Jay Ajayi, traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, had 27 receptions for 151 yards and no touchdowns in 15 games last season.

Coach Adam Gase mentioned Monday that Drake (104 yards from scrimmage vs. the Raiders) and Williams (64 yards from scrimmage) "made a big difference" as receivers out of the backfield.

And apparently that's a big part of the direction the offense is headed.

"We want to just keep moving in the right direction, and keep giving (Williams) chances, keep giving Drake chances," Gase said.

Gase has valued versatility from his running backs in his stops as offensive coordinator in Denver (Knowshon Moreno, C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman) and Chicago (Matt Forte).

He's got versatility with Drake and Williams.

Each running back had a signature play against Oakland -- Drake, the speedster, had a 42-yard run while Williams, the hard-nosed third-down specialist, had a rugged 10-yard receiving touchdown.

But Gase hasn't decided how time will be shared between Drake and Williams.

"We'll see how far we go with it," he said of the Drake-Williams combination and how much each is used.

"We'll see what else we can do. It's hard to say, 'this group, this group.' It's 11 guys."

Gase said the rushing, passing and pass protection gameplans, and which back is best suited for that specific matchup, must be taken into account when deciding about backfield time.

Also, Williams remains a core special teams player, which saps some of his available energy from scrimmage.

"There's a lot of things that go on with this," Gase said, "and trying to focus on one group is hard because it's a huge puzzle, and you're trying to put it together during the week."

Still, it's a safe bet that Drake and Williams will again share backfield duties Monday against the Panthers in Carolina.

After all, consider the knee-jerk, overreaction to their one-game productivity:

If Drake and Williams continue to average 165 yards from scrimmage, such as they did last week, they'll combine for 1,485 yards from scrimmage in the final nine games of the season. Ajayi produced 1,423 yards from scrimmage in 15 games last season.

It's an extreme projection, of course.

But Drake and Williams combined for 28 touches from scrimmage against Oakland, so it's not implausible to think they could fit snugly into the revamped offense.

Gase seems to like what he's seen from Drake and Williams as ball carriers, where they combined for 83 yards rushing on 16 carries.

"I like where our running game is heading," Gase said. "We were able to do a couple of things where we popped a big one, which was good to see, and there was an earlier one where we were really close, Drake got tripped up in a pile of guys."

Improvements are needed, of course.

Drake lost a crucial fumble in the second quarter, and Williams had a relatively harmless seven carries for 14 yards, a testament to their infancy at the NFL level.

And although Williams showed toughness on his touchdown reception, absorbing a big hit and continuing into the end zone, neither Drake nor Williams showed much in the power running department against Oakland.

Also, Drake and Williams have never displayed the yards-after-contact ability that Ajayi showed on a regular basis.

But they seem to fit Gase's offense well, and their one-game snapshot checked the boxes Gase likes.

"They sold out," he said, "and gave us everything they had."

(c)2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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