Kenyan Drake

Dolphins Notes: Mills, Drake, Ledbetter

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald passes along a veritable treasure trove of notes for Dolphins fans today, so let’s dive right in:

  • Although free agent acquisition Jordan Mills was disappointing in minicamp and was replaced at right tackle by Jesse Davis, Jackson says the Dolphins are still very much open to having Mills man the RT position. The club will give him a chance to redeem himself in training camp and may elect to keep Davis at guard, where he played last year. Zach Sterup is also in the mix for the right tackle job.
  • Jackson believes that running back Kenyan Drake has been woefully underutilized to date and that he should be getting 12 to 18 carries a game. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics support Jackson’s opinion, citing Drake’s ability to win after early contact and force missed tackles. However, PFF also says Kalen Ballage should serve as Miami’s primary third-down/receiving back, which Jackson’s eye test does not support. Jackson says Ballage looked “unnatural” as a receiver out of the backfield during the club’s offseason program, and he even says the embattled Mark Walton could be the Dolphins’ best receiving back. Drake and Ballage will have plenty of opportunity to prove their worth in 2019, which is an especially crucial year for Drake, a 2020 free agent.
  • UDFAs often have a better chance of cracking the roster of a rebuilding team like the Dolphins then they would on a club with playoff aspirations, and Jackson says Miami hopes at least one of the its undrafted defensive linemen — Dewayne Hendrix and Jonathan Ledbetter — will make the cut. Ledbetter, one of the best collegiate DEs at stopping the run, is attempting to diversify his game by refining his pass rush skills.
  • The team also has several UDFA cornerbacks that merit some attention, and the new coaching staff had plenty of luck developing that type of prospect in New England. 2018 UDFA Jalen Davis flashed in minicamp this year, and while the Dolphins have taken a look at him both outside the numbers and in the slot, his size (5-10, 185) may make him better-suited to a slot role.

AFC East Notes: Bell, Bills, Flores

The Bell has rung. As Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets, Le’Veon Bell has arrived at the Jets‘ facility in advance of tomorrow’s mandatory minicamp. There was never a chance that Bell would fail to show up for minicamp, but given the drama that has followed him from Pittsburgh to New York, it’s still noteworthy, if for no other reason than to see how he will interact with new head coach Adam Gase.

Now for several more items from the AFC East:

  • Speaking at Jim Kelly‘s annual charity golf tournament this morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes that a new stadium is essential to the stability of a franchise (via Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic). With respect to the Bills specifically, Goodell made it very clear that team ownership will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Goodell has made similar remarks in the past, but the article — which includes more of Goodell’s comments — are well worth a read for Bills fans, as it also details the unique challenges that ownership faces in meeting Goodell’s demands.
  • Brian Flores is making a strong first impression with the Dolphins, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. A number of players are less than keen on the old-school mentality and the demanding nature of the new coaching staff, but others are enjoying it, and Flores himself has drawn rave reviews. Players have lauded the rookie head coach both publicly and privately, which is a bit more meaningful for Flores than it might be for another HC. The Dolphins are in full rebuild mode, so Flores will be judged not necessarily on wins and losses — at least not for a year or two — but on how his players respond to him and compete for him.
  • In the same piece linked above, Jackson notes that the Dolphins are taking a wait-and-see approach with several players entering the final years of their contracts like RB Kenyan Drake and WR Jakeem Grant.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

AFC East Notes: Jets, Harbaugh, Drake, Dolphins, Patriots, Hogan

There’s been a lot of talk about Jim Harbaugh returning to the NFL lately, with his name recently being linked to the Jets’ job. While Harbaugh has said he wants to stay at Michigan and Jets CEO Christopher Johnson denied the reports today, it still seems like a definite possibility. It’s the type of high profile job that could lure Harbaugh away, and it’s a relatively attractive landing spot with Sam Darnold entrenched as the quarterback of the future. While Harbaugh is generally very highly regarded as a coach, the Jets should be very wary of bringing him in, opines Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Vacchiano writes that Harbaugh is the “biggest risk” of any of this year’s head coaching candidates, and that his tenure in San Francisco was “tumultuous.” He notes that those around the 49ers organization considered Harbaugh “toxic and unbearable”, and Vacchiano is skeptical Harbaugh could get along with the Jets’ front office. With Todd Bowles a near lock to be fired next Monday, we should know a lot more about New York’s intentions soon.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Kenyan Drake has grown a bit disgruntled with his role for the Dolphins, and wouldn’t say whether he wants to be back in Miami next year, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. Drake is a very talented running back and leads the Dolphins in yards from scrimmage this year, but the coaching staff has never used him consistently. Even with the injury to Frank Gore, his role has still decreased recently, and he got only six carries in the team’s loss to the Jaguars this past Sunday. With Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase’s futures both increasingly uncertain, it’s looking like an offseason of change is coming for the Dolphins. The team is likely to look completely different in 2019, and Drake might not be a part of things even though he has one year left on his rookie contract.
  • Speaking of players frustrated with their playing time, Patriots receiver Chris Hogan downplayed any internal strife and said he isn’t upset about his lack of involvement in the offense, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Hogan played the vast majority of snaps in the team’s win over the Bills in Week 16, but he wasn’t targeted in the game and was reportedly seen slamming his helmet in frustration during the game. He also sat away from his fellow receivers and over on the defensive side of the bench, but insisted that everybody is on the same page. Hogan’s production has varied as he’s been featured heavily one week and absent the next, but he was expected to take on a more prominent role with Josh Gordon‘s departure, although that didn’t materialize against Buffalo.
  • While Bowles is almost certain to be fired on Black Monday following the Week 17 games, the embattled head coach is insisting he isn’t worried about his job security, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Bowles said he had no reaction to the rumors about Harbaugh, and wouldn’t address questions about his job. After four years of leading the Jets, a new era is right around the corner in New York.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Bortles, Coleman

Frank Gore may be competing for touches with fellow running back Kenyan Drake, but that doesn’t mean the veteran isn’t impressed by his Dolphins teammate. In fact, Gore told Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post that he understands why the organization moved on from their former starter in order to give Drake more reps last season.

“I was like, ‘Man, I kinda see why they traded Jay Ajayi,’” Gore said. “He’s very talented. Jay Ajayi was a great back, too, but Kenyan is a very talented guy. He’s smart. He can do everything on the field. I think that me and him can really help this team be successful this year.”

Ultimately, Gore is expected to be a mentor to both Drake and fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage. Despite running for at least 850 yards for the 12th-straight season in 2017, the veteran is willing to have a larger impact off the field than on the field.

“People said that I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t (last) more than three years, and I’ve been blessed going into my 14th year,” the 35-year-old said. “Now I want to go out here and be successful, have fun and do whatever it takes with my team and try to get some wins.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Blake Bortles is looking forward to his first healthy season in several years. The Jaguars quarterback told ESPN’s Michael DiRocco that he’s been tolerating a right wrist injury for several seasons, forcing him to have three cortisone injections in 2017. Bortles finally opted for surgery this offseason to repair a partially torn ligament on the outside of his wrist, and the 26-year-old said the operation helped him have the best offseason and training camp of his career. “When you do not have to worry about going to rehab or going to get treatment, you have to make sure you warm it up the right way, you have to take anti-inflammatory [medication] and do all of that stuff. … It is just a lot of process to be able to go out there and do what you should be able to do without any pain,” Bortles said. “To be able to do that now finally is pretty awesome.” Despite the injury, Bortles managed to complete a career-high 60.2-percent of his passes last season for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
  • The Bills traded for former first-round wideout Corey Coleman last night, and Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.com believes the receiver could have an immediate impact on his new team. The writer points out that Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley are the only two players locked in at the top of the Bills depth chart, and this was emphasized when the coaching staff add recently-recovered Andre Holmes to the first team during camp (Zay Jones has since recovered from his injury, as well). At the very least, Coleman will provide the Bills with unmatched speed, a skill set that the team’s fellow receivers are lacking.
  • When the Patriots released wideout Malcolm Mitchell earlier today, many assumed the former fourth-rounder was still battling a nagging knee injury. While that could be partly true, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the receiver was waived as a healthy player. This means Mitchell passed his final physical with the organization. After making six starts as a rookie in 2016, Mitchell sat out the entire 2017 campaign due to injury.

Dolphins Notes: Draft, Drake, Grant, Derby

The Dolphins lost another game in Week 16 and now sit on the brink of getting a top 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, the best players in this class do not line up very well with the needs of the organization, opines Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Jackson proclaims that if Miami loses to a playoff contending Bills team this coming Sunday, the team won’t necessarily have a clear player they are targeting in that range of the draft. According to Jackson, the team’s two biggest needs are linebacker and tight end, but no prospect is available at those positions who would warrant that type of draft slot.

Jackson notes that the team could potentially go with Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams should the front office move on from right tackle Ja’Wuan James, but that’s far from a certainty. LSU pass rusher Arden Key could also be useful weapon on the defensive side of the ball, but there’s not a true need in that area either. Jackson speculates that Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith could be a fit if he can help increase his stock with a successful draft preparation process.

Finally, the writer also throws cold water on the idea of replacing Ryan Tannehill because of the Dolphins substantial financial investment in him, even though he will be returning from a knee injury he suffered this past training camp . It would seem that while the Dolphins have been losing enough to move up the draft board, trading down may be the best option because of the lack of a fit in the upper portion of the draft.

Here’s more notes on the Dolphins from Jackson’s column:

  • Even after trading Jay Ajayi, running back does not seem like a major area of need for the Dolphins entering the offseason. Second-year tailback Kenyan Drake has shined with Ajayi gone and Damien Williams recovering from injury. He played all but three snaps in the team’s loss to the Chiefs in Week 16 and ranks fourth among all running backs with 369 yards after contact. The 23-year-old has averaged over 4.5 yards per carry over his last four contests, and has made a difference in the passing game as well. With his productive late season performance, he seems primed to enter 2018 as the Dolphins surefire number one back.
  • Wide receiver Jakeem Grant often gets lost in the shuffle behind the likes of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker. However, the second-year wideout managed to catch four balls for over 100 yards in last Sunday’s matchup. He’s only played in 10.4% of the team’s snaps this season, which makes sense because of the Dolphins deep receiving corps. But, Landry is set to hit the open market this offseason, so Grant could be auditioning for a bigger role in 2018 should the team’s star wideout move on.
  • Grant wasn’t the only little used player to get increased reps in Week 16. Miami saw two new faces get a lot of action vs. the Chiefs as well. Tight end A.J. Derby, whom the team claimed from the Broncos, was targeted five times. Although, he only managed one catch in the contest. Cornerback Torry McTyer played in 61 of the defense’s 83 snaps before he was taken out of the game due to injury. McTyer was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent last offseason and could be in-line for a further audition in Week 17 should he be heathy enough to play. Miami needs more tight ends and defensive backs for next season, so Derby and McTyer could get another shot to impress in the team’s regular season finale this weekend.

 

East Notes: Drake, DRC, Revis

The Dolphins will treat rookie running back Kenyan Drake as the starter this week in place of the injured Arian Foster, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport, though, passes along more interesting news regarding Miami’s running back corps and head coach Adam Gase‘s attempts to instill discipline in his new club.

After Gase’s highly-publicized decision to leave Jay Ajayi off the team’s travel list prior to the Dolphins’ regular season opener in Seattle, there was another incident involving the team’s running backs the following week. Both Isaiah Pead and Damien Williams missed a meeting in advance of Miami’s Week 2 matchup against New England, which is why both were inactive for that contest. Drake, it appears, is the only back on the 53-man roster who is both healthy and has not had a lapse in maturity over the past several weeks.

As Rapoport notes, time will tell if more “messages” are necessary or if the Dolphins will begin to fall in line with Gase’s vision.

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • Despite his team-friendly deal and his still considerable abilities, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is clearly not in the Giants‘ long-term plans, James Kratch of NJ.com writes. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple are entrenched as the team’s top two corners, and it would make no sense for New York to pay $6.5MM for a 30-year-old slot corner after this season (especially when the team could recoup the full $6.5MM by cutting DRC). But there are plenty of cornerback-needy teams for whom Rodgers-Cromartie would represent a significant upgrade, so Kratch opines that the Giants should look to trade DRC prior to this year’s deadline, and if that fails, then the team should release him before free agency begins next year.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com believes the Jets and cornerback Darrelle Revis are set for a “contract staredown” after the season. Revis is scheduled to earn $15MM in 2017, including a non-guaranteed roster bonus of $2MM, which is due to be paid on the second day of the 2017 league year in March. Of course, if Revis begins to recapture his prior level of play, his contract may not be as much of an issue, but if he continues to struggle, the team will probably ask him to renegotiate, which Revis has never shown any inclination to do. As Cimini notes, the roster bonus puts a deadline on what could become one of the bigger storylines of the offseason.
  • Eagles head coach Doug Pederson expects Dorial Green-Beckham‘s role to increase as DGB continues to learn the offense and get healthy, as Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com writes. Through the first two games, Green-Beckham has had just six passes thrown his way, though Pederson says DGB was the primary target on several plays in the team’s Week 2 win over Chicago, but the defense dictated that the play go elsewhere.
  • If Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson is in fact suspended for PED use–his hearing is set for October 4–Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the team will move left guard Allen Barbre to right tackle and promote Stefen Wisniewski to the starting lineup to take Barbre’s place.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Sankey, Jets, Dolphins

The Patriots seem likely to look for another running back in the coming months, writes Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who wonders if New England could show interest in Titans back Bishop Sankey. Sankey isn’t expected to make Tennessee’s final roster, so he could likely be had for minimal compensation — or the Pats could simply wait until Sankey is waived and try to pluck him then. If and when he is cut loose by the Titans, Sankey shouldn’t be on the street for long, as Rand Getlin of NFL.com reports (Twitter link) that multiple clubs have already expressed interest in the former second-round pick.

Let’s take a look at the latest out of the AFC East…

  • Though most rookie contracts are now a breeze, clubs and agents can begin to negotiate a bit starting in the third round, a topic that Reiss has examined in the past. Writing in a separate column today, Reiss notes that the PatriotsJacoby Brissett (who officially inked his rookie deal earlier today) is one of just two third-round picks who received 100% of their maximum allowable slotted compensation — the other, unsurprisingly, is also a quarterback, Cody Kessler of the Browns. The value of the QB position is such that even third-round picks can exert a little bit of leverage as they hammer out deals.
  • Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said earlier today that the Jets “don’t want” him, but that sentiment isn’t quite right, argues Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. New York does want Wilkerson, per Florio, but it simply wants to keep him for a single year at a cost of around $15MM, rather than sign to a long-term extension. With fellow defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams in tow, the Jets can continue to play hardball, hoping that their draft-and-develop strategy will allow them to find the next Wilkerson instead of paying for the current iteration.
  • Running back Kenyan Drake suffered an injury scare on Wednesday, but he’ll be ready for the start of training camp, Dolphins coach Adam Gase tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. On Wednesday evening, Drake formally signed his rookie contract. He’s expected to be Miami’s No. 2 back behind Jay Ajayi.
  • In other Dolphins news, veteran Dallas Thomas is starting ahead of first-round pick Laremy Tunsil at guard, at least thus far in practice, writes Jackson in a separate column. “You’ve got to earn your spot,” said Gase, who, it should be noted, did downplay the importance of who is starting at this point in the year. “I don’t think you’ve seen anyone get plugged in and anointed anything. Everybody’s battling. That’s what we want.”

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Dolphins Sign Drake, Wrap Up Draft Class

The Dolphins officially signed third-round pick Kenyan Drake today, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Drake was previously the last unsigned rookie in Miami’s 2016 class, so the Dolphins now have every rookie under contract. Kenyan Drake (vertical)

Drake’s signing marked a rather eventful day for the rookie running back. In practice on Wednesday afternoon, Drake suffered a hamstring injury during a special teams drill. At this time, there is no definitive word on his status. The Dolphins are keeping their figures crossed that Drake is alright since he figures to be an important part of their backfield in both the future and present. The Dolphins will start Jay Ajayi at running back this year but Drake has been trumped up as the clear-cut No. 2 option. Behind Ajayi and the Alabama product, the Dolphins also have Damien Williams, Daniel Thomas, and Isaiah Pead on the roster. If Drake’s injury is serious, Miami may circle back to the likes of Arian Foster as they weigh their depth options.

The biggest name in the Dolphins draft class, of course, is first-round pick Laremy Tunsil. The Ole Miss product was considered a virtual lock to go in the top seven picks before his social media accounts were hacked just minutes prior to the start of the draft. While the Ravens and other teams passed on the opportunity to take the the 6’5″, 315 pound lineman, the Dolphins were delighted to have him fall to No. 13.

Here is the complete rundown of the Dolphins’ 2016 rookie class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Titans, Eagles, Dolphins, Drake

Titans general manager Jon Robinson completed a major trade today, sending the No. 1 overall pick – along with a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder – to Los Angeles in exchange for six picks, including two first-rounders. In fact, according to multiple reports, the deal was finalized last night, but the Rams wanted to wait until today to announce it to avoid stealing headlines during Kobe Bryant’s final game.

Speaking to reporters today, Robinson suggested that he may not be done dealing. Armed with four picks in the top 45, and six in the top 76, the Titans GM referred to those extra picks as “currency,” suggesting Tennessee has options when it comes to moving up or down during the draft. Robinson added that his phone “is still working,” inviting teams to call him if they want to discuss trades (Twitter links).

As we wait to see if Robinson has any other mega-deals up his sleeve, let’s round up a few more draft updates and rumors…

  • Before agreeing to send their top pick to L.A., the Titans had spoken to the Eagles about the possibility of a swap involving that No. 1 pick, but Philadelphia withdrew its offer earlier this week, a source tells Ed Werder of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Philadelphia continuing to explore a potential trade with the Browns, who hold the No. 2 pick. Of course, that would only be plausible if the Rams don’t select the QB the Eagles like, and the Browns decide not to take a QB of their own.
  • The Dolphins, who remain in the market for help at the running back position, have shown interest in Alabama reserve RB Kenyan Drake, but not Crimson Tide starter Derrick Henry, observes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).
  • The Rams, Falcons, and Seahawks are among the teams interested in Utah State wide receiver Brandon Swindall, who has intrigued NFL clubs, writes Aaron Wilson of The National Football Post.
  • Air Force tight end/long snapper Garrett Griffin is drawing interest from the Lions, Saints, Chargers, 49ers, Chiefs, and Broncos, as Aaron Wilson tweets.
  • Duke safety Jeremy Cash had more than 10 teams at his pro day, including the Panthers, Steelers, Falcons, Cardinals, and Saintstweets Rand Getlin of NFL.com.