During this past offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to a two-year contract worth $14.5 million. In his first four games with the team, Drake has just 46 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Those numbers are not good, and they look significantly worse when analyzed next to the $7 million Drake is getting paid for both of these seasons.
It’s not all Drake’s fault, and in a way, he may have been inadvertently set up for failure. It has been overstated many times how bad the offensive line is. We’ve seen Josh Jacobs struggle behind this line as well, and Peyton Barber struggled mightily before breaking off some big runs in Week 3. Because we’ve seen those two endure similar problems, we know it’s not all on Drake.
Now, Jon Gruden’s inability to use Kenyan is showing as well. During the Monday night matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, it was clear that Josh Jacobs wasn’t completely healthy, and he lacked an explosive step all night. Barber missed the final half of the game with a foot injury.
The touches and the money aren’t adding up
It would make sense to give your $14.5 million running back some more looks while those two deal with their problems.
Drake got the ball one time.
At the moment, Drake is being criminally mismanaged by the Raiders. He’s been serving as the backup to Barber, and when Jacobs is healthy, they’ve used him like a third-string back. Drake has had an impressive career up to this point. Considering how he’s being used, it almost feels like the Raiders are doing this on purpose.
Drake has been treated as a pass-protector on a large variety of plays when he’s been lucky enough to see the field. ‘23‘ has been forced to stay in the backfield and pick up incoming blitzers. He’s also been relegated into a between-the-tackles runner. That is a different style than how Drake has both played and succeeded in his career.
Admittedly, this is not all Gruden’s fault. The offensive line has been downright abysmal. Drake’s current role might have more to do with the line’s struggles than we had thought.
Case in point, Monday night…
Last Monday night, we saw Derek Carr struggle mightily against a stout Los Angeles defense. A big reason for that was the incompetence of the offensive line. It would make sense that Gruden would be hesitant to send his running backs down the field as well, and one can understand his attempts to give Carr a cleaner pocket by keeping the running back in the backfield.
Still, there are some key issues with how the Raiders have deployed Drake. As bad as the offensive line is, pass-protection is not a strength Drake possesses. He can certainly get the job done, but he is much better off being used in other ways. Also, Drake is not an in-between the tackles runner at all. One of the main reasons he was signed was because the team had Josh Jacobs, who could do just that.
As previously mentioned, I can understand Gruden’s decisions. A lot of those decisions have been affected by injuries and ineptitude from players. That doesn’t mean Drake should be relegated to his current role.
Just one season ago, Drake rushed for 955 yards and ten touchdowns on an impressive four yards-per-carry. The talent is there. Sharing space in a crowded running back room means his numbers will suffer. But 46 yards through four games is downright laughable, and it’s not how Drake should be used.
So what should the Raiders do?
If the Raiders want to utilize Drake correctly, there are a few things they need to do. First, they need to stop keeping Drake in the backfield during every passing snap he sees. If Carr needs help that bad, they can bring an extra back or a player like Alec Ingold into the backfield. Maybe even an extra tight end. Either way, Drake is way too much of a receiving threat to be wasted in the way he has.
Next, he needs to stop getting so many carries up the middle. Jacobs, Barber, and Alec Ingold are three players who are very good at getting quick yards up the middle of the field. Kenyan is not the same. Drake is a much fast runner who does well when outside the box. He’s great at making people miss, not plowing over a defender for a three-yard gain.
If things continue on this trend, Drake could be one of the offseason’s worst signings, to hardly any of his own doing. The Raiders, unfortunately, have a history of signing players and then completely misusing them. It appears Drake’s headed for that same fate. If Gruden wants to avoid that, he’ll need to use Drake in a much more efficient way.
*Top Photo: Chase Steven/Las Vegas Review-Journal