RB Kenyan Drake sees role as ‘pick your poison’ receiver out of backfield in Raiders offense

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A major offseason storyline in 2020 for the Raiders was getting Josh Jacobs more involved as a receiver out of the backfield. The result was a marginal improvement. He jumped from 20 to 33 catches and from 166 yards to 238. Meanwhile, Jalen Richard saw his catches drop through the floor to a career-low 19 catches for 138 yards.

This offseason Gruden decided instead of trying to get the receiving numbers out of the backfield from the players he already has, he just brought in someone else.

That someone else is former Cardinals and Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake.

Though Drake had just 137 receiving yards on 25 catches, that was not typical for him. In his three previous seasons, he averaged 45 catches for over 353 yards. That area of his game is what the Raiders are clearly trying to capitalize on as a complementary back to Josh Jacobs.

“Just trying to create mismatches,” Drake said Wednesday of what he brings as a receiver. “When you have a back as myself, or really any of our backs, you line up out wide and you have a linebacker or safety that goes out there, it gives you obviously a cover indicator, and with that we just want to take advantage of the mismatches that we feel like we have in the backfield on defenders when they match up man-to-man with us.”

While he is technically a running back, and has averaged over 737 rushing yards the past four seasons, the former track star tends to do his best work in space and being versatile and splitting out wide on some plays allows him to open things up and show off his speed.

“I’ve always been a pretty versatile athlete in general,” Drake continued. “In high school, I played running back and receiver. I came out as an athlete. I used to play a lot of receiver at Bama in specific personnel packages. I haven’t really, since I’ve been in the league, been utilized specifically as a receiver, but there were two years back-to-back where I caught 50-plus balls, 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, so it’s just about being a playmaker when a play needs to be made in space, whether that’s me getting the ball out of the backfield, catching the ball, running the ball.

Drake’s addition by the Raiders was criticized quite a bit this offseason. Not because he isn’t a good player, but because he is seen as a luxury pick-up on a team that needed to focus on the defense.

Regardless of where the Raiders should have focused, adding Drake does give the Raiders another big weapon on an offense that is starting to build up a collection of weapons. Having a multitude of options is especially important in the red zone and goal-to-go situations.

“Just being another playmaker, another weapon,” Drake added. “When you have a multitude of guys to cover on the field it stretches the defense real thin, so you got a guy like Darren Waller, who’s obviously a red zone threat. Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow. We have a lot of guys, especially everybody in this room that can create mismatches and come out the backfield. It’s almost like a pick-your-poison type of situation.”

As Drake points out, when he comes out of the backfield to line up at receiver, defenses can’t just put a cornerback on him. Or if they do, that usually means they take a corner off of one of the wideouts.

“I just want to be indispensable,” Drake said. “…whenever I get the ball in my hands, I like to make plays, or without the ball, in general, I like to just be an impact on the field where teams will have to really worry about where is 23 on the field, how can we neutralize him and stop him from being the game breaker. And that’s when everybody else starts to eat because when you try to focus on one person, we got weapons all over the field and that just brings more success to the offense in general.”

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