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Kenyan Drake Primed For Breakout Year As Cardinals' Top Back

After 2019 midseason trade, veteran faces another contract year

Running back Kenyan Drake breaks off a run in Los Angeles last season during the season finale against the Rams.
Running back Kenyan Drake breaks off a run in Los Angeles last season during the season finale against the Rams.

Video games give something for Kenyan Drake to do in these days of sheltering at home, with the veteran running back often posting on Twitter his Twitch channel to let people watch him play Madden football.

He's relatively new to Madden, and "I'm not very good," Drake acknowledged.

But, he added, "I'm really excited about playing actual football."

His personal results could be video-game-like, if he does as well as many think he could this season. Already, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is being mentioned multiple times as an MVP candidate, and as his backfield mate, Drake would benefit – one analysis sees Drake becoming a top-three running back this season.

"I feel like my ceiling is as high as I'll take it," Drake said Tuesday during a Zoom press conference. "I can't do anything but put the work in right now and take that into whenever the season starts.

"I have personal goals for myself. … I'm not looking for anything specific, I just want to help this team win as much as possible."

All of this comes from Drake's impressive eight-game introduction with the Cardinals, a half-season in which he had 643 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards a carry and surpassing the 100-yard mark three times.

That it came in the final year of his contract wasn't lost on Drake, who had hoped to parlay it into a new long-term deal. The Cardinals put the transition tag on him, meaning they had the right of first refusal to match any offer he received from another team. Another offer never materialized, but Drake signed the tender that came with the tag, meaning he'll play in 2020 for $8.4 million and hit free agency again after the season – assuming there isn't a long-term deal reached before then.

"I feel like anybody who plays this game is obviously looking for stability and a long-term contract," Drake said. "But we got the deal done to where we are currently, and everything else will take care of itself. All I can do is focus on the things I can control.

"I'm excited to put the work in now and let everything else handle itself at an appropriate time."

Drake said he's working out in preparation for the season. As a "physical learner," he actually takes the notes from the Cardinals' virtual meetings and simulates what he can on his own to start building the muscle memory that would have naturally come out of on-field reps.

"He's going to have a higher level of confidence," coach Kliff Kingsbury said last month. "He did a lot of (his learning) on the fly. You see the explosiveness, you see what he can do in space, and we have to continue to put him in situations to be successful."

Whether he and the Cardinals can generate "Madden" stats is to be determined – Drake emphasized hype doesn't matter for the team until they do it on the field – but he welcomes the chance to be the Cardinals' top back for a full season.

"The best ability is availability is what I heard in my time (and) since I've been in the league I've been pretty healthy," Drake said.

"I'm trying to put my body in a situation where I can take a load or get 'x' amount of carries or touches in general and help this team win as many games as possible, touch the ball as much as possible."