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Frank Gore 2018 Profile: NFL’s New Iron Man

Frank Gore’s Age “Irrelvant”

Frank Gore Dolphins

Credit: Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald

RB Frank Gore

Height, Weight: 5-9, 212 lbs.

Age: 35 at the start of the season

College: Miami

NFL Experience: Entering 14th season, first with the Dolphins

2017 PFF Rank: 17th of 55 qualified RBs

2017 Stats:

  • Rushing– 961 yds, 3.7 avg, 3 TDs
  • Receiving– 29 rec, 245 yds, 1 TD

Accolades:

  • 5th All-Time Rushing Yards (14,026)
  • 1,200 Scrimmage Yards 12 Consecutive Seasons (Record)
  • 49ers Franchise Rushing Leader (11,073)

 

The New NFL Iron Man

For the past five seasons, the media has predicted the same thing before training camp: Frank Gore’s NFL career is near its end. Most felt that Gore’s career would be done when he went to Indianapolis. Instead, Gore started every single game and was one of the very few members of that team who could be trusted week in and week out. Sure, his rushing numbers took a little hit, but that happens when you play on a bad team and take hand-offs from players like Scott Tolzien at times.

When you think of an NFL iron man, the name Brett Favre comes to mind, and rightfully so. We’ve all heard the stories of doctors living with Favre during the season to get him ready for the next game. We even remember that famous Monday Night Football performance after his father’s passing. But the Favre era has come and gone, and there’s a new iron man of the NFL.

Since fracturing his hip in week 12 of the 2010-11 season, Frank Gore has never missed game. That is seven full seasons of not missing a game while playing a physical style of football at the league’s most injury-prone position. Mind blowing. Throw in the fact that he’s had a bad offensive line and those seasons took place during ages 29-34, and we’re now talking legendary.

Last Season With Colts

Much like the rest of the Colts team, Gore took a bit of a statistical hit last season, though his consecutive 1,200-yard season record is still alive. While playing 53.88% of the total offensive snaps for the Colts, Gore ran for 961 yards and only 3 touchdowns, his lowest touchdown output since 2010, when he missed five games. This isn’t surprising, since the Colts we’re in scoring range much less last season. So yes, his stats took a dip, but does it really mean he’s slowing down?

Gregg Doyle of The Indianapolis Star revealed the Gore broke his thumb last season in his 130-yard week 14 game against the Bills. The Colts medical staff examined it and suggested that he undergo season-ending surgery and insert a pin. Of course, the iron man had other ideas.

“I’m a football player. I’m playing,” Gore stated.

The turnaround for the next game was short, since the Colts played the Broncos on Thursday Night Football. A man of his word, Gore played and gained 67 yards in the game. With this kind of drive, it’s no wonder Frank Gore is still playing at the level he is.

Frank Gore 2005 Miami

In this 2005 photo, Frank Gore is seen with his then-2-year-old son Frank Jr. in front of his Coconut Grove home. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Back to Miami

After 13 NFL seasons, Gore has decided to take his talents back to Miami, where he grew up and played his college ball. This is not just a reunion of the running back and his city, but also between him and his head coach. Gore and Adam Gase were actually together back in 2008, when Gase served as an offensive assistant on the 49ers. “It’s been 10 years since we were together,” Gase said. “I mean it seems like forever. The guy looks exactly the same.”

Of course, we’ll hear plenty of “experts” speculating that Gore will basically just serve as a mentor because of his age. However, when asked about Gore’s age and the wear on his body, Gase said, “It’s irrelevant. He’s a different dude.” Only time will tell for Gore’s performance back in Miami, but it sounds like coach Gase has some plans.

 

Gore’s 2018 Outlook

There certainly are question marks when we attempt to predict the 2018-19 season for Frank Gore. The Dolphins are expecting, and hoping, to feature young back Kenyan Drake. Drake took over as the starter last season after trading away Jay Ajayi. After taking over, Drake totaled 851 yards and 4 touchdowns through nine games. If he continues this level of play, he will no doubt be the featured runner in the backfield for Miami.

However, Frank Gore was not brought to Miami to simply be a mentor, like many have speculated.

“We’ll figure it out,” Gase said of the workload. “This is no different than what we were kind of doing with Damien and Kenyan last year. I mean it’s a long season. We got caught in a couple of situations last year where Kenyan was the only guy we had and he had to take the majority of the carries. Really, that’s not what we want over a 16-game season. That’s going to be tough. We’ll make sure that we spread this thing out well. We’ll use both of those guys the right way.”

So if we take Gase’s word, we should also take a look at how Drake and Williams were used when both were healthy last season. When both played and Ajayi was gone last season, Damien Williams actually out-touched Kenyan Drake 46-44 over four games. With Williams gone and Gore to take his place, does he fully take over his touches?

 

Dolphins Backfield Split

Even though the Dolphins backfield was basically a 50-50 split when both were healthy, I believe Gase would truly like to feature the young Kenyan Drake. Does this mean 70-75% of the backfield touches? Of course not. I do, however, think he could get 60-65% of the touches over the course of the season.

Despite not being an early round draft pick, I would be foolish not to mention the rookie Kalen Ballage out of Arizona State. Ballage is a bruiser who could someday emulate the running of, say, Frank Gore. He is the type of prospect who could develop into a true bell-cow running back, though I do not think that would happen this season. I think he could take a couple touches per game, especially in short yardage situations, but the plan is for him to learn from Gore this year.

That leaves the iron man, Frank Gore. If everything works out the way Adam Gase hopes this season, I think Gore is a 8-10 touch per game player. However, he knows how reliable Gore is. Drake will be put on a very short leash with his pass protection. So if he lets Tannehill get hit, that will mean a few more snaps for Gore. If he fumbles near the goal line, again, more snaps added on.

Essentially, Frank Gore will be Adam Gase’s security blanket. In a season where the Dolphins aren’t expected to be great, plenty could go wrong over the course of a game. When this starts to happen, I bet you see the old veteran in the backfield.

 

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