Day three of our annual 90-in-90 series is here, and we continue our look at the Miami Dolphins’ roster. This series takes a closer look at each player on the roster, reviewing what they did in 2018, their contract status, reasons they could progress or regress in 2019, and the chances the player makes the 53-man regular season roster in September. Our series thus far has looked at a depth option at defensive end and an undrafted free agent offensive lineman who could be looking at a practice squad position.
Today, we turn to a player who has already shown he has a role in Miami’s offense, even as that offense changes under a new coaching staff. Last season, the Dolphins split carries among their running backs, and, as a rookie, Kalen Ballage showed he has the skills to make a case for greater responsibilities this year.
Selected in the fourth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Ballage came to Miami looking like the third-string running back behind Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake. He did not see playing time early in the season, but made his debut in Week 4, picking up three yards on one carry. He again saw the ball just one time in Week 5, adding two yards. After not playing in Week 6 and no carries in Week 7, Ballage again saw one carry each in Weeks 8 and 9, gaining five yards and losing two yards respectively - though he did make his first two receptions in Week 9 gaining 17 yards. After a couple more no carries games (with one reception in Week 10 and two in Week 12), Ballage’s role began to expand. He had four carries in Week 13, but only picked up three yards. In Week 15, Ballage had his best game, carrying the ball 12 times for 123 yards with a touchdown. He picked up ten yards on four carries in Week 16, plus 39 yards on two receptions. He then added 12 carries for 47 yards in Week 17.
On the season, Ballage totaled 36 carries for 191 yards, a 5.3 yards per attempt average, with one touchdown. He caught nine passes for 56 yards.
Second year of a four-year, $3.05 million contract. 2019 cap number is $717,295. (via OverTheCap.com)
Why he will progress
Ballage looked good when given a chance late in the season. He was a rookie last year, learning the NFL, so he should understand protections better this year, as well as improve as both a rusher on the ground and a route runner in the passing game. With Gore now in Buffalo, Ballage should be locked in as the second running back behind Drake, so he should see more playing time and be able to improve on last year’s totals.
Why he might regress
It was a small sample size at the end of the year, so Ballage may be closer to the one carry back than he is the 123 yards rusher. It does not seem likely, but it could be something to watch. As the Dolphins change offensive systems, will Ballage be harmed by the multiple offensive coordinators over the past few years?
Chances of making the 53-man roster
Ballage feels like a lock to make the roster unless everything falls apart this summer. He is the two in Miami’s one-two punch at the running back position.