Depending on whom you asked, Kalen Ballage either had a 50-plus-yard touchdown run Saturday or was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
It was the Dolphins’ first padded practice of the year, and Balllage busted through the line and could not be caught. Up for debate: Whether defensive end Cameron Malveaux would have tackled the rookie before the run really began, if allowed to.
Whatever the truth, Ballage flashed real ability on the run, and led many to question again how he was the 12th running back selected in April’s draft.
He has been arguably their best rookie since then — and unarguably their best offensive rookie. Ballage, from Arizona State, has looked powerful and explosive.
But none of that might matter, at least right away.
The Dolphins seem loaded at running back, with Kenyan Drake entering his prime in Year 3 and Frank Gore still looking great in his 14th season.
“We want to get him to the point where he can play as fast as possible,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of Ballage. “We don’t want him over-thinking things. We want to be able to use his skill set to the team’s advantage and put him in great position. It really starts with his knowledge of the offense because at that position, there are a lot of moving parts. There are a lot of different spots you have to be at. There’s a lot of different things you have to do because you’re involved in all three phases of the offensive game.”
Gase said Ballage is handling that aspect pretty well, but that “every once in a while we’ll have a slight misstep here and there where his brain freezes up.”
Then Gase made clear the challenge Ballage faces to see snaps from scrimmage this fall:
“We want him to be a guy that can contribute on special teams and be ready to go as a guy that we can stick in there on offense.”
The Dolphins would argue that depth is never a bad thing, and that running backs do have a tendency of getting banged up over the course of a football season.
And if something does come up, Ballage has proven already that he will run hard, if nothing else. He knows the mental side of the game needs work.
“I’m learning the playbook right now fast,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing.
“The coaches understand it’s big, it’s extensive, it’s detailed,” he added. “You’re going to make little mistakes here and there. I’m just trying to limit those mistakes as much as possible.”