It may not be long before Mark Walton emerges as the Miami Dolphins’ lead ball carrier.
He’s been listed behind running backs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage on the Dolphins’ depth chart but earned a start against Washington.
Walton was in for the first two series in Miami’s 17-16 loss to the Redskins and finished with 75 yards from scrimmage, including two 10-plus yard runs in the second quarter. And if the Miami native continues that production, Flores indicated that, at the very least, he’s earned more touches.
“He’s a guy who does a lot,” Flores said. “Plays in the kicking game. He’s good out of the backfield catching the football. He’s a good runner inside and outside … I think he’s got a really good skill set, a three-down skill set. He made some plays last week. He really did. So, if he continues to do that, and he’s productive, we’ll leave him in there.”
Though he started, Walton had fewer carries (6) than Drake (10), who leads Miami’s running backs with 41 carries for 153 yards, but Walton’s increased role could start as soon as Sunday when Miami faces a Buffalo Bills team that only surrenders 87.8 rushing yards per game. The mark is the seventh-best in the league.
Early in the game against Washington, Walton missed a block that allowed safety Landon Collins to get to quarterback Josh Rosen for a 9-yard loss, one of his few mistakes of the game that Flores pointed out.
Walton said Thursday that he had a “mental error” in the protection on that play.
Walton has impressed Flores and the Miami coaching staff, though. Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said Tuesday that if Walton continues to take advantage of his opportunities, he will keep getting those chances.
“Mark.. has really impressed us with both his work ethic at practice, his production on the field when he’s been in there,” O’Shea said. “He’s a great example of a player who’s taken great advantage of his opportunities... and I’m glad he’s on our football team. I think he can make some very positive contributions moving forward.”
Flores also said after last week’s loss that the former Miami Hurricane is one of the guys he’s “most confident” in when it comes to pass protection, and after Thursday’s practice, Walton said he puts a lot of focus on that aspect of his game.
“I want to protect the quarterback,” Walton said. “That’s our job, to protect the quarterback, so I take a lot of pride, and that’s just something that I guess [Flores] sees that in my area. And I focus in on that in practice, so I do take pride in that.”
The 2018 Cincinnati Bengals fourth-round pick earned a Dolphins’ roster spot in May after Cincinnati released him the month before, and in four appearances in Miami, Walton’s second on the team with 71 rushing yards.
With his chances of climbing the depth chart seemingly on the horizon, the second-year pro said he’s using this opportunity to do things the right way. That includes being focused in meetings and in practice, taking advantage of his reps and ”just playing football.”
“I don’t know how much I’ve showed them,” Walton said of what he thinks he’s proven to coaches so far. “But I know I just gotta keep showing them. I [am not] satisfied with last week’s performance. I want to just keep growing each week.”