Kalen Ballage, the Dolphins’ tallest and biggest running back at 6-3 and 230 pounds, likely will have a prominent role on special teams as a rookie. The question is whether he will do enough to compel coach Adam Gase to give him regular offensive snaps as a third running back, or perhaps even occasional snaps as a Wildcat quarterback.
“He’s a freak,” running back Kenyan Drake said Tuesday. “He runs so smooth that it doesn’t really seem like he’s running fast. Obviously, me being a long, tall back, I always had trouble running behind my pads. He always seems to have a natural bend, a natural ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Obviously we don’t have pads on, so blocking is a different story with pads on. He definitely seems to be a 3-2 type of player and I’m just looking to see his development.”
It was an interesting coincidence that Ballage, without prompting, mentioned former Dolphins Ronnie Brown as “one of my favorite running backs.”
A coincidence because Ballage might be the Dolphins running back best equipped to serve as a Wildcat quarterback since, well, Ronnie Brown.
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Brown was at the epicenter of the Wildcat when a desperate Tony Sparano unleashed it in Week 3 of the wonderful 2008 season.
Brown went on to run the play well over 50 times over the next four years, rushing out of that formation most of the time but also completing four of 12 passes for 63 and two touchdowns and no interceptions, that 91.3 rating much better than any quarterback on the Dolphins roster last season.
Ballage, meanwhile, has run the Wildcat 70 times the past two seasons at Arizona State, according to Pro Football Focus. He completed three of four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, all of those passes attempted in 2016.
So does Ballage hope to be used as a Wildcat quarterback here on occasion, as Brown was? “I don’t know,” he said.
Has Ballage ever watched the tape of that 2008 New England game? “No, I don’t think I’ve seen it. I’ll have to pull it up later, for sure.”
Of his fondness for Brown, Ballage said: “I just liked that way he played. He was somebody that was exciting for me to watch.”
Like Brown, Ballage believes he can be a multidimensional threat. Ballage averaged 4.4 yards per carry as a running back in his career and 8.3 yards as a receiver (on 82 catches).
“I feel like that’s why I’m valuable,” he said. “I feel like I can do anything and whatever you come up with, whatever you want to do, I feel like I can fit into that system.”
Gase said Ballage is “a big man that runs fast and can catch the ball well. He really has all of the things that you’re looking for in an all-around back.”
Drake expects the Dolphins won’t huddle very much.
“I feel like every play, [Gase doesn’t] even want to huddle,” Drake said. “He just wants to get up there and call the play from the sidelines, get it to Ryan as quick as possible. Kind of get it to where we get to the line and there’s 20, 25 seconds on the clock and he can kind of see from there, ‘What’s the defense?’ How they’re lining up. How can we get to the best place possible?"
▪ Safety T.J. McDonald said he’s not sure how the Dolphins will define roles or share playing time among himself, Reshad Jones and rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick but said: “I think that we can all make it work. We can all do a lot of things. One thing we are doing is just making sure we all can know both positions, both safety positions. Minkah is a great player.”
▪ McDonald was “excited” when the Dolphins traded for defensive end Robert Quinn, his former teammates with the Rams: “Robert is a game changer.”
▪ The Dolphins wanted to change their culture inside the locker room, and McDonald said: "Our camaraderie as a group is better than last year. We’re all rooting for one another. It seems like it’s a closer group."
▪ The Dolphins waived offensive tackle Sean Hickey, who spent last season on their practice squad.