Mark Walton has seized on his second NFL opportunity after losing his first. And the hope, for both Walton and the Dolphins, is that the best is yet to come.
Cut by the Cincinnati Bengals after three arrests and modest production in a limited role as a rookie, Walton has impressed the Dolphins in his first five months here and comes off the best game of his young career.
Against the Chargers, he had 23 yards on six carries and caught two passes for 11 yards while playing more snaps than starting running back Kalen Ballage, who never re-appeared after dropping a pass for the third time this season.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Walton said of getting his most extensive work of the season to date, a week after being active but not playing at all. “I was told I was going to be able to get in the mix. I didn’t know when it was. I didn’t expect to get that many carries. I expected to get one or two, not six and two catches and end up playing more than I usually do.
“I think I do a good job doing my job. The offensive line did a great job emphasizing the run.”
Running backs coach Eric Studesville suggested Walton will be involved on offense moving forward, along with Ballage and Kenyan Drake.
The Dolphins knew Walton was a skilled receiver out of the backfield. But they also wanted to see if he could overcome deficient blocking around him to pick up extra yards. He had 34 yards on 14 carries last season for the Bengals (a 2.4 average). But he ran hard and well against the Chargers.
“I’ve been trying to showcase my talent, whether it’s run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield, whatever I can do to help this team win, I am going to show you what I can do,” Walton said. “When I get between open space, I can make maneuver moves however I want to do it.”
Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said Tuesday that he likes what Walton has done.
“Mark has really impressed me both running the football and pass receiving; he runs hard and takes prides catching the football,” O’Shea said. “We’re impressed with the way he prepares. He will have opportunities if he continues to play at a consistent level.”
OFFENSIVE LINE DECISIONS
O’Shea said the Dolphins are evaluating what their best offensive line will be. Though the staff saw some things they liked in rookie Isaiah Prince’s first start at right tackle against the Chargers, it wasn’t enough to simply give him the right tackle job.
“There was some evidence in the game that he did well in his first game,” O’Shea said. “There were some areas he certainly needs to improve. Like we tell players, you get what you deserve. Isaiah is trying. He showed us on certain plays he can do it; just needs to do it on a consistent basis.”
With left tackle Jesse Davis sidelined with an arm injury, the Dolphins liked how J’Marcus Webb played at left tackle against the Chargers.
“We’re trying to find the five that fit best together,” O’Shea said. “Webb gave us a look at a potential combination that may work best for us.”
Davis returned to practice on Monday.
▪ The Dolphins have been outscored 81-0 after halftime, and O’Shea said there has been internal discussion about how much to pre-plan second half play calling.
Of the poor second-half play, O’Shea said: “I would not say it’s only player-related.” But generally, he said the players need to block, throw and catch better.
▪ Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham refused to directly answer most questions as usual on Tuesday — including who his best players on defense have been — but did say the Dolphins are preparing for all three Redskins quarterbacks (Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins). Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan hasn’t said who will start Sunday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium.
▪ Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list on Monday. Graham declined to say how he looks, or if he’s ready to play, but said Tankersley has been immersed in team activities and “been a diligent worker in meetings, ask good questions.”
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche also is eligible to return Monday, and defensive line coach Marion Hobby said he expects to see him on the field by early November, if not sooner.