Given their commitment to a rebuild and numerous roster deficiencies, it won't come as any surprise if the Dolphins enter training camp with minimal competition for Ballage and Kenyan Drake in the backfield. The latter is an obvious favorite to handle the lead role, but he's yet to reach 175 touches in a season despite playing all 48 games since he entered the NFL. The Dolphins ideally would like to see a 1-2 punch, with Drake presumably handling more of the receiving work while Ballage does more bruising between the tackles. Granted, the 237-pounder didn't show much aptitude as an inside runner at Arizona State, and the Dolphins still have time to upgrade their backfield before Week 1 if they don't trust Ballage.
Ballage's work ethic and athleticism have made a strong impression on running backs coach Eric Studesville, one of the few holdovers from the old coaching staff in Miami, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports. "[Ballage]'s a big, physical body," Studesville said. "He can run. He's athletic. He's got a lot of growth to do as far as seeing and recognizing things. His work ethic is tremendous. He's got speed for a big man."
A size-speed freak with subpar college production, Ballage was selected at No. 131 overall (fourth round) in the 2018 NFL Draft and spent most of his rookie season playing special teams. He finally got his shot on offense when Frank Gore suffered a season-ending foot injury Week 15, immediately responding with a 75-yard touchdown scamper against Minnesota. The rookie averaged just 3.3 yards on his 35 other carries and 6.2 yards on nine catches, with 12 of his 45 touches (27 percent) going for no gain or a loss. The hit-or-miss style isn't optimal in an offense that already has Kenyan Drake doing a better version of the same thing, but the 237-pound Ballage does at least have theoretical potential to develop into a between-the-tackles grinder if he can improve his vision, toughness and upright running posture. He seems to have support from Studesville, but there's no guarantee other members of the overhauled Miami coaching staff will agree. We'll have a better read on Ballage's dynasty value once the Dolphins start to make some moves during the offseason.
Ballage rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught his only target for one yard during Sunday's 42-17 loss to the Bills.
Ballage's 13 touches during Week 17's blowout loss tied his career high. The rookie fourth-round pick finishes up the season with 36 carries for 191 yards and one touchdown, in addition to nine receptions for 56 yards. Save for a highlight-reel 75-yard touchdown gallop in Week 15, Ballage was not able to use his size, athleticism and pass-catching abilities to differentiate himself among Miami's running back committee. There's little clarity to be found regarding the 23-year-old's future usage in the Dolphins' backfield, but the potential of veteran Frank Gore (foot) not returning in 2019, in addition to the possibility of a new coaching staff being brought in during the offseason, gives Ballage some upside going forward.
Ballage rushed four times for 10 yards and caught two of four targets for 39 yards in Sunday's loss to Jacksonville.
Ballage didn't come near his Week 15 workload -- one that saw him log 12 carries for 123 yards -- disappointing fantasy managers who risked starting him in their lineups. The rookie was mostly stifled alongside the rest of Miami's offense, which managed only 183 total yards on the day. Ballage was able to briefly showcase his receiving chops, averaging 19.5 yards per reception and doing most of his damage after the catch.
Ballage is headed for a key role in the Miami backfield with Frank Gore (foot) expected to miss the rest of the season, ESPN.com reports.
Getting his first significant playing time as a professional, Ballage responded with 12 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 loss to the Vikings, while Kenyan Drake saw just four touches despite handling a 53 percent snap share. The rookie fourth-round pick profiles as a more explosive replacement for Gore, who averaged 11.1 carries and 1.1 targets in 14 games this season. A Week 16 home contest against the lifeless Jaguars should give Ballage a decent shot to make it back-to-back productive outings, though Drake and Brandon Bolden also figure to get some carries.
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