We have well documented the running back situation for the Dolphins, and now, the NFL Draft has come and gone. And, the one addition through the seven rounds, that has us already wondering about September in Miami is Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage.
Ballage, who showed flashes of brilliance over his four years in the desert, will come into a backfield with Kenyan Drake and, now, veteran Frank Gore. Ballange, not unlike Drake, will enter his rookie year with the tag of being versatile, but also like Drake, having not been the every down feature back in his college career.
The good thing in the short term is that there is not going to be great expectation or pressure on Ballange, who’s 6’2, 225lbs., because he was a fourth round pick Saturday. So, at the moment, he’s third behind the two headed Drake-Gore combo going into training camp.
Ballage’s best season at ASU was 2016, where he registered 1,005 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs. However, that amount of scoring was skewed, because eight, yes eight, of the TD’s came in a single game with defensively challenged Texas Tech in week two of that season.
In fact, you can enjoy that highlight package here:
He is a quality back from a power conference, the Pac 12, but he’s basically split time as a ball carrier his whole career. As a result, he only had four games last year with more than 15 rushing attemps. Now, Ballage is also a good receiver, but his pass catching numbers plummeted from 44 receptions in 2016 to just 20 of them in 13 games last season.
Showing the versatility we mentioned, Ballage is also a kickoff returner, who averaged 22 yards per return for his four year career.
So, how will this translate for coach Adam Gase and new offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains into what the envision for Ballage, how he blends in and the 2018 season?
That’s an unknown.
We do know that Drake is pass catching weapon also, 32 receptions in 2017, and he is already familiar with Gase’s offense, which Loggains will continue to use. And therefore, it’s unlikely that Ballage will be replacing Drake in third down situations at least early in the year.
His best hope is “get in the playbook” and be ready, as the season goes on and wear and tear takes it toll, especially on the 34 year old Gore. That will likely happen. Then, it’s a head to head battle with Drake for playing time down the stretch.
Dolphins hit big plays against Raiders to remain unbeaten
Another Sunday of big plays and another win for the Dolphins, who for the first time since 2013 are 3 – 0. This after dealing the Raiders their third straight loss in a 28-20 come-from-behind victory at Hard Rock Stadium.
After Oakland scored almost immediately, when quarterback Derek Carr hit Jordy Nelson on a long completion and then with a red zone touchdown pass, Miami found themselves trailing quickly 7 to nothing.
But from there on, the Fins began to hit the Raiders with one big play after another. That started with a 34-yard beautifully thrown touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a streaking Kenny Stills to tie the game 7-7.
The Raiders actually took a 10-7 lead into the locker room and then put together a lengthy drive capped with a Marshawn Lynch up and over touchdown in a 17-7 lead.
However, the Dolphins were not fazed and 2 minutes of clock time later had marched into Raiders scoring territory. That’s when Jakeem Grant took an inside flip hand off from Tannehill (above) and raced around the right end to cut the lead to 17 – 14.
Next, head coach Adam Gase went into the” bag of tricks” and after a double hand off, receiver Albert Wilson fired this long pass to Grant down the right sideline:
SOME TRICKERATION TO TAKE THE LEAD!
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 23, 2018
The 52-yard trick play touchdown, gave Miami the lead for the first time at 21-17.
The Raiders tried to mount a go ahead drive but Derek Carr’s the pass for Martavis Bryant was picked off by Xavien Howard ending their threat.
Next, Wilson caught another short pass from Tannehill and did the rest, racing around the left sideline for a 72-yard score at the 2-minute warning, which put the game away.
Tannehill finished 17-23 for 289 yards and the three TD passes. Carr had 345 yards and a TD in the losing effort, but also two costly interceptions.
The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2013. That team finished 8-8 and still missed the playoffs.
The Raiders fanfare of hiring Jon Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth is over, as they are now 0-3 and already three games behind the Chiefs, who won Sunday.
Gameday- Dolphins host Raiders looking to remain unbeaten
Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Spread: Dolphins by 3 (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)
Miami has opened by winning the first two games for the first time since 2013 and now has a golden opportunity to get to 3 – 0 today. Here’s what we’re watching
Progression of Ryan Tannehill
Coming off a solid start by spreading the ball around to numerous receivers, Ryan Tannehill will look to keep it up. The Raiders defense is obviously reeling after the trading of Khalil Mack on the eve of the season, and Tannehill may be able to take advantage of the Oakland secondary.
Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson as the deep threats could do significant damage later today. Look for coach Adam Gase and coordinator Dowell Loggains to test them early.
Does Derek Carr follow up last week’s performance?
Oakland’s 5th Year quarterback was tremendous for much of the Denver game a week ago, completing 23 of his first 24 passes. With the Raiders getting acclimated to Jon Gruden’s new offense and terminology, it’s still obvious they want to get the ball out of Carr’s hand quickly with short throws.
Another part of Oakland’s offensive success is the early running of Marshawn Lynch, who is questionable for this game with an injured shoulder. They would like to set up play action with Lynch or backup running back Jalen Richard. If Miami can stuff the run, it will help greatly in stopping the Raiders attack.
Dolphins defense continues its optimistic play?
Whether it was surviving the two lengthy weather delays two weeks ago against the Titans with key sacks and takeaways, or last week in New York with frustrating rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, Miami has been able to make plays at times.
That needs to continue on Sunday. Safety Reshad Jones will be a game-time decision with his injured shoulder and that could affect their defensive scheme for coordinator Matt Burke.
If Miami’s pass rushers, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, Etc can get to Carr it will make life easier at Hard Rock Stadium.
Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil
It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.
The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.
However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.
Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.
So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.
Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.
It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.
The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.
The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.
And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.
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