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.
Sunday sees Dolphins and Jaguars back in action
Two of the state NFL teams will be in action Sunday afternoon and both or trying to avoid 0- 2 for different reasons.
First, you have the Jaguars, who already resemble a “M.A.S.H. Unit” of injuries, as they head to Houston to play the Texans in an AFC South showdown. The excitement of the addition of free-agent quarterback Nick Foles lasted exactly part of one quarter last Sunday against the Chiefs. That’s when Foles suffered a broken clavicle and a report Sunday says he will not be back until at least week 11 with the injury:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 15, 2019
That means that backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, a rookie 6th round pick out of Washington State, will now lead the Jaguars at least in the short-term. Minshew was very effective last week completing a high percentage of passes and moving the offense. Jacksonville also made a trade earlier in the week for Steelers backup QB Joshua Dobbs, but it’s not expected he will be able to contribute today.
Besides the Foles injury, the Jaguars will be without their top pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who suffered a hamstring strain in the lost to KC. The team will also be without left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight game, as he suffered an injured knee in practice prior to the opener. The team also has ruled out defensive back A.J. Bouye and receiver Marqise Lee with injuries prior to this game.
The good news is the Texans are on a short week having lost an emotional, heartbreaking last second game to the Saints Monday night. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was also banged up, including an injured back off his first-half touchdown run. Still, the Texans will test the Jaguars pass defense the same way the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes did last week.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots travel to take on the spiraling downward Dolphins. Miami was embarrassed 59 – 10 by Baltimore last week. And, that defeat now apparently has numerous players on the current roster wanting to be somewhere else, just as the Dolphins have gotten rid of most of their high-priced veterans already.
Controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown will apparently be active for New England for this game. Brown is being accused of sexual assault in a civil complaint that the NFL is investigating. However, the league took no action on keeping Brown from playing today and he did travel with the team.
The Dolphins do have some consolation in that under previous coaching staffs, they have won six of the last seven meetings against New England at Hard Rock Stadium. However, Miami’s got to find some kind of offense with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the backfield of Kenyan Drake and Kallen Ballage, to have any chance against the Pats.
Report- NFL will allow Antonio Brown to play for Pats Sunday
Despite all the drama surrounding him, it does appear that new Patriots WR Antonio Brown will be allowed by the NFL to make his Pats debut Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium against the Dolphins. That is, if the Patriots intend to have active and playing.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Friday afternoon that the nine year veteran acquired by New England last weekend after his volatile off season in Oakland led to his release last Saturday, would not be put on the “Commissioner’s Exempt List,” as a form of paid suspension, while sexual assault allegations are investigated:
More on the NFL not placing Patriots’ WR Antonio Brown on the commissioner's exempt list at this point, making him eligible to play Sunday against the Dolphins:https://t.co/89089aQkaK
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2019
Schefter reiterated that while the NFL has launched an investigation into the charges against Brown, after a civil lawsuit was filed in South Florida earlier this week, there is no criminal proceeding, yet and they will take the process in steps.
The lawsuit alleges that Brown inappropriately touched, committed a lewd sex act and then eventually, raped a 28 year old personal trainer, identified as Brittney Taylor, a former college classmate of Brown’s at Central Michigan, in three separate incidences from 2017-18.
That revelation was something that the NFL, and the Patriots, as well, did not know about, when Brown was signed Monday after he was released by the Oakland Raiders. Taylor is scheduled to meet with the NFL next week to give her version of the events.
Brown has been at Patriots practice on Wednesday and Thursday wearing jersey number #1 (above) during the portion of the practice that was open to the media. His lawyer, Darren Heitner, has publicly disputed the civil suit charges and told the media that Brown and Taylor “had a consensual relationship” in the past.
On Friday, Pats coach Bill Belichick refused to confirm whether Brown would make his debut against Miami or not on Sunday. Giving the non-answer on Brown’s status to play, “We’ll do what’s best for the team.”
He further told the New England media that Brown has; “long way to go, obviously. Not familiar with our offense. The systems he’s been in have been quite different. He’s working hard to pick it up and we’re working hard to get it to him.”
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