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Dolphins using Ballage early at RB but what does that mean?

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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It’s clear from the first few days of Dolphins training camp that the new coaching staff likes second year running back Kalen Ballage. However, the real questions are: how much do they and is it all too early to know what the running back plan will be?

Ballage has been out with the first team each day and by all accounts, performing well. However, the Dolphins have an incumbent experienced running back in Kenyan Drake that most expect will get some more of the bulk of the first-team work once we get closer to the season.

And, as this item in the Palm Beach Post from Hal Habib laid out Sunday afternoon, new coach Brian Flores and his offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea may try to keep everyone guessing by design throughout camp and the preseason:

As Habib pointed out, Ballage is bigger than Drake and the Dolphins are also working in rookie Auburn fullback Chandler Cox, in the backfield with the first team as well.

So are the Dolphins tipping off a possible Ballage/Cox backfield that we may see some in August and maybe, even into September? Or, is it simply the typical games that Flores and O’Shea have learned from being in New England?

Observers of the Pats know that almost everything that the media and fans can see is actually misdirection to fool people from what they intend to do when the games are for real.

Ballage was a mid-round pick from Arizona State a year ago, appearing in 12 games, but carrying the ball only 36 times. He had one explosive 75-yard touchdown run late in the year against Minnesota, but not much else to speak of for his rookie year.

As for Drake, we wrote earlier this summer that it’s believed he will emerge as the ” go to running back,” because he’s a veteran who has demonstrated he can catch the ball out of the backfield.

One other important part of this is that the Patriots previously frequently rotated many different guys in and out of their backfield week-to-week and season-to-season. So expect Flores and O’Shea to have a similar mindset.

And, that may also include rookie Myles Gaskin out of Washington being worked into the line up some time, too.

The bottom line, as O’Shea put it on Sunday, when asked about a feature back,

“It’s one we’re still evaluating.” He added, “That’s something we talk about daily as a coaching staff.”

And that means, don’t believe everything you are seeing in July, too.

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Miami Dolphins

“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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One of the great trick plays, not just of this NFL season but in recent pro football memory, has earned the Dolphins kicker who caught a touchdown pass Sunday AFC weekly honors.

The league announced Wednesday that kicker Jason Sanders, who became the first place-kicker to catch a touchdown pass in 42 years, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week:

Sanders also made his only field-goal attempt, as well as two extra points, earned the weekly honor for Miami’s 37 – 31 upset of the Eagles.

However, it is the play that is known as “Mountaineer Shot” that Sanders will forever be remembered for not just in Dolphin history, but NFL.

We wrote about the play on Monday, as head coach Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman implemented the direct snap to punter Matt Haack, while players were spread wide on either side of the formation.

Haack then, took the snap, rolled left and when the Eagles rushed at him, he flipped the ball to Sanders for the touchdown. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers. And, it’s something that Dolphins had been practicing regularly on and off for the past two months.

Furher, as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.

It is also the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that a punter has completed a touchdown pass to a kicker and the play will live on for years and years to come.

It is the second time that Sanders has won the AFC special teams player of the week award this season. He also got the honor for his two clultch 48 yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins 16-12 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in November.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins fans still buzzing over “Mountaineer Shot” trick play

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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Move over, “Miami Miracle,” we now have a rival Dolphins trick play that will be talked about forever by fans and observers.

While it wasn’t the crazy lateral clinching play that Miami scored on with no time left to defeat the Patriots last December, “Mountaineer Shot,” as it’s known, is one of the wildest gadget plays to ever score a TD in the NFL. That’s because it involved the punter throwing to the kicker for a touchdown on a fake field goal.

It was the second quarter with the Dolphins trailing the Eagles 13 – 7, when Miami elected to kick a field goal (or so we thought) from Philadelphia’s 1-yard line.

That’s when dolphin punter Matt Haack lined up behind Center Daniel Kilgore with Miami spreading players to the right and the left. Then, what happened next was comical special teams touchdown, maybe in NFL history:

Haack’s first ever NFL completion was a forward option pitch to the kicker, Jason Sanders. And for good measure, it was Sanders first reception in his entire football career (dating back to high school) with the play stunning the Eagles and helping Miami pull off a 37 – 31 upset win.

Here was more on the play from David Wilson of the Miami Herald, including how long coach Brian Flores, special teams coach Danny Crossman and the players had been waiting to pull it out of the bag of tricks:

“We felt like that was a good time to run it,” coach Brian Flores said, and it gave us a spark….

“It was one of those plays Miami had been waiting weeks for the chance to run. Tight end Mike Gesicki said the Dolphins started working on it about two months ago and have been waiting weeks for the right opportunity to arise. Sunday finally presented such an opportunity….

“The gutsy call was just the latest in a line of gutsy calls by special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. In an October loss to the Buffalo Bills, Haack ran for a first down on a fake punt attempt. Last month, the Dolphins successfully executed a surprise onside kick in another loss to the Bills….

“The gutsy call was Crossman distilled to his mad-scientist essence.

“Danny Crossman is crazy. Like what is he dreaming up? This is the NFL,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Like, that’s not—that doesn’t happen.”

Of course there is further irony that the Eagles famously ran their “Philly Special” play, which was an option pass to then-quarterback Nick Foles, for a touchdown in their upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.

So, teams have constantly been looking to get the Eagles on trick plays themselves.

This would include the Patriots having run a double pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who threw a touchdown against them in New England’s 17-10 victory couple of weeks ago at Philly.

Back to “Mountaineer Shot” on Sunday. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers.

And as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.

And, it is the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that our punter has thrown a touchdown pass to the kicker.

Oh, and the Fins have suddenly come to life with three wins in four games after and 0-7 start. And, it’s in part because the team is still playing hard for a coach and coaching staff that’s willing to take wild risks they did with “Mountaineer Shot,” Sunday.

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