DAVIE — We’ll see what happens when the pads go on and the players are tackling and hitting and — blocking.
We’ll see how rookie running back Kalen Ballage looks when the real NFL stuff starts. But man, Ballage looks good in that number 33 aqua and orange jersey this spring.
“The obvious thing is what you guys see,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Wednesday. “When he walks through the door, you draw them up like that. He’s big, he’s good in protection, can catch the ball, can be a matchup issue in the passing game.”
Ballage will always be linked to former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, because he was drafted out of Arizona State with the pick acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for the former Pro Bowler.
But Ballage is taller, heavier and faster. The dude looks the part.
Again, though, Ajayi was a physical, relentless beast on game day. And we don’t yet know how Ballage will react to NFL Sundays.
“Where he needs to grow is the NFL game and nickel protections and learning that stuff, because that’s obviously the biggest transition in the NFL is going in there and you’ve got odd defenses and you’ve got spinners and floaters and trap blitzes and all of those things,” Loggains said. “He’s got to master that stuff. The more exposure that he gets, the better he’s going to get at it.”
Ballage has opened some eyes at open practices because of his impressive size combined with smooth glide. It would be a good bet he was first offensive player off the bus in high school and college. Ballage slipped to the fourth round of the last NFL Draft, but it wasn’t because of a lack of physical ability.
So why did he slip?
“(General manager) Chris Grier could answer that better than I can,” Loggains said. “I liked him and was really fired up when we drafted him.”
The Dolphins have a nice running back tandem of flashy Kenyan Drake and warhorse Frank Gore. But with Ajayi and Damien Williams traded and unsigned, there is an outstanding opportunity for Ballage to enter the season as Miami’s third back.
Drake would tell Ballage to be more ready as a rookie than he was. Because you never know when you’ll be tapped.
“You want guys and you really like a guy that can play on all three downs,” Loggains said. “You don’t want to be limited by smaller stature guys that you’ve got to take out on third down or a guy that … (Kenyan) Drake is a guy that can play all three downs. I think Kalen fits that vision as well. He can catch the football. He can be a weapon out of the backfield; but he’s also big enough in pass pro.”