Kalen Ballage

Dolphins Notes: Mills, Drake, Ledbetter

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald passes along a veritable treasure trove of notes for Dolphins fans today, so let’s dive right in:

  • Although free agent acquisition Jordan Mills was disappointing in minicamp and was replaced at right tackle by Jesse Davis, Jackson says the Dolphins are still very much open to having Mills man the RT position. The club will give him a chance to redeem himself in training camp and may elect to keep Davis at guard, where he played last year. Zach Sterup is also in the mix for the right tackle job.
  • Jackson believes that running back Kenyan Drake has been woefully underutilized to date and that he should be getting 12 to 18 carries a game. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics support Jackson’s opinion, citing Drake’s ability to win after early contact and force missed tackles. However, PFF also says Kalen Ballage should serve as Miami’s primary third-down/receiving back, which Jackson’s eye test does not support. Jackson says Ballage looked “unnatural” as a receiver out of the backfield during the club’s offseason program, and he even says the embattled Mark Walton could be the Dolphins’ best receiving back. Drake and Ballage will have plenty of opportunity to prove their worth in 2019, which is an especially crucial year for Drake, a 2020 free agent.
  • UDFAs often have a better chance of cracking the roster of a rebuilding team like the Dolphins then they would on a club with playoff aspirations, and Jackson says Miami hopes at least one of the its undrafted defensive linemen — Dewayne Hendrix and Jonathan Ledbetter — will make the cut. Ledbetter, one of the best collegiate DEs at stopping the run, is attempting to diversify his game by refining his pass rush skills.
  • The team also has several UDFA cornerbacks that merit some attention, and the new coaching staff had plenty of luck developing that type of prospect in New England. 2018 UDFA Jalen Davis flashed in minicamp this year, and while the Dolphins have taken a look at him both outside the numbers and in the slot, his size (5-10, 185) may make him better-suited to a slot role.

Dolphins Sign Three Draft Picks

The Dolphins announced the signings of three draft picks on Wednesday. Third-round linebacker Jerome Baker, fourth-round tight end Durham Smythe, and fourth-round running back Kalen Ballage have inked their deals, leaving second-round tight end Mike Gesicki as the last straggler in the team’s eight-man class. 

Baker was Ohio State’s leading tackler last year as he registered 72 stops in total. He also had eight tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in his final year on campus. As shown on Roster Resource, Baker projects to be one of the team’s first linebackers off of the bench behind starters Kiko AlonsoRaekwon McMillan, and Chase Allen. Some evaluators feel that Baker is too small to play linebacker at the pro level, but Alonso doesn’t seem concerned about the 6’1″, 229-pound prospect.

Nowadays it’s all about, ‘Can you run?’” Alonso said recently (via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post). “You see what linebacker position is nowadays. It’s getting smaller and smaller.”

Smythe, a Notre Dame product, put himself on the NFL radar with his blocking ability. He figures to do the dirty work while fellow rookie Gesicki figures to play a bigger role in the passing game.

Ballage, a tall running back at 6’3″, averaged 4.4 yards per carry while at Arizona State. He’ll likely serve as the Dolphins’ No. 3 running back this year behind Kenyan Drake and veteran Frank Gore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.