Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Evaluating the Running Backs

Training Camp is just two weeks away, and the running back position for the Miami Dolphins is brand new. With the departure of Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake took over and added a whole new wrinkle to the Dolphins offense. With veteran Frank Gore in the mix and rookie Kalen Ballage, Miami might have something special in the backfield this year.

The Miami Dolphins took a gamble trading Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Fans were outraged as trading a starting running back mid-season a year after he broke out was worthy of frustration. Ajayi would go on to be a Super Bowl champ and Miami might have found their future running back in Kenyan Drake. Fast forward to a year later and the Dolphins might be better off. Who has the best shot at playing time for the Dolphins this season?

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Kenyan Drake – 100% chance and starter.

When Kenyan Drake took over as the starter for the Miami Dolphins, a sigh of relief passed through the state of Florida. No one knew if he’d be ready to be an every-down back and take over the starting role. Drake would go on to lead the NFL in rushing yards once assuming the lead back position. While running style might be opposite of what fans grew fond of from Ajayi, Drake’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is far superior to his predecessor. Ajayi was best between the tackles where Drake will spread the offense out and create mismatches.

Frank Gore – 75% chance as a change of pace back.

Frank Gore would have to come out and look like a complete bust for the Dolphins to cut ties. Knowing what we do about Frank Gore that’s highly unlikely to happen. Gore has been the constant professional, master of his craft, and team leader. His work ethic is what has allowed him to still be a factor late in his career. At 35 years old, don’t expect Gore to be an every-down back, but with a similar running style to Ajayi and his ability to catch the football Gore could be Adam Gase’s Matt Forte in Miami but in a lesser role.

Kalen Ballage – 85% chance as a potential 3rd down/goal line back.

Kalen Ballage is the wild card in Miami’s backfield. While college success doesn’t always translate into the NFL, the former Arizona State standout may just surprise this year. Don’t look for him to have a heavy workload early on but expect him to be a factor on game day. Having once scored 8 touchdowns in a game, he clearly knows how to get into the end zone.

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The Dolphins have struggled immensely in the red zone for years and will need someone to push the goal line. He probably won’t score 8 TDs in a game in the NFL but he could be a steal for Miami who selected him in the fourth round. Look for him to be the go-to guy in close games.

Buddy Howell – 10% chance with practice squad potential.

Undrafted free agents have an uphill battle when it comes to making an NFL roster. After being passed up in the NFL draft, teams often take a shot before their roster is cut back to 53 players. Luckily, there have been plenty of undrafted players who have gone on to have success in the NFL. There’s nothing saying these guys aren’t good enough, but teams may have gone alternate routes based on needs and availability. If Howell wants to make the final roster, special teams needs to be his first priority.

Senorise Perry – 5% chance with practice squad potential.

Senorise Perry is no stranger to the practice squad. He started as an undrafted rookie with the Chicago Bears and later with the Miami Dolphins. He’s a long shot to make the Dolphins roster and as a 4 year vet, his first action came last year carrying the ball eight times for 30 yards. (3.8 ypc). He’ll be buried on the depth chart once again and unless he has a monster camp is more than likely cut. With six running backs going into camp, look for Perry to be the odd man out.

Brandon Radcliff – 20% chance with practice squad potential.

Brandon Radcliff is another player the Miami Dolphins had stashed on their practice squad. Every team needs depth in case injuries happen late in the season. Radcliff was signed to a futures/reserve contract with the Dolphins but never stepped on the field last year. It will be interesting to see just how much Miami uses their backup running backs this preseason. Look for whoever gets the largest workload to be the back end of the roster player or potential practice squad signee. Radcliff is their smallest running back listed at 5’9” 210 pounds, but if he can show any explosiveness in the passing game, it could be the deciding factor.

Running back is one of the least concerns for the Miami Dolphins. While there are analysts out there who rank them as low as 31st in depth, these running backs bring variety. Between the quick elusive backs, and the big power runners who can catch the Dolphins have flexibility in their offense. Will it translate on the field?

 

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