Kalen Ballage is more than a freak athlete that plays football. He has the skills to be a good running back in the NFL. He has vision, speed, patience, and runs hard and tough. I didn't get to watch Ballage during the draft process. I did what I constantly preach against. I listened to other people's opinion to form my opinion.
There are some people who said he runs soft. I took this opinion and didn't research for myself. After watching him I came away impressed, but I also came away confused and cautious. I watched him and kept thinking to myself...why is this freak athlete not given the rock more often.
Yes, his pass protection left me wanting more, but there are running backs with less talent and worse at pass protection that got the ball more than Ballage. You could also use Ballage as a WR instead of leaving him to pass protection. A good offensive coordinator would find ways to get him the ball. I feel Adam Gase will do that.
Here, we see Ballage showing good patience as he runs the ball. He takes the handoff, does a couple of stutter-steps as he waits for a hole to open up instead of just slamming into the pile, and he manages to sneak through for a good chunk of yards.
I love how Ballage finishes his runs. I saw in some reports that Ballage is a soft runner, but I don't see that in his game at all. Watch how he takes the handoff here on 3rd and short and leans forward as he runs to make sure he falls forward when he's taken down. Soft runners do not consistently run with forward lean.
I love how Ballage has a second gear through the hole, you can see him accelerate a bit more after getting through; if he manages to get into the clear, he runs a 4.46 40-time, which is a good deal faster than Jay Ajayi's 4.57.
Speaking of Jay Ajayi, we all loved how easily he always seemed to be able to break tackles. Well check out Ballage on this play as he sheds two would-be tacklers and manages to regain his balance as he runs into the endzone for a touchdown.
Looks familiar, no?
So what happens if there's no hole to run through at first? Well, Ballage demonstrates great patience, vision, and acceleration on this play. His initial hole gets swallowed up, but he sees an outside hole open up. He bounces outside and accelerates to the endzone for a touchdown.
Ballage recently stated that former Miami Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown was one of his favorite players growing up. Appropriate, since in this play he's running the wildcat. Here he shows off his patience as he waits for the hole to open and then bursts through for a touchdown.
Here we see Ballage in the wildcat formation again. Going back to the presumption that he's a "soft" running back, soft running backs do not move piles. Look at him drive his legs and push for extra yards.
Remember a few plays ago when I mentioned that Ballage is faster than Ajayi? Here's a play that puts that 4.46 speed on full display, as he follows his blockers and outruns the whole defense to the endzone. That long speed is something to be excited about.
Ballage is more than just a runner though, here he demonstrates his ability to catch out of the backfield. He runs a simple flat route. But watch how at the end of the play, he again has his pads leaning forward in order to get that extra yard. Ballage is not soft.
Solid work from Ballage as a pass catcher on this play. He weaves through traffic and immediately turns around to give his quarterback an option to throw a screen pass as the defense goes after him. Then he makes the catch and dives forward.
Here Ballage shows off some freaky athleticism. He makes a simple catch in the flat and then leaps over a defender attempting to go low on him. As soon as he lands, he's leaning forward to finish the play. Not soft.
There's definitely something in Ballage's game that makes him an intriguing option in the passing game. Watch him go past the defenders on a wheel route. After a flea flicker back to the QB, the ball is thrown his way and Ballage makes the catch deep in coverage. The most impressive thing here is he has to spin around to catch the ball and he makes it look easy.
Not everything is wonderful with Ballage though, there are times where his pass protection is uninspiring. You have to break off what you were planning on doing and block the defender if the situation arises, but instead Ballage just runs his intended route instead of breaking off to address the pressure.
I don't know what Ballage was doing on this play. He even jumps out of the way of the defender instead of blocking the pass rusher.
So to recap, Ballage has everything you'd want in an offensive weapon, but he does have some kinks to work out - especially in his blocking skills. However, with the added emphasis on speed and athleticism, as well as head coach Adam Gase's intention to be able to swap out RBs at any given time between Drake and Gore, Ballage will definitely get a good chunk of playing time if he can repeat what he's done on his college film, at the NFL level.
This film review was written by Matthew Knowles. Follow him on Twitter: @M_PorterKnowles
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