Last week, we talked about a quarterback entering his second season in the NFL. This week, we are talking about a running back who is also going to be entering his sophomore season. It’s actually a tough scenario to figure out because on the one hand, I would like to say that Walton can not only make the final roster, but he should get an opportunity to start. On the other hand, he comes with some dark-clouded baggage in his return to the sunshine state that could actually have him missing the entire 2019 season when it is all said and done.
Let’s start with the shadow that is lurking behind Walton’s body. Gathering as much information as I could on this situation, I’m left with one inevitable conclusive theory. That maybe Walton’s three arrests at the start of the offseason was his version of celebrating the New Year.
His first arrest occurred on January 16, 2019. He was being charged with a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Apparently, the situation was he got pulled over for not wearing a seat belt and that’s when the cops found the marijuana in his car.
Fast-forward one month later, he got into a scuffle with a neighbor and ended up taking his phone away from them and the cops came and slapped him with a misdemeanor battery charge.
Then, not even into a month later on March 12, 2019, another incident occurs where Walton is now facing felony charges for carrying a concealed weapon, another marijuana possession charge, reckless driving and resisting arrest. The situation was well-documented by the Miami Herald. Basically, what happened is the cops were trying to pull Walton over because he was driving odd on the road. They manage to get Walton out of the rented BMW he was driving and on the ground but he got up and ran and he must have been pretty high because one of the officers tased him and Walton just physically removed them from his body and continued on running while the officers were investigating the car. There they found 14 milligrams of marijuana and a fully loaded rifle.
Now, when I read stuff about this, I can’t help myself but think of an old song by 50 Cent called Wanksta. Here’s the lyrics that pop into my head “You say you a gangsta, but you never pop nothing. We say you a wanksta, then you need to stop fronting….Damn, homie…..”
Well, damn Walton! Are you a gangster or a football player? In all seriousness, this situation is not funny but how can you not laugh at this a little? Granted, nowhere near as funny as Plaxico Burress going to a club one night and ends up in the hospital after shooting himself in the foot with his own gun! Definitely, can’t top that! But, seriously? Here is a young man, making a lot of money with all in the talent and opportunity in the world to be an elite football player and all he can think about is being a gangbanger.
This brings up a larger issue regarding the side of the Miami Dolphins, too. Why would the Dolphins elect to bring this guy in after the fact? Even if Walton manages to avoid jail at the conclusion of this fiasco, he could still face disciplinary action by the NFL. How does this signing make the Miami Dolphins look as well? They are in a full-on rebuild with a new regime and a new identity in the hopes of building a new culture and yet they still elect to make this decision?
Secondly, even if Walton does get to play in 2019, he’s going to have some considerable competition ahead of him. The Dolphins lack a true primary back on their roster, but they have a lot of talent at the position that hopefully they can eventually find their franchise running back. The current backs that the Dolphins have on their roster are all similar; not the same, but similar. From a talent standpoint, believe or not, I think Walton might hands-down be the best one of them.
Walton was the primary ball carrier at the University of Miami from 2015-2017. Just watching him through a television screen was exciting. He knows when to cutback and change direction and when to just plow through in the trenches and take what the defense gives him. These are natural instincts that can’t be taught. He’s got good catch-run ability too.
The Dolphins spent a 7th round pick on a running back in this year’s draft but I think most likely Myles Gaskins ends up on the practice squad his rookie season but until I know more about Walton’s legal troubles, I’ll probably be second-guessing myself all through the summer. I would say though that Walton’s first serious competition will be Kalen Ballage.
Ballage was selected 19 spots behind Walton in the 2018 draft. He was not the primary ball carrier at Arizona State, but he does have starter experience and qualities that make you think he could morph into a starter down the road. Not really a receiver but he offers special teams value and when he was given opportunities with the Dolphins last year, he did not disappoint. The most memorable moment was the Dolphins opening play in the second half of the Vikings game, when it was just a simple hand off and Ballage burst through the middle for a 75-yard TD run. He’s got something and with more opportunities he should get better.
After Ballage comes the miracle worker himself, Mr. Kenyan Drake. Like Ballage, Drake offers special teams’ value as well and wasn’t the primary back during his college days at the University of Alabama. I’ve stated this many times but what makes Drake lethal is his fantastic run-after-catch ability. He could be used as a workhorse back on occasion, but his strength is turning on the juice, turning on that speed once he gets some running lanes. He’s not a bad blocker either. Ballage has gotten better with his blocking. He’s not a particularly beefy back so it’s not like Drake is going to be winning many stiff-arm battles. If anything, he’ll just leap-frog over opponents because he is so tall.
But as a study more and more game film on Drake, I can see that his overconfidence can sometimes work against him. When Drake starts to get really good during a game, that’s when you got to worry a bit because he does have a tendency to fumble the ball. Going back to the Bears game last year, Drake had 50 of his 57 rushing yards at that point when he made that infamous fumble on the goal line that ended that game in regulation. I decided to go back to his college days. His best game was his 2013 faceoff against the Kentucky Wildcats. TJ Yeldon was benched for the first quarter, so Drake got the start and about mid-way through the first quarter he fumbles. The team was driving, and Drake had already rushed for 42 yards when that fumbled occurred. I’m not sure if the rumors are true that Adam Gase and Drake did have a feud behind closed doors but I can imagine that the reason Drake didn’t get the ball after Frank Gore went down in the Vikings game because it had something to do with this issue. Again, it’s just a theory. But I thought I would throw that out there.
Now, with all that being said, Ballage and Drake both bring a physicality to their game but in the end, Drake has earned the right to start. He has the most experience. He has waited patiently behind Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, and Brandon Bolden and now he deserves to let 2019 be his starting debut with no strings attached. It should be his job to lose. He gave us the Miami Miracle and when finally obtained the ball back he said he was going to donate it to the Miami Dolphins Museum so that everyone can enjoy it. Just a completely unselfish move.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Mark Walton, but I can understand why the Dolphins would make a gamble move like signing him. I anticipate starting the year Drake will get a bulk of the carries. A lot of 2-back sets with him and Ballage. Lot of play fakes. Lot of splitting Drake out to receiver. When and if Walton does make the team and manages to play, I can see Drake blocking the way for him on the way to the end zone all day long!
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