NFL

Justin Herbert’s New $67,200 Running Back Is Breaking Out After a Horrific 2019 Season

Los Angeles Chargers running back Kalen Ballage has a chance to be one of the 2020 football season’s best stories.

Ballage won’t come close to touching Alex Smith’s comeback or Josh Allen’s heartwarming relationship with Buffalo Bills fans. But after his breakout performance in Week 9, the Los Angeles Chargers have to be excited about what Ballage can do with more carries.

Kalen Ballage had a horrific 2019 season

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A standout running back at Arizona State who scored 27 rushing touchdowns in four years, Kalen Ballage had an ugly start to his career.

Outside of a 123-yard performance against the Minnesota Vikings in December 2018, Ballage had a very forgettable tenure with the Miami Dolphins.

Ballage’s overall numbers from his 2018 season — 191 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries look fairly impressive. Remove that Week 15 performance against the Vikings, however, and Ballage only totaled 68 yards on 24 carries.

That is only a 2.83 yards per carry average, and it didn’t go up in Ballage’s sophomore season.

Ballage picked up 135 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries for a 1.8 yards per attempt average last year. Of running backs with at least 50 carries, it was easily the league’s lowest.

Ballage broke out in Week 9 with the Chargers

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Originally, the Miami Dolphins traded Kalen Ballage to the New York Jets in August. Ballage failed his physical, though, and Miami instead cut the third-year running back.

Ballage played in three games for the Jets, picking up 13 yards on three carries and turning nine catches into 67 yards.

New York cut Ballage in early-October, however. Ballage signed with the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad and waited for an opportunity.

Ballage got that chance, and much more, in Week 9. With starting running back Justin Jackson battling an injury, Ballage had 69 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Ballage also had two catches for 15 yards in the Chargers’ heartbreaking 31-26 loss to the rival Raiders.

Kalen Ballage could be Justin Herbert’s new weapon

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With Justin Jackson officially out for Week 10, it could be Kalen Ballage’s time to shine.

Jackson has been limited in practice all week with the knee ailment. Ballage, who turns 25 in December, is healthy and ready to go against former teammate Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.

The Los Angeles Chargers also have Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope in the mix. Kelley’s 292 rushing yards lead the Chargers, but he has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry.

Pope has at least averaged 6.6 yards per carry this year, though he has only done it on 11 carries.

According to Spotrac, the Chargers are only paying Ballage just over $67,000 this year. If Ballage can get hot and take advantage of increased carries, he will certainly put himself in a position to make far more next year, whether it’s with the Chargers or another team.

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