Lamar Miller: The X Factor For Miami's Offense
By Joe Scumaci
We have made much to do about the Miami Dolphins' offseason and all the additions to their 2013 roster. One key subtraction, however, was the loss of Reggie Bush, the team's leading rusher each of the last two seasons. Bush signed a multi-year deal with the Detroit Lions this offseason after Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins front office opted not to pay Reggie.
Enter Lamar Miller.
The second year back from the University of Miami has a lot of weight on his shoulders as he is expected to replace the production Bush provided the last two seasons. Not many outside of the state of Florida know of Miller, as the Hurricanes have faced a down time in terms of success the last few years. Miller was the third half back on the depth chart in 2012, but the team loves his abilities and it's easy to see why.
Miller carried the ball 51 times in his rookie campaign, totaling 250 yards, good enough for a 4.9 yards per carry average. He scored one rushing touchdown and caught the ball a half dozen times, averaging 7.5 yards per reception. He had two games of 10 carries and racked up 65 and 73 yards rushing in each of those games. Despite the fact that those numbers are taken from a small sample size, you can see that Miller has the ability to be productive in the NFL.
Fans and writers of the Dolphins assumed once Miami chose not to pay Bush, that Miller would step right in as the lead back. However, he didn't exactly solidify his role as the starting back this preseason. Fumbling his first handoff in the Hall of Fame game against the Cowboys and being ineffective in other contests weren't what you wanted to see from someone vying for a starting job. But his runningmate, Daniel Thomas, has not done much to prove his case either.
As of two weeks ago, coach Joe Philbin said the running back job was "wide open" and he liked what he saw from both backs. Since then it's been all Miller and even though the coaches may not have announced the job is his, its obvious to anyone watching that he is the more productive of the two backs.
Thomas has been a rather big disappointment since being drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has battled concussions issues the last two seasons, as well as struggling to hold on to the football - fumbling five times and losing three. So it is safe to say at this point that the job belongs to Miller, barring injury or any performance issues.
Another great reason to fall in love with Miller is that he went to college right in the backyard of the Dolphins in Coral Gables. He joins a long list of NFL running backs that have come from the "U" and most have had success. Prominent names like Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore total 12 Pro Bowls on their resumes.
Miller became the first Hurricane to run for 1,000 yards in one season since McGahee did it in 2002. Gore, the only one of the four named previously that is currently on a roster in 2013, worked out this summer with Miller. Gore has gone to four Pro Bowls and is considered one of the best duel threat backs in the league, putting up gaudy rushing and receiving numbers out of San Francisco's backfield since 2005.
It is a great sign to see Miller putting in the work with a successful NFL running back in the offseason, as he tries to make his case to be the latest Hurricane to reap success at the pro level. Miller does not need to be spectacular and make a Pro Bowl this season for Miami to win double-digit games this year. He needs to be a productive runner between the tackles (his speed is his best asset), pass protect on passing downs, and pick up first downs on the ground and through the air.
A good estimate for Miller's 2013 season, barring injury, should be: 16 games played, 1,300 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns. That would be a great season for a "rookie" in terms of experience. Anything less would be underachieving in terms of his ability and anything more would be a great bonus. The expectation in South Beach is that Ryan Tannehill is poised to improve immensely in his sophomore season. A productive running back will make it easier on Tannehill and Miami's offense to win football games.
It is safe to say, the sky is the limit for Lamar Miller, and if he produces like he has shown he can, the sky is the limit for the Miami Dolphins in 2013.