DAVIE, Fla. — Four weeks into Dolphins training camp, this much has been learned about Lamar Miller: He’s not a very good singer, but he does a great job fetching snacks for the veterans.
As for what kind of NFL running back Miller might be, the jury is still out.
At 21, the rookie is the Dolphins’ youngest player. He left the University of Miami with two years of eligibility remaining (he redshirted one season and played two) and was taken in the fourth round of April’s draft. Many believe Miller should have stuck around with the Hurricanes at least one more year.
So far, Miller hasn’t torn it up. In two Miami preseason games, he’s carried eight times for 15 yards, and coach Joe Philbin hardly has been impressed with his pass blocking.
“There’s no regrets at all,’’ Miller said of leaving school early. “I felt that I made the right decision for me, myself and my family. So I just got to make the most of it and take advantage of my opportunity. But there’s no regrets at all.’’
As for the singing part, during the Dolphins’ recent Rookie Talent Show, Miller and a pair of rookie fullbacks, Jorvorskie Lane and Jerome Messam, performed a rendition of The Isley Brothers’ 2001 hit “Contagious.’’ What apparently wasn’t contagious was anybody wanting to hear Miller sing again.
“Singing is not his forte,’’ said Dolphins veteran running back Steve Slaton. “I’ll leave it at that.’’
But Slaton said Miller is doing a good job with some of his rookie chores. They include fetching snacks for veteran running backs to eat during meetings.
Slaton and star runner Reggie Bush are the two taskmasters when it comes to Miller’s duties. Bush also has found time to take Miller under wing.
“He’s eager to learn,’’ said Bush, a seven-year veteran. “Obviously, as a rookie you get all different types of guys. You never know what you can get. He’s eager to learn. He obviously loves the game of football. He’s passionate about it. That’s the most you can ask for, especially from a guy who’s been in the league for a while and feels like you can offer advice here and there. Sometimes, you get the rookies that don’t want to listen and they don’t really care.’’
Not Miller. The Miami native has displayed a willingness to get better.
It remains to be seen how that might translate into helping the Dolphins this season. With Bush, Daniel Thomas and Slaton all ahead of him on the depth chart, Miller could be relegated to kickoff return and other special teams duties.
“I’m just taking it game by game, just trying to do my best,’’ Miller said. “The speed of the game is just something I have to adjust to.’’
Philbin said Miller needs to “have a level of competency in pass protection’’ before there is confidence in lining him up in the backfield. Overall, though, Philbin is seeing some good signs.
“He’s making progress there as a pass protector,’’ Philbin said. “He has good athletic ability, he can bend his knees, and he hasn’t been bashful in terms of going to his blitz responsibility …. He certainly hasn’t been perfect in pass protection, but his awareness has been good and his willingness has been good. He has very good feet and he has good speed and he catches the ball extremely well. He has a lot of skill.”
Miller had enough to rush for 1,272 yards last season with the Hurricanes, becoming their first 1,000-year back since Willis McGahee in 2002.
When Miller was considering leaving school early, he said he was projected as a second-round pick. But that didn’t happen, as Miller slipped to the No. 97 overall pick in the fourth round.
“It just made me more hungry,’’ said Miller, who played at Miami’s Killian High School. “It just made me want to go out every day and just compete and just be better as a player …. But it’s a blessing just playing for the Miami Dolphins and playing in my own backyard.”
In his first Dolphins game at Sun Life Stadium, the field where he had five of his seven 100-yard games last season with the Hurricanes, Miller had a forgettable five carries for four yards in an Aug. 10 preseason loss to Tampa Bay (he did catch two passes for 16 yards). He ran better in last Friday's loss at Carolina, getting 11 yards on three carries.
But the Dolphins are looking at Miller, who is more than six months younger than the team’s second-youngest player, as a project. If he indeed should have been drafted higher, he could end up being a steal.
“I could definitely say that,’’ said Slaton, referring to a draft in which seven running backs were taken ahead of Miller. “If he could have gone in a different (draft class), he would have gone a lot earlier.’’
But one thing Slaton definitely is not saying is that Miller is much of a singer.