A big source of optimism for the Dolphins offense for the 2015 season, and rightfully so, has been the steady improvement of quarterback Ryan Tannehill
since he entered the NFL as a 2012 draft pick.
Another reason should be the fact that running back Lamar Miller
has been on that exact same path.
It hasn’t gotten quite as much attention, no doubt in large part because Tannehill plays the most important position on the field, but Miller also has done nothing but get better since he joined the Dolphins as a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Miller quietly put together a very impressive 2014 season when he recorded the 13th 1,000-yard rushing season in franchise history, but he’s looking for bigger and better things in the fall.
“It was a great personal achievement, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Miller said. “I’ve been watching film, trying to correct myself. I feel I’ve still got more things that I could do to help this team win. I’m just trying to get better every day to try to go to that next level.”
One main focus for Miller this spring has been trying to find the right weight to carry during the 2015 season.
Listed at 224 pounds on the roster, Miller says his weight has been fluctuating throughout the spring.
“It’s been going up and down,” Miller said. “Right now, I’m just trying to find the comfortable weight. I try every day to weigh something different to see how I feel when I’m running the ball, just try to be more comfortable with my right weight.
“I’m still trying to figure it out. By the time the offeason comes, that’s when I’ll find out where I want to play about. I’m going to try to be playing like 219 maybe.”
Miller finished the 2014 season with 1,099 rushing yards, which ranked 10th in the NFL. But Miller accomplished that feat with an average of 13.5 rushing attempts per game, the lowest total among the 13 1,000-yard rushers around the league last season. It also was the lowest total for any of the 13 1,000-yard rushing performances in Dolphins history.
Miller averaged 5.09 yards per carry, which was the second-highest figure among all 1,000-yard rushers around the NFL, behind only the 5.36 turned in by Baltimore’s Justin Forsett.
Also, Miller produced first downs with 26.4 of his rushes, second again among 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL (Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill had a 27.5 percent figure).
Lastly, there’s the stat about Miller’s work on third-and-1, which is illuminating considering Head Coach Joe Philbin was asked after the OTA practice Monday about those exact situations being difficult for Miller.
Well, as it turned out, Miller was 9-for-11 in third-and-1 runs when it came to producing first downs. That 81.8 success rate happened to be first in the AFC among players with at least eight third-and-1 rushing attempts and third in the entire league behind only Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch (92.3) and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (90.9).
“I think, when we look closely at his third-and-1, it’s maybe not as low as everybody thinks it is,” Philbin said. “Again, I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I know I’ve looked at them and they’re not as bad as you would think. I can think of a couple of goal-line touchdown runs that he’s had, one in Chicago, one in New England I think he had, Green Bay I believe he scored in a red zone, goal line type situation. Those are just popping into me.
“I thought he played well. The thing I like about Lamar is he rushed for, again, don’t quote me on the exact numbers, but 200 yards as a rookie, 700 yards in his second year, 1,100 yards in his third year. So I think that bodes well for this year coming up and the kind of development that’s a credit to him and the hard work that he’s put in. You’ve seen some definite improvement and results. I’m real pleased with him and looking forward to him having a big season.”
The exact numbers for Miller’s career are 250 rushing yards as a rookie in 2012, 709 yards in 2013 and 1,099 yards last season.
Miller’s reception totals also have gone up each year, from only six in 2012 to 26 and finally 38 last season.
Like everything else, Miller is hoping the numbers just continue to improve in 2015.
The goal, Miller said, is to become an all-around back.
“I’m entering my fourth year; I’m familiar with everything,” Miller said. “Toward the end of the (2014) season I was getting more comfortable with everything, with the blocking scheme, just trusting my guys, the offensive line, and the coaches were giving me the opportunity. I think Year 4, I’m still learning the offense a little bit more, but I’m pretty much familiar with everything now. I’m looking forward to this upcoming season.
“I’m just trying to continue to get better, build off the season that I had last year, just try to be productive and just try to make plays.”