Did Dolphins RB Lamar Miller Live Up to Rookie Expectations in 2012?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Lamar Miller #26 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 9, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have major question marks around an explosive running back on their roster.

I'm not speaking of free-agent running back Reggie Bush, but second-year back Lamar Miller.

We drew a baseline of comparison for Miller taking the stats of the 18 backs drafted from picks 81 to 113 (16 picks on either side of Miller's draft slot of 97) between the years of 2003 and 2011.

Miller fell short of that baseline in nearly every category except yards per attempt—arguably the most important stat of the bunch—where he blew the benchmark out of the water by nearly a full yard.

That could come in handy if the Dolphins opt to move on from the soon-to-be 28-year-old Bush, who averaged 4.34 YPA, but how do the Dolphins determine if they're safe to let Bush walk? They had a big opportunity to give Miller a sizable workload this year in hopes of finding out exactly what they had in him. Instead, the sophomore RB received just 143 offensive snaps (13.8 percent of the season total), never getting more than 26 snaps in a single game.

He had the most productive game of his career in a Week 16 win over the Buffalo Bills, rushing 10 times for 73 yards (7.3 YPA). His performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 (10 carries, 65 yards, 6.5 YPA) came in a close second.

The Bills run defense may not be the greatest measure of rushing dominance (they gave up 4.96 YPA rushing in 2012), but his success was proof of how he can be utilized.

On 1st-and-10 from the Dolphins' 36-yard line, the Dolphins lined up in the shotgun. This is a read-option for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, with outside linebacker Bryan Scott the read.

Once Scott took the dive, Tannehill handed the ball to Miller.

From there, Miller went to work behind the zone-blocking scheme of the Dolphins' offensive line. Once he found the hole, he went straight through it, and with no one in front of him to make the play, he scampered 28 yards into Buffalo territory.

Considering how adaptable the Dolphins offense became over the latter part of the season, the Dolphins would be smart to make Miller—a versatile player who can create matchup problems for a defense—a big part of the game plan.

Running backs selected around Miller's draft slot have not had a good deal of longevity; in fact, nine of the 18 backs drafted near his slot lasted five years or less in the NFL.

That being said, there are plenty of explosive role-players that have come from that area in the draft. Look at the likes of Bears running back Michael Bush, Raiders running back Mike Goodson, Seahawks running back Robert Turbin and Ravens running back Bernard Pierce as recent examples.

Going forward, the Dolphins should try to get Miller more involved in the passing game. He caught just six passes as a rookie after hauling in 17 passes in his last year with the Miami Hurricanes. 

As the NFL gears more heavily toward the pass, there will be increased emphasis on players like Miller, who can create matchup problems in both the running and passing game. How those teams utilize those players will determine their success.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.