The Miami Dolphins averaged just 112.6 rushing yards per game in 2012, which was mediocre enough to qualify them as the 17th best in the league. This could be part of the reason the team decided to let Reggie Bush walk in free agency despite him putting up career numbers in each of his two seasons with the Dolphins. A team does not let a player like Bush go without having another plan in place, and for Miami that plan is second-year back, Lamar Miller.
Third on the depth chart in 2012, Miller did not get much time on the field. He made the most of his limited opportunities, however, as the rookie gained 250 yards on 51 carries which gave him a team best 4.9 yards per carry average.
He only scored one touchdown, which came during a blowout win against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, but it was his Week 16 performance against the Buffalo Bills that truly showed what the former Miami Hurricane was capable of. During the Dolphins’ 24-10 win, Miller ran the ball for 73 yards on 10 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per carry, clearly impressing the front office enough they felt he would be capable of carrying the load in 2013.
Miller will still need to earn the top spot during offseason training activities (OTAs) and training camp. Third-year back Daniel Thomas is a much bigger back and has been a part of the running attack for the past two seasons. He will not likely bow out of the competition without putting up a fight.
Thomas is not the only other back that will be competing for the starting spot. Miller will also have to out-work rookie Mike Gillislee and Jonas Gray, who may finally be fully recovered from a torn ligament in his knee. The Dolphins also signed undrafted free agent Cameron Marshall, who had an impressive career running the ball for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Each back will be fighting for a roster spot, so Miller will not be able to relax if he wants to be the lead dog in 2013. His biggest weakness is in pass blocking, an area that is a strength for each of the other backs on the roster. Miller is aware of his deficiencies in this area, and he has dedicated extra hours to become a much improved pass blocker heading into training camp.
Even with this liability taking center stage, Miller is likely to have an advantage over the other backs due to his ability to read and react to a defense so quickly. He has a knack for finding a hole, making a quick cut and getting down-field. He is a crafty and elusive runner that is not afraid of contact, and he has even been said to be a younger version of the man he is hoping to replace.
For a position that is now considered the Dolphins’ biggest weak point, Miami has quite a bit of NFL-ready talent that will be fighting for carries this fall. Miller still may be the only one capable of becoming an absolute stud running back at this level.
Jeff Everette covers the NFL, specifically the Miami Dolphins, for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jeverettesports, “like” his page on Facebook, “Trust” him on Sulia, or join his circles on Google+.