NOTEBOOK: Rookie RB Miller Making Strides; Other Notes

Posted Oct 12, 2012

Fourth-round pick out of Miami ready for increased role.

Despite not having a single carry last week at Cincinnati, Miami Dolphins rookie running back Lamar Miller is still the second leading rusher behind Reggie Bush and has the highest average per carry at 5.5.

When the St. Louis Rams defense takes the field this Sunday at Sun Life Stadium, Miller is expected to get more reps in the backfield with second-year running back Daniel Thomas out with a concussion.

Back on September 16th, Miller made his NFL debut in Miami’s 35-13 rout of the Oakland Raiders and scored his first rushing touchdown while racking up 65 yards on 10 carries. That happened to be the same game when Bush rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns on his way to winning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, and as Miller’s mentor, Bush is impressed with the rookie’s progress as an all-around running back.

“I think Lamar does a great job in pass protection. I think that’s one of his strong suits. I think he’ll be fine in that regard,” Bush said. “He does a great job. I think the most important thing for him is fundamentally being in the right place. He can take a guy on pretty well one-on-one and so, for him, he’s just going to have to make sure he’s in the right place. He’s going to have to make sure he’s playing fast mentally, so that he’s not getting caught out of position. With the guys that we have, the maturity and the leadership we have on this team, he’ll be fine and he’ll be more than ready.”

With the way the offensive line has been blocking through five games, Miller, Bush, Thomas and fullback Jorvorskie Lane have been enable to find a rhythm on the ground early on in games. That’s crucial for a rookie running back still learning his way, especially in the confidence department because a handful of bad runs or missed blocks can have a rippling effect.

Miller’s 126 rushing yards are 13 more than what Thomas has compiled and he’s done it in 13 fewer rushing attempts. His natural ability to hit the hole fast and cut back on a dime were evident in his first two games against the Raiders and New York Jets, but he also missed a block in the Jets game and went the wrong direction on a handoff that resulted in a sack of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. So his carries were diminished at Arizona (four for 13 yards), but Head Coach Joe Philbin sees progress.

“I think the running part comes naturally to him,” Philbin said. “Part of the other thing, before you put a running back in the game and you’re going to line him up in the backfield, you have to make sure his pass protection responsibilities are taken care of. That’s probably as important as anything else. They just need to function, both run and pass, but I think he's developing. He’s doing a nice job.”

Since April after he was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, Miller immersed himself in the playbook put together by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and Philbin. He’s beginning to feel comfortable in his role but has not stopped asking questions and seeking advice from his teammates and coaches.

The Miami native who starred at Killian High School before moving onto the University of Miami has been paying very close attention to how Bush goes about his business in practice, the weight room, the meetings rooms and on game day. The two are similar in build and running style, capable of hitting the hole super fast and making linebackers and defensive backs miss.

“Reggie gave me some running tips about being patient but sometimes you don’t want to be too patient,” said Miller, who rushed for 1,918 yards in his two-year collegiate career for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. “I feel like when I first came in here I was being too patient because I was trying to let the hole develop and going off of the offensive line. Now it’s just one cut and go and after your first two carries the offensive line is clicking and going so you just have to match up to their intensity.”

It’s when he gets into that second level and has made it through the hole created by the line that Miller feels like he has the greatest advantage. From that point he is taking on linebackers and defensive backs, and with his speed and quickness he has the confidence that he can finish off the long runs.

Miller’s longest run from scrimmage this season is 22 yards and his touchdown run against the Raiders came from 15 yards out to finish off the scoring for the Dolphins. It was a classic Miller run as he hit the hole on the left side and simply outran the Raiders defense into the left corner of the end zone.

“I’m pretty sure every running back likes to get into the second level because after having to read your blocks and keys at the first level it’s all about instinct,” Miller said. “Once you get into that open field that’s every running back’s goal because you’ve just got to make that guy miss and after that it’s just you and the end zone. I feel like in that regard I’m just getting better as a player and trying to take my game to another level.”

• Dolphins guard G Richie Incognito began his career with the St. Louis Ramst as the team's third round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft and playing with the team from the 2005-09 seasons.
• Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford spent four seasons with the Dolphins (2008-11)
• Rams Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau coached the offensive line of the Miami Dolphins for two seasons (1999-2000).

Game Pass: Miami Dolphins