Lamar Miller is deserving of the paycheck he will seek, but the Dolphins won’t have the money due to other pressing needs. As Dolphins Sideline Report staffer Ashley Anderson states in her article —What Will The Dolphins Do Sans Lamar?— it’s a safe bet Miami will look to free agents like Matt Forte for a back to pair with 2nd year starter Jay Ajayi in 2016. While such a move may prove wise long term because of the cap space it will save for addressing other needs, there is a chance it will make the Dolphins look bad in the short term.
In almost every article I wrote for Dolphins Sideline report during the 2015 season, quite deliberately there was a reference to the direct correlation between rushing attempts and winning games. In simple terms, the more Miller ran the ball, the more the team won. The following is a series of single play tape breakdowns providing evidence that Miller has overcome poor blocking, making him a scary prospect if placed behind a good line. The first two plays come from Miller’s worst yards-per-carry game (1.4) way back in the Joe Philbin era vs. Jacksonville. The second two plays come from his best yards-per-carry game, an astounding 12.5 vs. Houston:
Play 1 frame by frame-
- In frame 1. below, Tannehill notices Jacksonville has stacked their line-up to the left, so he signals for the tight-ends Cameron and Stoneburner to shift to the right side of the line where there’s more space left by the defense.
- In frame 2. the tight-ends are now set in an ideal situation with empty space in front of them as the Jaguar defense struggles to reset and a jam of confusion builds in the middle.
- In frame 3. a once ideal situation turns ugly in a matter of seconds, as four defenders have somehow found their way into good position on the blocking tight ends by shedding poor and/or nonexistent blocks.
- In frame 4. the whole area from numbers to sideline is now walled with personnel from both teams, leaving Miller nowhere to go. The most notable issue is the three Dolphin blockers facing the sideline, rather than upfield, without solid blocking position on a single defender.
Play 2 frame by frame
- In frame 1. below the play was called for a run outside far to the right, but three unblocked Jaguar defenders cause the play to collapse. Instead of allowing the play to fail, Miller does a superb job of planting his foot and cutting extremely hard back to the left.
- In frame 2. a lack of solid inline and upfield blocking forces Miller to make no less than 4 hard cuts, marked by the numbered Cs, in order to pick up roughly 11 yards and a first down. A slower back with less cutting ability would not be able to do this.
Play 3 frame by frame-
- In frame 1. below, Miller has just been handed the ball and already must shed a tackler whom one of the offensive guards has let free.
- In frame 2. Miller has managed to shed the first tackler in order to arrive at the spot the run was called to. In a rare spectacle, two Dolphin lineman and one tight-end are in position to make key blocks. However, none of them are getting push and Miller is still met with a wall.
- In frame 3. Miller must cut hard again. Granted, this play is designed for a cutback but not nearly as hard of a cutback as Miller must make. He also does a good job of getting small and squeezing past multiple defenders.
Play 4 frame by frame- The following play landed 2nd on NFL Network’s list of Top 10 Runs of the 2015 Season ahead of Cam Newton’s flip and Adrian Peterson’s 43 yard touchdown scorcher.
- In frame 1. below, three Dolphin linemen lay solid blocks and the two to the right side of the line are getting enough push to create a legitimate running lane up the middle.
- In frame 2. Miller does what any respectable NFL back is asked to do and makes one man miss once he’s free at the second level.
- In frame 3. the difference between a simply long run and a highlight worthy season-long touchdown is made with second level blocking from wide receiver Rishard Matthews. Miller uses his speed to hit an 85 yard score. This isn’t the first time Miller has done this either. With solid blocking, this is the type of play one can regularly expect from the pending free agent back, and that’s a scary prospect for opponents.