The question of whether or not Lamar Miller can be a true number one running back who can handle over 20 carries a game has been asked all season. On Sunday, we finally saw Miller close in on that number as he had 19 carries for 92 yards while adding in 5 receptions for 58 yards. However, we also saw why he hasn’t gotten those types of numbers consistently.
That’s because he was absent throughout the fourth quarter. While Joe Philbin declined to say whether or not it was injury related, several beat reporters did say that it was in fact related to minor injuries sustained during the game. In addition, Bill Lazor hinted at this.
“I think it was a matter of number one at that point Lamar had over 50 plays. I think 150 yards from scrimmage. So he played some in the fourth quarter. But I think it was a normal hits that a back takes throughout the game. So I think that was part of it and another part of it is when we get into that kind of game is when we think Damian can help us. So it’s probably a matter of the two. I wouldn’t call it an injury but just the wear and tear of a game.”
When Lazor was given an out by a reporter who asked him whether or not it was to keep Miller fresh for the end of the game, he didn’t fully endorse the fact that it definitely wasn’t injury related.
“It’s hard to balance. Some games we’ve run the ball more early, you get in a situation where you can’t run it late. So if you keep them fresh early, then he misses out on some of those runs. So it’s not an easy decision. It’s hard for a running back to take, I think we had on video there were 80 some plays. You know some of them were kneel down. It’s hard for a back to take all those plays. So any time you keep them fresh early is an opportunity you might be taking away from them. We want to use them. So we decided to do it the way did it. That’s how it worked out.”
The positive in all of this was that we saw Damian Williams shine when he was in the game. While he only had 3 receptions for 18 yards, his true value came in the passing game, catching 6 passes for 50 yards and 1 touchdown. Lazor is hoping to build on this performance moving forward.
“Well I think it’s obvious that the coaches believe in him because in a critical point in the game he had a lot of reps at the end of the game and he made some plays. I can think of one in particular, a couple of them are, or, there was one hot throw that he caught when he was lined up in the slot. I don’t think anyone expected that defensive tackle to be dropping out into him. But he made, really, little bit of a spectacular play. It was not for a lot of yards but it got us a first down and it really was a big play in the drive. And there was another play where he got the ball out in space. Really with a defender confronting him before the first down marker and he made a miss and got the first down. To me those are critical plays. They may not have made the highlight film, but for us and that drive obviously that was critical. So we believe in him and it was great to see him out there making plays and it looked like he was playing very confidently.”
While it’s only one game, it does make us think hard about whether or not Miller can truly handle a normal workload that a number one back usually handles. It would be extremely beneficial if the Dolphins were able to pick up a power running back in the offseason to have roughly 7-10 carries per game, which would allow Miller to stay fresh and healthy throughout the game and the season.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs