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Is Lamar Miller's Breakout Game a Sign of Things to Come?

Oct 27, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) and the rest of the Dolphins run onto the field during team introductions prior to a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst INovember 1, 2013

The Miami Dolphins have seen the light regarding Lamar Miller

Or at least we hope they have. 

In the thrilling 22-20 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to kick off Week 9, the second-year running back out of the University of Miami was the unquestioned feature back for the Dolphins. 

He ran 16 times for 105 yards and caught four passes for 24 yards. 

The breakout performance in prime time was Miller's first 100-yard outing as a professional, and his 129 yards from scrimmage were the most he's ever accumulated in an NFL uniform. 

However, the high-efficiency, big-play evening wasn't a flash in the pan aberration for the 22-year-old, former fourth-round pick, which lends credence to the idea that Miller's impressive performance against the Bengals is a sign of things to come.

Before the 6.6 yards-per-carry showing on Thursday night, Miller was averaging a respectable 4.45 yards per carry in 2013. 

Unfortunately, though, he was held back by backfield mate Daniel Thomas. 

What took so long for the Dolphins to give Miller the majority of the running-back snaps? 

Aug 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) runs past Houston Texans cornerback Roc Carmichael (22) during the first half at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Based on those numbers, it will forever be a mystery as to why Thomas was being asked to cut into Miller's workload as much as he was during the first month and a half of the season. 

No, the Dolphins weren't featuring Thomas over Miller, but the latter clearly should have been the undisputed No. 1 back at the start of the 2013 campaign.

Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay sent out the following tweet after Miami's huge win in regard to the snap distribution between the two runners: 

39:23 snap ratio for Lamar Miller:Daniel Thomas. The sophomore is taking control with competent play.

— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) November 1, 2013

Miller's been more than just an efficient back for Miami during the first 21 games of his NFL career. He's been explosive. 

As a rookie, with extremely limited playing time, he had runs of 19, 22 and 28 yards. 

Thus far this season, he has runs of 14, 18, 20, 30, 41 and 49 yards. 

Sep 15, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts  at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Conversely, Thomas had only two 20-yard runs in 2012 and has one 15- and one 16-yard scamper this year. 

Since the start of 2012, Miller has six games in which he averaged less than four yards per carry. Then again, he averaged only 5.83 carries in those dud games, not exactly ample opportunity to get into a rhythm or rebound from a slow start. 

Thomas has averaged less than four yards per carry in 13 of a possible 20 games since the 2012 season began and averaged eight carries in those pedestrian performances.

Eight carries isn't a ton of carries, either, but the numbers indicate that the Dolphins have oddly been more patient with Thomas than they have with Miller when each back has struggled. 

The glaring difference in general efficiency and explosiveness is important when projecting Miller's future. 

After an 18-carry, 21-touch game against the New England Patriots and a 16-carry, 20-touch outing against the Bengals, it appears as though the Dolphins coaching staff is finally starting to come to its senses as to which runner deserves the majority of the touches out of the backfield. 

Although Miller saw 16 more offensive snaps than Thomas in Week 9, the latter did receive 12 carries and, unsurprisingly, didn't do much with them. 

Comparing Daniel Thomas to Lamar Miller
2012 Carries2012 Yards and Yards Per Carry2013 Carries2013 Yards and Yards Per Carry
Daniel Thomas91325 (3.6)60216
Lamar MIller51250 (4.9)93448 (4.8)
ESPN

He totaled 38 yards on the ground and caught one pass for four yards. 

It's quite clear that Miller and Thomas shouldn't be receiving close to the same amount of carries or overall touches in the future. 

Essentially, Thomas' presence is the main threat to Miller's continued emergence for the Dolphins. 

With a nice blend of speed, agility and vision, Miller is the ideal "new-age" running back in today's NFL. 

He's averaged close to five yards per carry early in his career behind a less-than-stellar Dolphins offensive line. 

As long as Miami's coaching staff dedicates itself to him, the future is bright for Lamar Miller. 

 

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