After an offseason spending spree, expectations are aplenty for the Miami Dolphins. Expectations to finish the regular season with a winning record for the first time in five years, to end the playoff drought and to win their first playoff game since 2000. Despite the high standards set for this team as a whole, the greatest individual expectaions arguably rest on the shoulders of second year tailback Lamar Miller.
A fourth round pick in 2012, Miller will likely be counted on to carry the load out of the Dolphins backfield. However, after a small sample size as a backup last season, are the expectations for Miller warranted?
While Reggie Bush was the featured back, it was Lamar Miller who led the team with an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. The Dolphins coaching staff will be hoping for this to continue to in 2013, but this number is deceiving considering that Miller only carried the ball 51 times a year ago.
No second year back has been hyped more than Lamar Miller even though he only ranked 10 amongst rookies in rushing yards last season. Despite his mediocre stats, in limited playing time, Miller flashed explosiveness and big-play potential. As a result, he has been the subject of praise from his coaching staff, players, as well as the national media.
Although the talent and skill set appear to be there for Miller, it is yet to be seen if he can handle the work load of a featured back at the highest level in professional football. His new role will mean a significant increase from the 3.2 carries per game he recieved as a rookie.
Miller's college stats indicate that he will be able to handle this increase with ease. In 2011, he rushed for 1272 yards on 227 attempts, something very similar to what he will see as a starter in the NFL. However, basing expectations solely on college stats is risky, therefore, waiting until Miller has a year under his belt as the Dolphins work horse is the only way to get a better idea of his true potential.
Still, the Dolphins moved on from Reggie Bush for a reason and head coach Joe Philbin has already expressed confidence in Miller. Earning confience from Philbin isn't easy especially when considering that a running back in his offense must also be an exceptional pass blocker and have an impact as a reciever, in addition to being effective in the ground game. Ensuring he meets these requirements is a big reason why Miller spent the offseason working with Frank Gore, a tailback with a similar skill set and a fellow University of Miami alumni.
The 22 year old has remained humble throughout the hype but has also set high standards for himself as he strives for 1500 yards rushing in his sophomore season. Miller has the physical traits – size and speed – needed to be a star tailback on paper, not it must be proven on the field. Due to the hype from various outlets, its fair to have expectations for Miller but its crucial to keep them realistic.
While the Dolphins made several free agent additions in order to take the next step, it might be a familiar face that holds the key to their success.