DAVIE, Fla. -- It was one of the biggest complaints for the 2014 Miami Dolphins.
Running back Lamar Miller, who had a career season, never got more than 19 carries in a game last season. In fact, Miller received more than 15 carries just four times. It was head-scratching considering Miller set new career highs in rushing yards (1,099), yards per carry (5.1) and total touchdowns (nine) last year.
But Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin told ESPN.com Sunday that the coaching staff is confident Miller can handle the load in 2015 and has no problem giving him more carries. Miller averaged just 13.5 carries per game in 2014.
“I would tell you I’ve never been in a meeting where I’ve said to [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] or [running backs coach] Jeff Nixon or the offensive line coaches have said ‘Lamar can’t carry the ball 20 times a game. He can’t do it,’” Philbin said. “I’ve never heard that. That’s never come out of my mouth.”
Philbin explained that, at times, Miami’s offensive scheme also played a factor in Miller’s low carries.
“I would tell you, if he’s cranking and he got it 24 times a game and he’s healthy and he’s fast and he’s explosive, it doesn’t bother me one bit,” Philbin said. “But I think sometimes it’s not taken into account what our run game is all about. The run game is really about the runner, the screens and the quarterback keeping the ball primarily. We have some plays where we toss the ball to Lamar and that’s it. But a lot of them are [options], the highest percentage by far. I think that cuts into the carries a little bit.”
Miller also added about 15 pounds of muscle this offseason to handle the wear and tear from the position. This is an important year for Miller, who is playing in the final year of his rookie contract.
A big statistical year could equal success for the Dolphins and a big payday for Miller in 2016.
“I kind of look at Lamar a little bit like Ryan Tannehill in the sense that you rush for 250 yards as a rookie, 700 in his second year and almost 1,100 last year,” Philbin said. “So you see progress and you see development. Again, my hope for Lamar is don’t worry about [the contract]. Play football, stay right on the trajectory that you're on and everything else is going to be fine.”