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Comparing Lamar Miller performances under Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell

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How much have the Miami Dolphins changed under Dan Campbell from the team they were under Joe Philbin? A comparison of Lamar Miller's stats may give us the best picture.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin after four games at the start of this season. Interim head coach Dan Campbell has now had five games at the helm of the team and has changed Miami from a purely finesse team into a team that can play aggressively and get after opponents. Perhaps, the most dramatic change between the Philbin Dolphins and the Campbell Dolphins is personified by starting running back Lamar Miller.

(H/T to Jonathan Kinsley (@BrickWallBlitz) on Twitter for giving me the impetus for this post.)

Miller under Philbin

Under Philbin, Miller seemed to be a forgotten man, despite gaining 1,000 yards for Philbin in 2014. The Dolphins threw the ball on 73-percent of their offensive plays, and the running game seemed an undesired part of the play book. Miller carried the ball 37 times in the first four games, an average of 9.25 carries a game. He picked up 131 yards, or 32.75 yards per game, over the Weeks 1-4 span, with a 3.54 yards per carry average. He recorded no rushing touchdowns for the first four games this season.

Miller was targeted 12 times through the air in the first four games, or 3.0 times a game, with 10 receptions. He gained 87 yards over that span, an 8.7 yards per catch average and a 21.75 yards per game average, with no touchdowns.

Miller averaged 53.25 yards from scrimmage over Week 1-4.

Miller since Campbell's promotion

Things changed when Campbell took over. While much of the focus has been on Campbell making the team more physical in practice and the coach being more emotional with the team, the biggest change may have been giving offensive coordinator Bill Lazor back the running plays in the playbook. Philbin seemed to bring with him from his days as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator a pre-determined desire to be a nearly-pure passing team. Lazor, having been a quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles when they led the league in rushing and his time as an offensive coordinator in college, appeared to bring with him an understanding that the run-game is an integral part of the offense and opens up the passing attack. Campbell appears to have taken the handcuffs off Lazor, and it is benefitting Miller.

Since Campbell's promotion, Miami has played give games, with Miller recording 70 carries, or 14 per game. He has gained 390 yards, or 78 yards per game, over the pas five games. Miller's yards per carry has jumped to 5.57 per attempt, and he has scored five touchdowns on the ground.

Miller has also seen his role in the passing game increase. He has been targeted 26 times in the past five games, giving him 5.2 passes per game heading his direction. Miami has added the screen pass and the flat routes back into the route combinations, and Miller is proving he can handle that as an option. On 26 targets, Miller has caught 23 passes, giving him a 4.6 receptions per game average, gaining 232 yards, or 10.09 yards per catch and 46.4 receiving yards per game. Miller has two receiving touchdowns the last five games.

Miami's starting running back is now averaging 124.4 yards from scrimmage per game.

Miller comparison

Under Philbin, Miller truly was a forgotten player, disappearing from the game plan, literally never scoring in four games, and only averaging 53.25 yards a game. In the five games since Campbell took over as the interim head coach, Miller has seen a resurgence, finding the endzone seven times and gaining more than 70 yards per game more.

Carries Carries per game Yards Yards per carry Yards per game TDs
Games 1-4
(Joe Philbin)
37 9.25 131 3.54 32.75 0
Games 5-9
(Dan Campbell)
70 14.0 390 5.57 78.0 5
Targets Targets per game Receptions Rec per game Yards Yards per rec Yards per game TDs
Games 1-4
(Joe Philbin)
12 3.0 10 2.5 87 8.7 21.75 0
Games 5-9
(Dan Campbell)
26 5.2 23 4.6 232 10.09 46.4 2
Yards from scrimmage Yards from scrimmage per game
Games 1-4
(Joe Philbin)
143 53.25
Games 5-9
(Dan Campbell)
622 124.4

Add in a new threat from rookie running back Jay Ajayi, who, in two games played this season after returning from broken ribs suffered in the preseason, is averaging 8.1 yards an attempt (granted, on just 11 carries), and the Dolphins running game seems to be ready to explode. Lazor is finally allowed to trust his running backs, and they are responding, led by Miller who is nearly back on pace for a 1,000 yard season.