Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a $1.2M fantasy football league on Sunday. First place wins $100,000. Join now!
The Miami Dolphins seems to be better at pitch counts with running back Lamar Miller than the New York Mets were with ace pitcher Matt Harvey. For whatever reason, be it saving Miller for next year, keeping Miller's free agency price tag low, concern over injuries, games running away from the Dolphins, or something else entirely, Miami cannot figure out how to routinely and consistently hand the ball to Miller. The Dolphins' starting running back has had just three games in which he has more than 15 carries; compare that to six games in which he was in single digits for carries, and you can see the frustration.
Fans see it. The media sees it. Miller sees it. Even Dolphins offensive coordinator (officially "quarterbacks coach" with play calling responsibilities) Zac Taylor sees it, despite being the man calling all the passing plays. "These last couple of games I would like to get more runs called, you would to. Especially the last game, our plan was run the ball a lot more than we did. You get down in a hole you know, and I know I said this a couple of weeks ago, it's tough, you get in a hole, you want to keep running the ball, you end up calling a lot more passes because you feel like the game is going by. Certainly the game plan going into that game was to not throw the ball as much as we did, it was run a lot more than we did and the game just went in a different direction
"Lamar needs touches," Taylor continued. "He's a good back. You never plan on going to whatever he got last game, you always hope he gets more we just didn't call enough runs and that's something we need to keep stressing the next two games is, you know I always say we want to be balanced and that's not just something I'm saying. It does get tough when you're losing, you end up it goes in another direction, but we have to do a great job of trying to keep perspective and balance and get him some touches because he's a good back and we're better when he touches the ball that's for certain."
The Dolphins will face the Indianapolis Colts Sunday afternoon, who will bring the league's 25th ranked rush defense into the game, allowing 123.8 yards per game (which is actually better than Miami's 30th ranked rush defense, allowing 132.1 yards per game, but that does not impact Miller, so we will not focus on that). The yards should be available for Miller, if he gets the touches. There could be plenty of yards on the ground so Miami can split some of the carries to second-string running back Jay Ajayi, who actually had more carries than Miller last week.
"That's the balance of having two good running backs you know," Taylor said when asked about the rookie's carries last week outnumbering the starter's. "Sometimes you give the guy the ball and he scores like that and you can just really feel his juice, not to say Lamar wasn't doing a good job, but sometimes you keep feeding that back. I didn't have an opinion one way or the other, you know both those guys play well and we expect good things from both of them. In the second half Jay got a couple more carries and that wasn't a concern of mine because he was playing well and so sometimes you don't want to be so dead set on, you know this guy has to take the carries when another guy is playing well and he's got a good vibe with him, you give him some touches and see what he can do."
The Dolphins have an offensive weapon in Miller that just is not getting the opportunities he needs to take over a game. Miller is 14th in the league in rushing yards with 781, yet he is just 23rd in carries. His 4.9 yards per attempt average ranks him fifth in the league, behind just Thomas Rawls, Russell Wilson, Ryan Mathews, and Doug Martin. Miller is sixth in the league in rushing touchdowns. He has the statistics to support his being an elite running back, but he is being held back by his own team and the inexplicable refusal to call plays that gets the ball into Miller's hands.
That has to change this week if Miami is going to win. The stat line that when Miller carries the ball 13 or more times, the Dolphins are undefeated while they have not won a game if he has 12 or fewer carries, is still valid. While there is more to a win than just Miller's carries, the Dolphins' starting running back has to be more involved in the offense if the Dolphins want to win. The fans know it. The media knows it. Miller knows it. And Taylor knows it. Now it is time to show it, and stop talking about it.