Though you wouldn’t know from the score, the key word when the Dolphins trounced the Raiders 38-14 last week in London was “balance.”
Sure, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill served up what Miami can only hope was a watershed performance — he silenced the previous week’s doubters by hitting nine receivers en route to completing 23 of 31 passes for 278 yards — but his arm was only half of the Dolphins two-pronged offensive attack.
With a team-leading, 64-yard game, running back Lamar Miller was the collateral threat.
And with three consecutive games leading the Dolphins on the ground, the homegrown running back has the potential to be just the player the Dolphins need at the helm of the run game.
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“I feel good about it,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Monday. “There were some areas that the coaches who were here in the past felt like Lamar needed to improve in the offseason, and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. Probably all those opportunities haven’t shown up yet, but as they do, I think we’re very confident that he’s still an improving player and he’s very willing to do what we ask him to do. So I have great hope for him.”
Miller has been turning in praiseworthy performances as Lazor’s go-to guy on the ground since Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 134 yards in Miami’s season opener, was sidelined with an elbow injury in Week2.
The Dolphins remain optimistic Moreno will return in October, although he was not seen at practice until Wednesday. He sat out the portion open to the media.
Miller has had bright spots throughout the season, such as his 108-yard turn in Week3 against Kansas City, just his second 100-yard game in the pros.
And although coach Joe Philbin hopes to see longer runs and more consistent play, the Dolphins can’t complain about how Miller stacks up in the league.
The UM grad heads into the bye averaging 5.7 yards per carry, up from 4.0 in 2013 and good for second in the league behind Baltimore’s Justin Forsett (5.8).
“For these past two games, I’ve just been trying to be more physical, just try to get positive yards and be more decisive,” Miller said. “I think I’ve been doing a good job with that, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Miller said he feels stronger and has lost the hesitation in his game. Now a third-year pro, he’s the most confident he has ever been, and at such a time when Miami is leaning on its run game.
Lazor has elected to run the ball 41 percent of the time so far this season, up from 34.86 last season. Twelve of the 35 carries against Oakland were in Miller’s hands.
But what happens when Moreno comes back, perhaps after the bye?
In Miller’s eyes, Moreno’s return is less of a threat and more of a balancing act.
“I think it’ll be a lot tougher on the defense,” Miller said. “You know, both of us have two different running styles. He’s more of the physical and I’m more of a speed barrel. You know, it’s always good to complement each other. I don’t think it’s a competition.”