Don’t tell Lamar Miller there’s nothing left to play for this season.
He can think of a thousand motivations.
With the playoffs officially out of reach, Dolphins players now turn to personal goals as they play out the string. Many are auditioning for 2016 — either for the Dolphins or another team.
Miller, meanwhile, is chasing history.
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With 231 yards in the season’s final three weeks, Miller would become just the third player in team history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
The other two — Larry Csonka (1971-72) and Ricky Williams (2002-03) — are members of the franchise’s all-time team.
“It’s very big for me,” Miller said. “[Mike] Pouncey came up to me and asked me how many yards I needed and I told him. It’s always good to know that your teammates care about you as well.”
Added Pouncey: “We want to make sure we get Lamar over 1,000 yards for his second straight season. I think it would be good for our offensive line. Obviously, it would be very good him, him being a free agent at the end of the season. That will be something we’re looking forward to.”
And there’s a chance — however slight — that Ja’Wuan James will be on the field Sunday against the Chargers to help make it happen.
James, the Dolphins’ right tackle, has missed the past six games with a significant toe injury. The offensive line has suffered because of it.
But James practiced Wednesday — albeit on a limited basis — for the first time since late October. He even moved around some in pads, Dolphins coach Dan Campbell said, in hopes of having him ready for Sunday’s game.
James said the team gave “some” consideration to simply shutting him down for the season, but playing again in 2015 is “important to me, and I want to be able to play for my teammates, Coach Campbell.”
Miller would surely love having James back. He, like every NFL player, wants a big contract. He will earn $1.5 million this season (Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s highest-paid back this year at $14 million) — and another 1,000 yards would only help Miller’s case for a raise come March.
He has been arguably the Dolphins’ best offensive player this year. And yet, the franchise still has not approached him about a contract extension, he said again Wednesday.
The Miami-Dade native and former University of Miami standout said he would like to play his entire career in his hometown, but realizes it’s not completely within his control.
Running backs dream of getting to their second contract with a history of production and a clean medical record. Miller has both. He’s going to get paid by someone. Whether it’s the Dolphins is up to them.
But if they do sign Miller to a big-money, multi-year contract, perhaps the Dolphins can give him the carries that backs of his caliber deserve.
Miller ranks seventh league-wide in yards per attempt (5.1), but just 22nd in carries (151).
He has now played for three offensive coordinators. The first two — Mike Sherman and Bill Lazor — would at times forget about him.
Did Zac Taylor, his latest play-caller, do the same Monday?
Miller was spectacular in the first half against the Giants, rushing for 69 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
But he got the ball just five more times after halftime, including once in the fourth quarter. Not coincidentally, the Dolphins lost.
Campbell suggested an ankle injury was partially to blame. Miller, meanwhile, said he was fine. It is telling, however, that Miller missed part of practice Wednesday with that ankle issue.
Miller was careful with his words while meeting with reporters Wednesday, but there was little doubt he wanted the ball more than he got it.
“I really don’t question the play-calling,” Miller said. “I just go out there and try to make plays for this team and this organization. I really don’t think about it that much. But when I’m feeling it, I feel I should get more opportunities. But it just depends on the situation if we’re losing or if we’re up. It all depends on the situation.”
You were feeling it Monday though, right?
“Yeah, I was feeling it pretty good Monday night.”
He’ll feel even better with 231 more yards.
NFL running backs with the highest yards-per-carry average (500 or more yards):
Yards per carry
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks
Todd Gurley, Rams
Giovani Bernard, Bengals
Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Lamar Miller, Dolphins