Lamar Miller ready to step up as top back for Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- On the Miami Dolphins' practice field, Lamar Miller can stand out without moving.
Instead of wearing cleats trimmed in the team colors of white, aqua and orange like just about everyone else on the team, Miller decided to slip into a pair of shiny, silvery shoes that were unlike any others on the field.
"I like `em," Miller said. "A lot of people say they're shiny and flashy and stuff, but I like them."
Oddly, more than a few people around the Dolphins are saying the same things these days about Miller.
With Reggie Bush now gone, the role of starting running back is now open in Miami, and Miller thinks he's ready to make a significant leap into the job. He carried the ball just 51 times as a rookie last season, yet has been widely perceived as the frontrunner for the starting spot that became vacant after Bush signed a four-year deal with Detroit as a free agent in March.
"He has very good athletic ability. He's got really good speed. He can pass protect. We feel like he has an ability to pass protect," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "It took him a little while to get the responsibilities down, get his adjustments down, last year. I think at the end of the year he was very sound in his pass protection. We think he has good hands, and he can catch the football. He has the skillset that you are looking for.
"Now we've got to see how he performs when he gets more carries in a game than he's used to."
In actuality, Miller is used to plenty of carries.
Only 22 years old, Miller is in line to complete a hometown trilogy of sorts. He was the starter in high school at Miami Killian, started in college for the Miami Hurricanes and may soon be the workhorse for Miami's NFL team. He ran for 1,272 yards in his second and final season with the Hurricanes, then got 10 carries for 65 yards in his first NFL game with the Dolphins.
The rest of 2012 was largely a learning curve. From the end of September through mid-December, Miller logged only 17 carries for 51 yards, total. But a 73-yard, 10-carry effort against Buffalo on Dec. 23 was a reminder of sorts why the Dolphins wanted Miller around, and now the expectations around town is that he'll be able to do plenty more.
"I really don't pay too much attention to it," Miller said. "I just try to pay attention to what the coaches have been telling me and try to get better. I hear people talking about it, but I try not to get into it. Stay humble, stay focused, stay on what the team wants me to do."
He's always been relatively soft-spoken, especially when talking about himself.
His teammates, however, aren't shy about raving about Miller and his potential.
"Lamar has done a great job," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "I think he has the flash, the speed that excites everyone."
Philbin set the tone when it comes to expectations, at least the internal ones, about Miller in the very first team meeting of this training camp. One of Philbin's biggest priorities this summer has been making the Dolphins better when it comes to trimming turnovers and hanging on to the football, something he thought cost the team mightily on its way to a 7-9 record a year ago.
So as an example of what to do, Philbin showed what Miller does.
"Very, very fundamentally sound," Philbin said. "He is a guy where we talk to our team about ball security ... his knowledge of the system has definitely increased. He appears to be a lot more comfortable in what he is doing. He doesn't appear to be much indecision in his play. He's doing a nice job."
Miller worked throughout the offseason with fellow former Hurricane star Frank Gore, now of the San Francisco 49ers. He insists that the burden of expectation will not be a problem for him, since he's used to generating plenty of attention from fans around his hometown.
He also believes that he's much better already.
"I'm fast, I'm quick and I'm patient," Miller said.