15 Most Important Dolphins for 2013: #8 Lamar Miller

The starting running back battle between Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller for the Miami Dolphins is thought to be a foregone conclusion. Miller is expected to top the depth chart by most and has even been given the endorsement of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But with the starting spot for Miller will come big expectations and relatively large shoes to fill.

Running back Lamar Miller. (Photo: PhinPhanatic.com)
Miller will be taking over for Reggie Bush, now a Detroit Lion, who averaged better than 1,000 yards rushing in two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. While Bush wasn't the prototypical every-down back for the Dolphins, he did produce and provided a number of big plays both on the ground and through the air.

With an upgraded passing game that includes new additions Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson at wide receiver, the running game will rest largely on the shoulders of Miller. A second-year player out of the University of Miami, Miller is very inexperienced and largely unproven. But with just a small sample size from 2012, Miller was solid in limited duty.

Of all the Dolphins with more than one carry, Miller averaged a team-best 4.9 yards-per-rush. On just 51 carries last season, Miller finished third on the team with 250 yards in addition to scoring one touchdown. On Miller's 51 carries as a rookie, he did not once put the football on the ground, an area where both Bush and Thomas have struggled.

Although he had just six receptions for 45 yards, Miller also looks to be a guy who can contribute in the passing game. At the University of Miami, Miller was a real playmaker and had the ability to take the ball to the end zone every time he touched it. Miller even returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Ohio State in Columbus in 2010. Miller rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in just two seasons of action with the Hurricanes in addition to scoring 17 total touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards-per-carry. He looks to bring that same skillset to the Dolphins.

While Miller does not have the experience of a Reggie Bush, he may actually be a better fit to be an every-down NFL back. Miller has put on some weight since his college days at Coral Gables and while speedy, weighs about 215 pounds.

Miller and Thomas are still likely to split the carries, but expect the bulk to go to Miller. Miller does need to improve in pass protection, but if he can continue to average just shy of five yards-per-carry, he will remain in the lineup.

While the expectations are certainly high for the Miami Dolphins in 2013, one point of concern remains the ground game. The Dolphins brought in talented receivers to help second-year quarterback Tannehill, but production in the ground game will be vital if the Dolphins are to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. If Miller can produce, that will really open up things for the Miami passing game and keep a defense with a lot of new faces, off the field.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook!