Lamar Miller dreams big in big chance

Dolphins running back has the job, now has to make name

Hyde and Kelly talk Dolphin's scrimmage

MIAMI – Lamar Miller wrote his hopes on a whiteboard a few months ago, then positioned it by his bed so they're his first glimpse in the morning and his last thought at night.

That's how you want the Dolphins biggest off-season gamble to point his mind. It's his job, he knows. His chance. After a rookie year where he was strangely underused, this same coaching staff pushed all their chips to the middle with him at running back.

"1,500 yards,'' his first goal on the whiteboard reads.

He's told the only player in Dolphins history to reach that number was Ricky Williams in 2002.

"I'm aiming high,'' he said.

This was before the Dolphins scrimmage Monday night, before Miller took the first hand-off, found nothing and salvaged three yards that symbolized a night where the most impressive part was the estimated 18,000 fans.

"15 touchdowns,'' Miller's second goal reads.

Only four Dolphins have reached that total.

"Running and receiving, I think it's possible,'' he said. "Again, I'm setting my goals high."

That's well and good. A year ago, Reggie Bush said he hoped to lead the league in rushing. People laughed. But Bush ran for a respectable 986 yards to go with a team-high eight touchdowns.

The safe play for an offense needing playmakers would be to bring back Bush for a more limited role, as well as insurance. You need two running backs to get through a Sunday, much less a season.

But running backs are disposable in today's NFL. Bush went to Detroit. Miller get the abundant chance to shine as players with even more questions behind him in third-year Daniel Thomas, rookie Mike Gillislee or free agent Jonas Gray.

There's little learning curve to being a NFL running back. Alfred Morris, a sixth-round rookie out of Florida Atlantic, ran for 1,614 yards last year. That's the latest lesson of anyone emerging at the position at any time.

No one discounts Miller's talent. He has the size (218 pounds), the speed (4.35 over 40 yards), the production (4.9 yards a carry last year) and the pedigree if you saw him at the University of Miami, where he often was the best player on the field.

"He has the skill set that you are looking for,'' Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "Now we've got to see how he performs when he gets more carries in a game than he's used to."

Miller had 10 carries twice last year. That was tops. So part of the question with Miller is if he can handle a running back's load in the NFL, especially since the nagging issue from his college days was nagging injuries.

The other question for Miller is why he was limited last year. Miller said he felt, "lost at the start of the year." The Dolphins like to run a one-back formation, meaning that besides the fundamental running he has to block if needed and adjust when necessary.

"It took him a little while to get the responsibilities down, get his adjustments down last year,'' Philbin said. "I think at the end of the year he was very sound in his pass protection."

Miller worked out with fellow University of Miami alum and San Francisco 49er Frank Gore this off-season. Speed work. Agility work. And he soaked up everything Gore told him about being a pro.

"I'm hungry to succeed,'' he said.

On Monday night, Miller went left near the end zone, put on a burst of electricity and went untouched into the corner of the end zone. That's what he can do. It's what the Dolphins need him to do. It's what he's asking of himself, too.

"I read those goals all the time, think about what I want to do,'' he said.

It's July, the time to aim for the record books in the NFL.

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