Maybe I’m just drunk with the excitement of free agency, but it’s hard to not get excited about what Lamar Miller can potentially do with the Texans.
For Miller, 2015 was a difficult season in a horrible offense that never seemed to get the ball in their top playmakers hands.
Miller, who is still only 24-years-old, ran the ball 194 times for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. On top of that, there were seven games last year where Miller only ran the ball 10 times or less. It was a constant back and forth battle hoping that Joe Philbin or Dan Campbell would finally let Miller lose.
Whatever happened with the Dolphins is in the past now, and Miller is probably now on a team that is actually going to use him.
Under Bill O’Brien, the Texans are a team that ran the ball a lot in 2015 even after Arian Foster went down. Last year, Texans runnings backs ran the ball a total of 418 times but only managed five touchdowns and 4.0 yards per carry.
Also, all year, the Texans only had seven total runs of 20 yards or more. In comparison, Lamar Miller had seven runs himself of 20 yards or more.
Miller has 4.40 speed, he is surely going to be busting a lot of big plays for the Texans in 2016 and beyond.
Accompanied with his speed and running ability, Miller is also a running back that can do a lot of damage in the receiving game.
Last year, on the limited touches he was getting, Miller caught 47 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns. That’s good for 8.4 yards per carry and he also had six receptions go for 20 yards or more.
Last year, Texans running backs were targeted 113 times in the passing game compared to Miller’s 57 on the Dolphins.
It’s safe to say Miller won’t be coming in and getting close to 100 plus targets like Matt Forte does or Devonta Freeman did last year, but he is surely going to be the focal point of the offense. As long as he doesn’t get hurt, there really isn’t going to be another running back fighting for touches.
Currently, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk are free agents and they were both the backs that were used in the passing game. Alfred Blue is still on the roster, but he only had 16 targets in 2015. Blue won’t be getting in the way of Miller being a great running back in standard and PPR leagues.
So, we know how good Lamar Miller is now, but how good is his supporting staff in Houston?
For starters, the Texans just landed Brock Osweiler on a four-year, $72 million dollar contract.
After replacing Peyton Manning for a portion of the 2015 season, Osweiler had his moments but he also struggled at times. He had good performances against the Patriots, Bears and Steelers but didn’t do much otherwise. Also, in five of the eight games he started, he averaged less than seven yards per completion.
Struggles aside, Osweiler’s arm strength is much better than Brian Hoyer and it should make defenses worried about big plays down the field versus stacking against the run. Also, the Texans have a few intriguing weapons behind stud DeAndre Hopkins including Jalen Strong and Cecil Shorts. It’s not as good as the combination of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders just yet, but don’t be surprised if Strong busts out in 2016.
The quarterback and passing should be much better than what Miller was dealing with on the Dolphins, but how well will his new offensive line create running lanes for him?
For starters, according to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins were 32nd in run-blocking and the Texans were 24th. Neither were overly impressive.
In 2015, the Duane Brown was dealing with quite a few nicks and bruises, including a concussion, but should be back to 100 percent after tearing his quad late in the season.
Brown aside, the offensive line will head into 2016 with Jeff Allen replacing Brandon Brooks at guard. Brooks got a big contract to go to Philadelphia, but with Allen replacing him, they probably won’t miss him much. As long as everyone stays healthy, and if Xavier Su’a-Filo can take the next step, Houston’s run game should be in pretty good shape.
Let’s also keep in mind, a good running back goes a long way in making a good offensive line. A hobbled and breaking down Arian Foster with Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk isn’t going to help an offensive line much, if at all. Miller has the speed and shiftiness to turn anything into a big play.
On paper and with Brock Osweiler, the Texans are a much better offense than what Miller was dealing with in Miami. As long as he can stay healthy and everything clicks, Miller should be on his way to being a top 5 running back in 2016.