Can Lamar Miller Bounce Back in 2018?

Since joining the Houston Texans in 2016, Lamar Miller has struggled to keep pace with the numbers he put up in Miami. The expectations were massive for him when he went to Houston, as a result of the achievements he reached with such limited opportunity in South Beach. So when Texans coach Bill O’Brien announced he would turn to Miller as the team’s workhorse back, the potential for massive production led to ridiculous hype.

O’Brien kept true to his word, adding 74 carries to Miller’s workload from his final season in Miami. But the results were extremely disappointing. His yards per carry average dipped from 4.5 in 2016 (and 5.1 in 2015), to 4.0 in his first year with the Texans. Last year was even worse, as he was only able to muster a lousy 3.7 yards per attempt. Moreover, after scoring eight rushing touchdowns in each of the last two years with the Dolphins, he only was able to get five and three in each of his first two seasons in Houston.

So what has ailed Miller’s production on his “new” team? Why has he not been able to sustain his average yards per carry? Perhaps Houston’s system doesn’t fit as well with Miller’s skill set. Or maybe the coaches are not putting him in a position to succeed. In either case, Miller still has all the potential in the world to succeed at a very high level. He is still only 27 years old, and should be hitting the prime of his career and physical abilities. Sure, he has dealt with a myriad of injuries that have limited both his playing time and production. But this is a new year. A fresh start. Another chance to prove he can be “the guy.”

One thing that is working in his favor is the fact that fellow teammate and running back D’Onta Foreman appears likely to be placed on the PUP list, as a result of his achilles injury. As a result, the backfield has become much thinner, and Miller can simply go out there and get all the touches he can handle.

Moreover, the return to health of quarterback Deshaun Watson could also mean big things for Miller. The Texans are likely to want to ease Watson back in slowly, and the best way to do that would be to run the football early and often. Leaning on Miller is the team’s best chance to sustain offensive success, so hopefully he can put together a successful campaign.

O’Brien is also partly responsible for the lack of big plays from his running back. Miller is best used as a space runner, and as a receiver out of the backfield. The speedy running back can make people miss in the open field, and best way to put him in a position for an explosive play is to shower him with targets in the passing game. In his final season in Miami, Miller tallied 47 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns through the air. In his first two years in Houston, he has averaged just 33.5 catches per season. That’s incredibly disappointing and truly inexplicable.

The Texans need to find the best way to maximize their players’ best assets. They have not done that at all with Miller. If they make serious changes to their approach and play calling, Miller could easily have his best season since his days in Miami.