clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Red Zone Play: It’s (Finally!) Lamar Miller Time

Is it really time for Houston’s record-breaking running back to shine?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When it was first announced that Lamar Miller was leaving the eastern shore of Florida to come to the promised land of Houston, I won’t lie, the news got me fired up. In fact, my first article as a member of the BRB masthead detailed Miller’s potential as a Texan.

Sitting behind a solid blocking scheme, with an “offensive guru” at the helm, a running back like Lamar Miller was a shoe-in for replacing the Houston Texans’ all-time greatest running back, Arian Foster. While each back had a different style, Miller’s ability to slip tackles and turn on the jets was a no-brainer for the Texans’ offensive arsenal.

Then the offense slid down the “Hit The A-Gap Until We Can Kick A Field Goal” rabbit hole and Miller quickly went from dream addition to nightmare signing. With the third highest base salary of any tailback in the NFL this season, Miller’s overall productivity didn’t seem to match the price of admission.

While Miller had only broken the 1,000-yard mark in one season prior to coming to the Texans, calling his stint in Miami a perfect scenario for a feature back is a gross misstatement. It seemed like a done deal that if you took a guy who could produce in a non-running-attack-oriented offense and drop him into one of the best run games in the league, great things would happen.

They didn’t.

In 2016, Miller’s first year with the Texans, he produced 1,073 yards. That’s good enough for seventh all time on a team that’s only been around since 2002. That’s isn’t exactly living up to the hype. And it was far shy of my prediction of 1,610 yards.

2017 happened, and Miller managed to tally 888 yards…roughly half of what I expected. This is where the train really left the tracks and the excuses and accusations began to fly.

“Bill O’Brien didn’t know how to use Miller well.”

“Maybe Miller was the reason Miami wasn’t a run-first team.”

“Whose idea was it to pay this guy premiere back money?”

“Time to cut Miller and move on.”

“Bring in Le’Veon Bell. At least he knows how to run in this league.”

Over the course of Houston’s historic eight-game winning streak in 2018, Miller has quietly taken over and raced into the role he was signed to fill.

So far this season, Miller has 773 yards, good for a 4.9 yard per carry average. Based on existing data, Miller is projecting to hit 1,156 yards by seasons end, despite the fact that he only had ten rushing yards in the loss to the Giants and faces some fairly anemic defenses over the last five games. In a pass-first NFL world, on a team with the likes of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, a running back who can eat up nearly five yards every time he gets the ball is a big plus. That stat bodes well for Miller’s final season tally.

It also doesn’t hurt when he can do things like this:

The irony of where he hit the line shouldn’t be lost on anyone, and doing this against the Tennessee Titans and Mike Vrabel is just icing on the cake.

Last week’s column talked about Houston Texans records and how exciting it was to witness so many records being set. Well, the Monday night win over Tennessee didn’t disappoint in that department.

In their history, the Texans have only had six runs over fifty yards. That’s a little shocking for a run-first team, but according to Pro Football Reference, it is what it is. Furthermore, there are only two runs in Texans’ history over 75 yards. The first was done by Justin Forsett on November 22nd, 2012 when Forsett ripped off an 81-yard run against the Detroit Lions. The other was what Miller did to the Titans on Monday night.

Not only did Lamar Miller set the new franchise longest run record with that run, which may not be broken for decades, he secured his place in the NFL record books as the only running back in history to have two 93+ yard runs in his career.

Miller now has the distinction of having not one, but two of the six longest runs in NFL history. He’s also one of only four running backs to have two or more 90+ yard runs in his entire career while being the only guy to do it with two different teams.

While Tony Dorsett holds the record for longest touchdown run in NFL history at 99 yards and Ahman Green broke loose for 98 yards once, only ten players have ever had a 95+ yarder. Knowing Lamar Miller did it twice and he did one of them in a Texans uniform is pretty spectacular.

Could it be, with a (hopefully) greatly improved offensive line coming this off-season and Bill Obrien’s growing ability to run the Houston offense in a more exciting manner, Miller might just have another big time run? The smart money says yes, but only time will tell.

From the “How Do You Like Me Now?” files, what do you think of Miller at this point in his career? Are you on the “Sign Le’Veon Bell” bandwagon, or do you think a combination of Miller and a younger change-of-pace back is the way to go? Detail your running back vision in the comments section.