There has been an increasing uneasiness among the fanbase and media about the state of the running back position for the Texans. Injuries to D’Onta Foreman and Tyler Ervin devastated the depth of the team last season. Alfred Blue had to step up and become the backup for the second half of the season This led to Lamar Miller carrying the ball 238 times last year. Although the load was plentiful, Miller only averaged 3.7 yards per rush and did not eclipse 900 yards rushing.
More than two years later, the four-year, $26,000,000 deal Miller signed with the Texans in March of 2016 remains one of the most lucrative contracts for a running back in the entire league. Miller now enters the third year of that contract, due to make $5,750,000.00 according to Spotrac. Although players such as Dion Lewis, Rashaad Penny, and Jerick McKinnon will potentially make more cash this season, only Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy have a larger base salary at the running back position entering 2018.
Bell, probably the one of the most valuable offensive assets in the league, ran the ball 321 times for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns last year. That doesn't even include his 655 yards and two touchdowns receiving. McCoy, the other running back to have a higher base salary than Miller, ran the ball for a comparable 287 times yet plowed through opposing teams for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy are in such a different tier of talent that putting Lamar Miller in the same category is not reasonable. Yet the Texans pay Miller at an elite running back level without receiving elite results. You can point a finger at the putrid offensive line not giving Miller running lanes that result in big runs, but there comes a point when Miller has to create for himself. We have not seen any of that.
After releasing RB Arian Foster after the 2015 season, the Texans were in need of a running back to carry the rock. Rick Smith, Bill O’Brien & Co. became mesmerized by Miller’s 2015 performance against Houston, when he rushed for 175 yards and one TD. That single performance and a hungry franchise resulted in Rick Smith overspending on the former Dolphin.
Miller is like a plant. You’ve got to give him some air to breathe in order for him to grow. Give him a lane, and he has the speed to bust it. Give him a mosh pit, and he becomes hesitant approaching the line of scrimmage. Without a lane to penetrate, Miller stalls all his momentum, waiting for a hole to open up. If the Texans don’t incorporate better running plays to match Miller’s skill-set and one-cut playing style, they will again waste his talent and the money they pay him
With the offensive line still in shambles, D’Onta Foreman coming off an Achilles tear and pressing for more carries, and Deshaun Watson looking to air out the ball like never before, Miller’s involvement should continue to dwindle for the Texans—making his contract even more of an eyesore.