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Lamar Miller vs. Knowshon Moreno: A Dolphins Deep Dive

LamarMiller

The Miami Dolphins run game has been one of my favorite Week 1 story lines, so I wanted to put Lamar Miller, Knowshon Moreno, and the Dolphins under the microscope as the offensive line looks ready to roll for the 2014 season under Bill Lazor. Moreno has become the new darling after everyone wrote him off this offseason. Most now tout Moreno as an RB2 for fantasy teams, and that sounds about right. The same analysts have liked what they’ve seen from Miller but have now labeled him as a flex play with potential RB2 upside some weeks.

After Deep Sea Diving with the Dolphins, it’s time to reexamine the initial hot takes for this run game and put Miller in the discussion as a clear RB2 in his own regard.

We’ve all seen the box score, and we know that Moreno doubled Miller in carries. While Moreno achieved a respectable 5.45 yards per carry, Miller achieved 5.8 ypc.  The first place I looked was the Fantasy Efficiency App to go a little deeper.

 ruATTSruATTMSruEPruFPOEruFPOEPA
Moreno240.63210.738.670.36
Miller110.2895.020.880.08

As you can see above, Moreno has Miller in Week 1 Fantasy Efficiency. These numbers, keep in mind, are not taking the passing game into account, where Miller was involved and Moreno was not. However, for now Moreno has the lead in rushing usage. I can’t just assume Miller will receive more ruMS with Moreno looking good, so let’s just play the hand we have for now.

Next I wanted to see how the two RBs were being used and how they performed given their assignments, so I went over to the boxscore at Pro Football Reference.

 Carries LYardsY/C% Carries
Moreno1484658.3
Miller315427.2
Carries MYardsY/C% Carries
Moreno4256.2517
Miller1119.1
Carries RYardsY/C% Carries
Moreno6254.1725
Miller7436.1463.6

As you can see above, the Dolphins rush attach morphed into a clear strategy which entailed Moreno running to the left and Miller running to the right. What’s fascinating about these numbers is that these two backs really complement one another very well.1 Where Moreno seemed to lack, Miller was able to make up for it and vice-versa.

In the first half against the Patriots, this backfield was truly a split with definitive roles. Moreno manned the backfield for nearly every play that was a strong set, and Miller was the back for nearly every play that was either a wide receiver spread or a single tight end moved outside. The Dolphins also rolled with the spread on early downs, so don’t’ assume that Miller only came in on passing downs given this data.

Toward the end of the first half, Miller ended up fumbling the ball away.  On the ensuing drive, Moreno was the guy so I assume the coaching staff decided to punish Miller — Moreno closed out the half. For what’s it worth, Mike Wallace lost a fumble in the first half and also took a hit on the sideline that popped the ball out.  Luckily for Wallace he was on the sideline, but it’s still mind boggling to me that coaches still want to send the Running Back to timeout and not the Wide Receiver.

In the second half, the Dolphins stayed with Moreno as their guy across the board between the twenties.  What was interesting, however, was that once the Dolphins entered the red zone on their first three second-half drives, the Dolphins called upon Miler to replace Moreno. Apparently the doghouse doesn’t apply to the red zone.  Now I’m not sure if this was because Moreno was gassed by that time or if Miller was the red zone plan all along.  In any event, Miller was the first read for Ryan Tannehill on a rollout that just didn’t evolve. Miller also had a touchdown that was negated by holding.

The efficiency numbers were a couple plays away from looking very different coming out of Week 1. What’s even more compelling is that Miller was a major part of the passing attack, and that’s a big plus for anyone playing in a PPR league, which is – everyone — except your granddaddy. Take a look at the target distribution across the board for all skill position players.

WallaceWR11
MillerRB5
ClayTE5
HartlineWR4
SimsTE2
LandryWR1
GibsonWR1

I could have easily put Charles Clay above Miller in the above table since they both earned five targets.  I’m trying to prove a point, so you’re just going to have to deal with it. The good thing about Miller is that he’s still going to be involved in the run game as the game script allows. Should the Dolphins fall behind, play catch up, yada yada yada, Week 1 has given us the data to show that Miller will not be script dependent in order to put up fantasy points. It’s not that Moreno doesn’t have the ability, but thus far Razor Lazor has shown us that Miller is the change of pace back. While Miller is now in his third year, this is his first stint with a coach and offensive line that didn’t stink of failure. Miller can only go up from here. Now what would happen if he were to get that additional opportunity?

 SnapsFPsFPs/SnapFPs/Opp
Moreno4919.40.420.5
Miller2617.30.720.76

I looked at the Snaps and Fantasy Point per Opportunity data at ProFootballFocus, and you can see that Miller is potentially on the verge of blowing up. We might just have to wait a little bit longer as Moreno isn’t going anywhere. But again, these two are likely helping each other out for the time being.

With a quick glance at Week 2 against Buffalo, it’s going to be another plus matchup for these two and you want to find a way to get both in your lineups. We don’t have Defensive Line Adjusted Yard Data available yet until after this weekend, but it appears that Mario Williams wasn’t really a big factor in stopping the run last week. 7.1 percent of his snaps Williams was responsible for run stops per PFF, and Jarius Wynn wasn’t good either. On the other side of the defensive line, Manny Lawson was a beast and was responsible for run stops on 20 percent of his snaps.

Remember when we learned about which Miami RB runs to his right well and which runs to his left well? Again, it’s only one week of data, but Philbin and Lazor are game planning, the strength of Miller from last week is a plus matchup against the weakness of the Bills run defense. Since Miller was running strongside when he did run, we can see that Preston Brown had 5.6 percent of his snaps account for run stops vs. 11.1 percent from Keith Rivers on the weakside.2.  Let me stress that this was the outcome of one game, so we don’t have a large enough sample size to hang our hats on here, but the signs of how they want to use these two guys are in place. Miller, just hang onto the ball, as Philbin and/or Lazor must have the Grandpa Coughlin Syndrome.

You’re starting Moreno next week and going forward, but look beyond the box score and you’ll find a diamond we’ve been waiting on for a long time in Miller. Buy. Buy. Buy.

  1. I know this is only a week worth of data, so it should obviously be taken with a grain of salt.  (back)
  2. The side Moreno was running to last week  (back)

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