It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…
The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Lamar Miller recently turned 30 years old, and he hasn’t really had any meaningful snaps on an NFL field since 2018 because he tore his ACL during the Texans’ third preseason game in 2019.
Miller went to training camp with the Patriots last year, but spent most of the regular season on the Bears’ practice squad, though he got a few offensive snaps when he was activated for a game in Week 10. He signed a contract with Washington in mid-December of 2020 when Antonio Gibson was suffering from turf toe, but Miller never got on the field for the burgundy & gold. However, when free agency came around, Miller re-signed as a free agent to return to Washington and compete for a job.
A genuine opportunity
I know that there’s always a preference to ‘go younger’ on the roster, especially at running back, yet I have to believe that Ron Rivera and his coaching staff saw something they liked in Lamar Miller last year that made them decide to bring him back for the 2021 preseason.
Based on that decision by the coaches, I think Lamar Miller’s got a chance to squeeze a little more out of his career.
A look at his photos from OTAs and minicamp suggests that he’s still in great shape.
Moreover, his skill set — an explosive running back with good speed and outstanding vision & cutback ability and a career 4.3 ypc average who is a competent receiver out of the backfield (211 career receptions) — fits the Football Team’s need for a dual-threat backup capable of spelling Antonio Gibson during games, or starting if Gibson is unable to go. In many ways, Lamar Miller is the perfect fit for the offense and the team’s needs. He should also be able to help Gibson with his development as a runner.
Miller’s primary competition on the Washington roster appears to be Jaret Patterson, an undrafted rookie from a small college (Buffalo) in the Mid-American Conference who is short, powerful and explosive, but who has yet to take a snap in an NFL game.
The other competitor is Peyton Barber; a veteran back who played for Ron Rivera and the Football Team last year, specializing in short yardage. Barber himself is 27 years old and has never topped 871 rushing yards or 963 total scrimmage yards in a season in his five-year career.
By contrast, Lamar Miller has reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark twice, and he has only been under 700 rushing yards once in his 7 full seasons of play; that was as a rookie in 2012. Miller had at least 1,100 scrimmage yards in 5 consecutive seasons with the Dolphins and Texans from 2013 to 2018.
Lamar Miller career stats
In short, he has had a damned good career as a running back able to produce consistently.
It could actually be that Lamar Miller is the best of the three RBs in competition to back up Antonio Gibson. The fact that he’s signed to a “vet minimum” contract that counts only $987,500 against the 2021 salary cap is a bonus.
Lamar Miller — Houston Texans All-22 highlights
Bad timing on his injury
I think that Lamar Miller was one of the many players that were disadvantaged by the cancellation of the 2020 preseason. He was 29 years old then, and coming off an ACL tear. It was hard for teams to assess players like Miller without preseason games; of course, it was impossible for Miller to show off his skills on film. I suspect his options were rather limited.
The five weeks of training camp and preseason that lie ahead of us, by contrast, present a great opportunity for Miller to audition not only for the Washington Football Team, but also for any NFL team that needs an experienced and talented player in their running back room.
2021 preseason snaps
We already know that Antonio Gibson is nursing a turf toe that has lingered since he injured it late last season. If Gibson plays at all in the three preseason games, I imagine it will be a series or two and then off the field. Likewise, J.D. McKissic is likely to catch a pass or two and then punch his timecard for the night. Neither really has anything to prove to make the roster.
For that reason, despite the loss of the final preseason game, we’re likely to see about 120-150 preseason offensive snaps available for the three players competing for one, or at most, two RB roster spots, namely, Lamar Miller, Jaret Patterson, and Peyton Barber (I don’t expect Jonathan Williams to see much action).
Personally, I’d like to see the team keep 4 running backs this year, retaining the veteran Miller and the rookie Patterson, and moving on from Barber, but I don’t think that’s the most likely outcome. Miller may or may not make the Washington roster, but if he has a good preseason and shows well in his 40-50 snap audition, he has a chance to stay in the NFL in 2021.
Lamar Miller has already had a fine career by any measure. He’s amassed over 7,400 yards and scored 40 touchdowns. Personally, I don’t think he’s done yet, and I expect him to use the three games that comprise Washington’s preseason to state his case loud and clear that he still deserves to be on an NFL roster. If he doesn’t make the roster here in DC, then I think there’s still a chance that one of the other 31 teams out there will like what they see and give him a contract (I hear the Rams may be looking for a guy).
However it turns out, the battle for the backup running back spot on the Washington roster should be an exciting one to watch.
Training camp begins on the 27th and the first preseason game against the Patriots is set for August 12th. The fun will start almost before you know it!