The Road to 53: The case for fullback Brit Miller

Brit Miller helps seal the inside on a 3rd-and-1 against KC

As the Rams work toward building their 53-man roster, a surprising name is making a lot of lists: fullback Brit Miller (#49, pictured above sealing the edge with a cut block on a crucial 3rd and one carry).

With apologies to Keith Toston, who is having a fine camp, if the Rams keep only 4 running backs, Miller is going to be that fourth guy. If for no other reason, watch how the Rams were able to simply take over a game on the first two drives against the Chiefs with a revitalized running game. 

Surprised? I am, especially considering McDaniels’ track record of running out one-back formations. But some tape-grinding Rams fans at are way ahead of the game.

@RamsHerd He’s had a hell of a camp, he’s been destroying fools on game days. No, not surprised.
@RamsHerd @DR_RAM_ McD is a new man. Whatever it takes to unleash the @sj39 beast. A nice ground game will get us more 83 yd bombs to BGib.

Jackson can still be successful running as a single back, as he showed in the game-opening 25-yard scamper up the middle. But he openly prefers having that lead blocker move the defensive formation. Ideally, the fullback either clears a path by driving through the first hit, or provides a cutback lane by drawing attention to himself. 

For one example, dial up Steven’s 8-yard run inside the red zone that sets up Bradford’s touchdown pass to Sims-Walker, and look for the block being set by the guy you can’t see. 

The Chiefs’ Tamba Hali (#91 at the bottom of the frame) is left unblocked to crash the pocket from the blind side, the direction Jackson is going to cut back toward. But Miller is there running ahead of him, forcing Hali to take a wider path and whiffing entirely on any chance of stopping Jackson. It’s a little play, but the success of the run game is entirely dependent on little plays that aren’t often seen at first glance.

The Rams had a lot of success running outside the tackles against the Chiefs, and more often than not a lead blocker was there to help seal the edge.

With Miller in on roughly 40% of plays, Jackson’s averaged nearly 5 yards per carry on 15 carries, something he did only twice last season. Brit Miller’s third game as a Ram against New Orleans in week 14 was the most recent. Jackson racked up 96 yards on 16 carries before the team had to abandon the run game in a 31-13 loss.

Moreover, Miller is providing real teeth to the upback handoff on third and short plays, unlike his predecessor Mike Karney. Miller is three for three by my count in these situations so far in the preseason.

When Karney was released, it was taken as an early death knell for the fullback position under McDaniels. With Miller playing like he is, though, we just might see an unexpected (and welcome) revitalization of power football in St Louis.