Fans of the Chicago Bears have been waiting for wide receiver Anthony Miller to break out. The talented wideout will be entering his third year in the league, and after showing glimpses of potential throughout his first two seasons, many think this will be the year.
Others wonder whether Miller would have already broken out had he been working with a different quarterback. The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak recently examined Miller’s play in great detail, from his separation and release to the way he runs deep routes. Solak points out Miller’s faults: he sometimes runs routs a bit differently than he should, his YAC isn’t the greatest, and he has had a few costly drops — as well as some costly penalties.
But Solak suggests that while the third-year receiver has room for improvement, his learning curve could have absolutely been helped by more consistent quarterback play.
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Solak: Bears’ Lack of Trust in Trubisky Severely Limits Team’s WRs
Noting Miller was 13th in the league in snaps at the slot position in 2019, Solak compared the Bears wideout to the likes of Golden Tate, Danny Amendola and Cole Beasley. But he also noted that Miller’s skill set is versatile enough that he should be contributing in more ways than just a heavy rotation in the slot:
“You wonder to what degree poor quarterback play or poor offensive design are negatively affecting Miller’s growth … We can’t know exactly how much blame belongs on which shoulders, but it’s enough to say that Miller runs routes well enough that he should be more productive to all three levels of the field, not just as a quality slot machine … The only reason he can’t expand his profile as a deep receiver is if the quarterback throwing him the football isn’t trusted to go deep that often,” Solak wrote.
Miller Had an Uneven 2019 Season — But So Did the Entire Team
Miller caught 52 passes for 656 yards and two touchdowns last year, and he was second on the team in receiving TDs his rookie season. Solak suggests Miller didn’t breakout last year due to a regression by the entire team, as well as eyebrow-raising game plans courtesy of head coach Matt Nagy. “Trubisky’s 2018 play deteriorated into fear-riddled and inaccurate 2019 quarterbacking, as Nagy’s questionable play-calling and spread offense was criticized for its cuteness and simplicity,” Solak wrote.
He then suggested Miller may have to wait for his breakout until he is paired with a veteran quarterback, or, at the very least, a more accurate one who has the trust of his head coach/offensive coordinator.
“Plainly, it would be nice to see Miller in a different offense with a different quarterback. He’d potentially see more reps as an outside receiver and a more diverse tree of deep routes accordingly—and projects as a good option at Z receiver that has the necessary zip and quicks to release against tight man coverage. Even in a similar role as he currently has, Miller would be more productive if he had a veteran quarterback who not only was able to help him through some of his mental errors against coverage, but also adjust to his looser play style and “make him right” as the situation demands it.”
It’s difficult to fault Solak for this logic. Nagy’s scheme and his failure to adjust it to the strengths of his players undeniably hurt the Bears last year. But so did Trubisky’s inexperience, and his inability to read defenses was so glaring, Nagy said it should be an area of focus for him moving forward.
Whether veteran Nick Foles could help the situation is anyone’s guess; it’s likely Trubisky will get the nod out of the gate, and Foles has yet to prove he can be a capable starter for an entire season. If Miller’s 2020 season starts off as slow as his 2019 season did, Solak warns other teams who are better equipped to utilize Miller in their offenses may try to poach him. And while Bears fans want to see him finally break out, they certainly don’t want to watch him do it while wearing another jersey.