Suffice to say, the Bears didn’t double dip in Round 2 of last year’s draft, sending New England their 2019 second-rounder, to move up and pluck Anthony Miller 51st overall and use him as a decoy early in his second season.Still, through two games, that’s been Miller’s greatest contribution to an anemic offense that has one total touchdown and has five combined catches for 40 receiving yards from its entire WR corps outside of Allen Robinson.
“I think Anthony, from a mental standpoint in this last game, did a great job,” Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said the Friday after the last-second win in Denver. “He ended up playing a lot of reps and played well. When you watch that tape, watch those last two plays of him running down the middle, he makes that happen. Just an unselfish role down the middle, opened up A-Rob and Mitch made a great play.”
Miller’s reps doubled in Week 2, from 16 to 32, but he again attracted only one target and remains in search of his first catch entering Monday night in Washington. At this point a year ago, Miller had commanded six targets, catching four of them for 25 yards — including a beautiful 10-yard touchdown on a corner route early in the fourth quarter providing the game’s decisive score vs. Seattle in his first-ever Monday-night appearance.
But it’s likely Miller’s prowess out of the gate a year ago, when he showed explosive route-running ability and a penchant for scoring, played a role in the defensive attention he commanded Sunday from none other than former Bears coordinator Vic Fangio. Robinson probably won’t be that open again anytime soon, and when you watch the film, as Helfrich suggests, you clearly see what appears to be a blown coverage but also Miller doing his part.
Miller told us shortly after the Week 1 loss to the Packers, when he opened on the punt coverage team and watched Tarik Cohen take most of his slot reps, that his almost-nonexistent role on offense in was “frustrating, but not much I can do about that.” Has his tune changed a bit after spending more time on the field in Week 2 and, according to his coordinator, playing a “vital” role in the game’s biggest play from scrimmage? After all, that sounds like his way of doing something positive to get the coaches attention.
“I didn’t like what was going on [in the first two weeks], but it’s all good,” Miller told PFW Friday. “I had to realize that it’s a process and I just got to do my job to the best of my ability each and every time and just be a team player. I have no problem with that.”
A diplomatic response, to be sure, perhaps like Miller telling us amid his quarterback’s immense early struggles that “we’re going to ride with Mitch no matter what. We got 100 percent faith in him so going forward I would expect big things out of him.”
While the offense obviously will only go as far Trubisky can take it, Miller also likely knows that it won’t be reaching its potential until he comes closer to his, if not his rookie contributions, including a team-high 7 receiving TDs despite playing his final 13-plus games with a recurring shoulder separation and torn labrum requiring offseason surgery.
Miller also told us that missing the majority of his second full offseason, first recovering from the shoulder surgery then battling an ankle sprain he suffered on Aug. 10, he doesn’t believe, impeded him from picking up where he left off last year in the playbook.
“I guess this is how they see it: They just want to see me grow into the player that they know I can be,” he said. “So I’m going to continue to sharpen my skills, my mind, everything that I can so I can be that threat that they want me to be.”
More like the threat the Bears need him to be.