Anthony Miller's Timing Ideal for Bears Passing Game
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — For Anthony Miller's season to start any slower, he almost would have had to have been placed on injured reserve.
There's been a rapid turnaround and at exactly the right time for the Bears offense as they head into Sunday's critical game at Green Bay.
"It's a big difference," Miller said. "I just think I'm more involved as the season has gone on and hopefully my production goes up."
With 24 catches and 313 yards over the past four games, Miller has delivered while Taylor Gabriel has been missing with a concussion.
Miller passed his receptions total of last season with this stretch of games, and has 41 on the year. Last year he made 33 when he also led the Bears in touchdown catches as a rookie with seven.
It's significant now because they need another dependable wide receiver with Gabriel missing and also Javon Wims out due to a knee sprain. It could be even more significant in the future because of Gabriel's condition and also his future—although Gabriel has two more years on his contract, there is a potential out after this season that leaves the Bears taking a $2 million cap hit if they choose, according to Spotrac.com. After drafting Riley Ridley and Wims in successive seasons, it's possible they could want their younger receivers taking bigger roles.
Then again, it's not like Gabriel hasn't produced when healthy. He has more speed than any of their receivers with the possible exception of Cordarrelle Patterson.
Miller's season started exactly as could have been expected. He made no catches in the season opener and one in the second game because he was the one slowed by injury.
First he had shoulder surgery last offseason and finally returned to work in training camp, but then suffered an ankle injury and sat until the regular season.
At times he's had coaches questioning if he was on top of the playbook, but has since become more serious.
"I take a lot of pride in it, just focusing in on all the details and things I can do to get open and things I can do to help the team," Miller said.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky sees the change, or at least a renewed commitment.
"He cares. He cares a lot," Trubisky said of Miller. "He works his tail off in practice. Just that communication from him that he wants the ball, and you know that he has the ability to get open within this offense, and he's done a lot from the learning standpoint about where he belongs within each spot, within each concept.
"And even when he's not getting the ball, where he's blocking, who he's blocking. And he's earned that trust and he's been busting his tail to get on the same page with me. And he's done a tremendous job for this offense, especially stepping up when some of the other guys being out."
The 14-yard receiver screen Miller scored on against Dallas had everyone's eye because of how hard he ran to make it to the goal line.
"So what I liked about Anthony was he caught the ball and he set up his blocks and got vertical," coach Matt Nagy said. "It was aggressive. He had a mindset that no one's stopping him getting to that goal line and you felt it. And you felt the energy after he scored.
"Just again another example of guys detailing leverage, detailing what they're supposed to do, executing and making us look like good coaches."
It was his first TD of the season and Miller looks to make more.
"That's being a play maker," Miller said. "(A play maker) is going to want to be on the field, be involved and be able to make plays. That was just me, but I'm glad I'm receiving the opportunity."