Anthony Miller can hold the key to the Bears offense in 2020, unless Matt Nagy completely revamps what he has been doing.
The third-year wide receiver is coming off of a second straight offseason shoulder surgery and most likely will not be available until training camp, but Miller does something very important in the Bears offense.
He's an adjuster.
"He’s in a position where we move, he’s in that adjuster position we call it," Nagy said last season. "And so mentally he’s got to know a lot of that."
Nagy explained the position last season.
"Well, in this offense, there's a lot of things you can do as a wide receiver that your route may change based off the defense," Nagy said last season. "And when your route changes based off the defense, it might open somebody else up."
So as Miller grew into his role last year, his knowledge of the offensive role became better. He was able to take on this responsibility.
When Taylor Gabriel went out with a concussion the second time, Miller's production took a step upward. He had six catches for 77 yards against the Giants in the game when Gabriel went out for the season, nine for 140 yards against Detroit and nine for 118 against Green Bay.
It wasn't perfect, though. Miller was hardly heard from against Kansas City and in the season-finale suffered the shoulder injury that forced the second surgery.
The pandemic kept the Bears from practicing on the field but this kept Miller no further behind anyone else and this makes it possible for him to step right in where he left off.
During an online interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said he's ready to do this.
"I feel like this is going to be my best year yet," Miller told reporter Colleen Kane. "I've matured a lot on the field and I've gained a lot of knowledge, especially this offseason. I've been studying up a lot on other players and seeing what they do so I can enhance my game."
When players say they've improved or matured, it's always better to take it with a grain of salt because the perception might not be shared by those above. The coaching staff has said they've seen it in Miller, who had 33 and 52 receptions in his first two years.
Regardless, he can have a bigger impact than ever with his adjuster role. The reason Miller's role in this regard will be critical is another player who fits into that role of adjuster is new to this and might need time to work into it.
Tight end Jimmy Graham hasn't been in the Matt Nagy offense, but the U-tight end role Trey Burton had might have been an even more important adjuster position within the offense than Miller's. Now it's Graham taking Burton's spot.
"He's a guy we know well," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "But then you have to fit with our offensive scheme. And I just think there are a lot of discussions on how to maximize Jimmy Graham in this offense and that's with Matt and all of our offensive coaches and our scouts. We're all really excited about him being a Bear and how we are going to maximize him."
Graham seems to think he can assume this type of role.
"It's just like Kansas City's offense and this is the closest I've gotten to being in an offense (like) back when I was with New Orleans," Graham said in a conference call with Bears reporters.
Graham at least knows the concepts.
"All the conversations I had with coach, it just made sense to me," Graham said. "To be able to use matchups and to be able to use the tight end down the field, it's just very attractive. That's what I am, I'm that matchup problem."
Until he's been doing it a while, though, Graham won't have the adjuster aspect down as well. So in the meantime, the role Miller has and knows will be critical.
"When you have good adjusters, guys that can move around and are good football players, then I become a better coach because then you have good plays," Nagy said. "But it's a credit to those guys of being able to move around. That's a part of this offense—that's not anything new. That's nothing new that we do—it's just how much we do it.
"But you definitely have to have some guys who know what they're doing at the position."
They're counting on Miller to know.