The Make-or-Break Player for Bears Passing Game
Beyond quarterback, there is one key player who can make all the difference in the Bears' passing game this year.
It's a situation where his production could be the step between a productive passing game or mediocrity, and this distinction should especially make fantasy owners take note.
The player whose production is most critical this season is third-year wide receiver Anthony Miller.
Miller can make or break the Bears offense.
Offensive coaches and quarterbacks already know what they can expect from Allen Robinson II, whether the Bears get him a contract extension or not. Robinson is going to be their leading receiver and the money guy, the one they can count on when it's third-and-6 or when they need a big catch at the end of games like against Denver last season.
At tight end, they're not going to be able to count on anything. It's a matter of hoping more than counting on someone. Whatever they get is going to be a pleasant surprise.
Jimmy Graham's age and switch to a new offense, the fact Demetrius Harris has never been anything more than a third tight end and Cole Kmet's rookie status make production from this position anything but dependable.
They'll get an occasional big play from speed on the outside, whether it's 35-year-old veteran Ted Ginn Jr., or rookie Darnell Mooney.
They can't have the occasional anything from Miller. His production can't be the pleasant surprise, or whatever it is their pieced-together tight end corps supplies.
As the slot receiver and one of the "adjusters" within the offensive system coach Matt Nagy employs, Miller's role is vital.
The Bears had Taylor Gabriel make 67 receptions in 2018 and only 29 last year. With 38 missing catches, Miller stepped up to get 19 more than his rookie year and make up for part of this.
Now Gabriel is gone. The "Z" receivers are not in prime NFL production years. Having the slot receiver step up makes all the sense in the world.
According to thedraftnetwork.com, Miller lined up in the slot for the 13th most snaps in the league last year. Considering Miller wasn't on the field for 36% of the team's snaps, had virtually no preparation time in the 2019 offseason due to surgery, missed preseason due to an ankle injury, missed most of the final game with another shoulder injury, and improved from 33 to 52 receptions anyway, his totals this year logically could take a huge leap forward.
And we haven't even begun to discuss the difference in his totals a better passing quarterback could make.
It might not be a colossal jump in terms of reception numbers, but rather yardage and touchdowns. Not that the reception total shouldn't increase as well, but 52 isn't a low total considering Allen Robinson gobbled up 154 of 580 passing targets last year. Something in the high 60s for catches might be possible for Miller.
It's part of the reason Pro Football Network has labeled Miller a dynasty value top buy for fantasy football owners.
Pro Football Focus last year had labeled Miller a breakout wide receiver for 2019 and was right, which is why much of this offseason analysis saying Miller is a breakout player this year is silly.
Making 52 receptions in an NFL season already is doing the breaking out. Now, as a key cog in the passing game, Miller appears ready to roll and could make the big difference in their passing game.