After dropping a third down pass on the Bears’ first drive of the second half in Week 5 against the Oakland Raiders, Anthony Miller did his best Chris Sale impression and took a blade to part of his uniform.
Well, sort of: Miller had his shoulder harness cut off. He felt it was restricting him to a point that he dropped what was a catchable pass from Chase Daniel, and after it, he hauled in a season-long 32-yard catch that was a significant moment in the Bears’ furious third quarter comeback.
“I couldn’t reach all the way,” Miller said. “So I cut it off and ended up playing better after that.”
He added: “My harness is gone the rest of the year.”
It was a bit of a revelation that Miller was still even wearing the harness after he underwent offseason shoulder surgery. He described it as “precautionary” and said he wore the harness from training camp through early in the third quarter of that game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Miller wore a harness for a period in college and did after he dislocated his shoulder for the first time with the Bears in Week 3 of the 2018 season. Miller had an encouraging rookie season in spite of the impairment, leading the Bears with seven receiving touchdowns.
So the harness may not fully explain why Miller has been, outside of one play, largely invisible in the Bears’ offense this year. In five games, he’s been targeted 15 times, catching eight of those throws for 80 yards without a touchdown.
Miller, too, has looked frustrated and undisciplined at times. He's been flagged three times this year, representing half of the penalties assessed to the team's wideouts. That total is the third-highest on the team, too, behind left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (8) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (4).
Wide receivers coach Mike Furrey, though, said Miller has been more disciplined in terms of the details of the Bears’ offense — where he lines up, how deep to run his routes, etc. — and positioned his passion as a good thing.
“I would never trade his desire and his passion for success in a football game with anybody,” Furrey said. “He's got it. We knew that obviously when we drafted him coming out of Memphis, what type of football player he was and how much this game really meant to him and how passionate he was about it. He's not shy about wanting the football.”
For Miller, he’d ideally get a few passes thrown his way early in a game to generate a spark not only for him, but for the offense. Sunday’s game against the Saints may be a good opportunity for the Bears to get Miller the ball early and often, too, given the expectation that New Orleans will use stud cornerback Marshon Lattimore to try to take away Allen Robinson.
“It’s like, just the momentum for me,” Miller said. “It feels like I’m in the game, it feels like I’m involved. Just like that, if I get the ball, I’m in a better groove.”
Whatever the solution, the Bears need more out of Miller. The explosiveness, the route running ability, the passion, the work ethic — these are all things the Bears liked about him when Ryan Pace traded back into the second round a year and a half ago to draft him.
For a lagging offense, having him step up wouldn’t solve everything — but it would be part of the solution this Bears team needs.
“I just feel like something’s coming where I’m going to have to play a huge role,” Miller said, “and I’m gonna be prepared.”