Bears

Bears Season in Review: Anthony Miller

Bears Season in Review: Anthony Miller

The Bears began the 2019 season with such high hopes on offense. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was poised to emerge as one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks while wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller made their case as one of the league’s best starting tandems.

Robinson did his part but it took much longer than expected for Miller to produce.

By the time the season ended, Miller posted career-highs in receptions (52) and yards (656), but it wasn’t until Week 5 that he finally started to produce at a somewhat consistent level. It took Miller until Week 13 to post his first 100-yard game (140 yards against the Lions), and while he ended the year as one of Trubisky’s best playmakers, concerns linger about how high his ceiling actually is. 

There’s no denying Miller’s talent. He can be a lethal route-runner and has the quick-twitch athleticism that many of today’s top pass-catchers possess. But as coach Matt Nagy pointed out throughout the season, Miller’s attention to detail leaves much to be desired. Whether it’s running the wrong route or letting his emotions get the best of him, there are too many bad moments to ignore. 

In a weird way, the Bears’ disappointing season helped mask some of Miller’s frustrating mistakes. It was a bad year all around for the team; Miller’s absent-mindedness was the least of the offense’s worries. 

That’ll change heading into 2020. Miller’s role is expected to grow even more, and with that comes an even greater amount of pressure to be a pro’s pro. 

Was Miller’s season a complete letdown in 2019? No. His strong finish was a better reflection of who he is as a player than his slow start was. But he’s now a veteran receiver, and he has to be play like one in 2020.

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

Chicago Bears planning a run at free-agent tight end Austin Hooper

The 2020 NFL Combine is revving up off the field as much as it is on the field. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends kicked off the workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, but it's what's going on inside the bars and restaurants in Indianapolis that should have Bears fans interested.

According to Jason Leiser of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears are preparing to make a run at prized free-agent tight end, Austin Hooper. The Falcons playmaker is the top free-agent tight end on the market this year and according to Atlanta's general manager Thomas Dimitroff, he'll be given the opportunity to find out what his market value is.

That number is likely to come close to $10 million per season, which seems like an impossible price to pay for a Bears team that's already up against the salary cap. But with a new CBA on the horizon, everything we thought we know about the salary cap could soon change.

Hooper would instantly provide the Bears with the kind of second-level threat the passing game's been lacking since, well, forever. Or, since Martellus Bennett left town in 2016.

Ryan Pace has to be careful, however. He's swung and missed on two free-agent tight ends since becoming the Bears GM. First, it was Dion Sims in 2017. Then came Trey Burton in 2018. 

Sims lasted just two seasons in Chicago. He totaled 17 catches as a Bear. Burton, who's battled injuries over his first two years in Chicago, had just 14 catches in 2019.

Pace doesn't really have a choice but to pay up at this point. If he hits on Hooper, the misses on Sims and Burton will be quickly forgotten.

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These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

These 3 tight ends improved their stock at the 2020 NFL Combine

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said earlier this week that he is going to explore every avenue when it comes to upgrading the team's tight end group. The 2020 NFL Draft will be a great place to look for the pass-catcher Matt Nagy's offense needs at the position, and three prospects elevated their draft stock at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Stephen Sullivan, LSU

Sullivan, the wide receiver-turned-tight end, was one of the most impressive players at the 2020 Senior Bowl, and he continued his rise up the draft board with a strong showing in Indianapolis.

Sullivan, who weighed in at 6-5, 248 pounds, ran a 4.66 40-yard dash, which tied for second-fastest among all tight ends. His 36.5-inch vertical jump is an elite number, too.

He was smooth in the on-field drills and showcased his effortless catching style. 

Sullivan won't be an early-round prospect. He's probably going to slip into Day 3. And if he does, the Bears have to give him a long, hard look. He has a chance to be the biggest sleeper in the draft (regardless of position) who can become an impact playmaker in the NFL.

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins, like Sullivan, ran a 4.66 and looked every bit the part of a move tight end. He was smooth on downfield routes and caught the ball cleanly (for the most part). One of the concerns surrounding Hopkins is his tendency to double-catch. He did a nice job quieting that worry just a bit.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

Albert 'O' was the big winner with his blazing 4.49 40-time, which ranks among the 10-best 40-times for a tight end since 1999, per the Mock Draftable database.

'O' is coming off a very disappointing season when he totaled just 26 catches for 306 yards and six touchdowns. But he lost his quarterback from 2018 -- Drew Lock -- and never got into an offensive rhythm in 2019.

It wasn't a perfect day for him, however. He loafed the gauntlet drill and continued the narrative around his game that suggests he doesn't give 100% effort on every down. But it's impossible to ignore his speed at 6-5, 258 pounds.

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