Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller was supposed to have his breakout season last year. Instead, had just 52 catches for 656 yards and two touchdowns.
It wasn't a completely lost season for Miller, who ended 2019 with two games of nine catches and more than 100 yards over the final five weeks. But he didn't take that next step in his development from the dominant playmaker at Memphis to a true pro receiver.
That development appears like it's finally starting to happen, according to wide receivers coach Mike Furrey.
‘‘He’s starting to understand defenses and coverages and leverages — that stuff, it’s not just playground,’’ Furrey said on Thursday. ‘‘Now everything’s slowing down for him from a route-running standpoint. He gets in meetings, he can respond, he can communicate. He’s not tucking his hat down and [giving] one-word answers."
It typically takes three seasons before passing judgment on a wide receiver, and Miller is setting up to be a classic example of why. The NFL game didn't come as easily as the college game for him, and in order for him to reach his potential, he has to swallow his pride and be willing to learn from established vets.
He's doing that.
‘‘He’s trying to learn. He’s dropped the ego of this whole Memphis thing. Now he’s coming here and learning from Allen Robinson, asking Allen Robinson, watching Allen Robinson. . . . If you’re starting to do that stuff, you’re definitely heading in the right direction and starting to grow individually.’’
Miller's development is critical for the Bears to achieve the kind of success in the passing game that Matt Nagy is hoping for. Robinson can only do so much; he needs a quality running mate who can threaten defenses when they roll coverage his way. Miller hasn't been able to that yet, but it isn't too late for him.
The Bears spent a second-round pick on Miller in 2018 for a reason. They expect him to be a long-term starter and an electrifying playmaker with the ball in his hands. We've seen flashes of it, but it's time for him to prove that big plays are the norm, not the exception.