Bears

One reason why Anthony Miller may be on the route to immediate success in the NFL

One reason why Anthony Miller may be on the route to immediate success in the NFL

A year after three wide receivers went in the first 10 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, two were picked in the first round this year — and it took 75 percent of the draft to be competed for D.J. Moore (No. 24, Carolina Panthers) and Calvin Ridley (No. 26, Atlanta Falcons) to go off the board. 

Perhaps the top end of this year’s receiver class was “weak,” in a sense. But while the NFL is firmly a passing league, it’s becoming harder for teams to find plug-and-play receivers through the draft who have a baseline knowledge of route concepts. 

Anthony Miller was the sixth receiver taken in the 2018 draft, and brings to the Bears an important trait: He’s well-regarded as a route runner despite playing in what's, on the surface, a typical college spread offense at Memphis. 

“You want to be able to see throughout their pro days, the combine, what they put on tape — any time you can see a route that relates to what you do as an offense, you kind of tag that and say, ‘OK. Hey, there it is. I found one,’” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. 

The Bears identified plenty of those tags with Miller, but one in particular stands out: His ability to set the angle with his quarterback. 

And that’s not something to take for granted. Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote about this earlier in April:

Take one of the most basic components of the NFL route tree: the curl. For years, the receiver was taught to run 12 yards, plant hard and work back to the quarterback at a 45-degree angle. This allows the quarterback to throw a split-second early—like when the receiver digs his heel in to turn.

Now, receivers are coming out of school running the curl as a continuous semicircle, which creates myriad problems at the next level.

“When you’re running a semicircle, you’re keeping your arms moving and chopping, some coaches think its great because you’re playing fast, you’re not stopping,” Proehl says. “But a guy running a semicircle, if I’m running it and a guy like Kelvin Benjamin is running it, our circles are going to be different. The quarterback has to wait for you to come out and square your shoulders. That takes more time.”

That extra time means defensive backs have a window to undercut the route.

“When you come to him, plant your foot in the ground and come back at an angle, you’re boxing him out. He’s behind you. You create and maintain separation with your angle coming back to the QB.”

That setting-the-angle skill far too many college receivers lack is something the Bears quickly identified as a part of Miller’s game. 

“And so with Anthony, you see a guy that at the top of his route, he likes to stick the top of the route and it’s sharp, so what that does is it sets the angle for the quarterback,” Nagy said. “And you don’t see that from every wide receiver. There’s a violent move for him to be able to set angles, whether it’s a slant route, a post route, an out route, et cetera, he’s aggressive with it and I think that fits his style of play.”

And here’s what Miller’s college wide receivers coach, David Johnson, had to say about his ability to set the angle:

“He understands angles, he understands — and I think one of the biggest things people don’t recognize, his first three steps, everything is at full speed, whether he’s blocking, he’s running a route, the first three steps are important,” Johnson said. “He’s coming off the ball and making everything look vertical. He’s always in attack mode, and that helped him with route-running, putting the defensive back always on the defensive and thinking he doesn’t want to get ran by. He plays fast, he plays a lot faster than his 40 is, especially when he gets the ball in his hands.”

This may seem like a minor detail, but for Miller’s ability to quickly find success in the NFL, it’s important. Reliably setting an angle for Mitch Trubisky should help Miller and his new quarterback build some chemistry throughout the offseason program and training camp. 

And, more immediately, it’s one fewer thing wide receivers coach Mike Furrey will have to begin to teach him this weekend during rookie minicamp. And that means the limited practice time Furrey will have with his second-round pupil can be spent on, perhaps, topics less basic to a wide receiver than setting the angle on a curl route.

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

Rams' trade for Jalen Ramsey will have a direct impact on Bears' season

The Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade for Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey Tuesday night, sending two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) and a 2021 fourth-round pick for the superstar defender.

It's the second trade the Rams have accomplished in one day. Los Angeles shipped CB Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for LB Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick earlier on Tuesday, completing a makeover in their secondary that will have a direct impact the Chicago Bears this season.

The Bears travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in Week 11 as part of a brutal five-game stretch coming off of their bye week. Ramsey makes it even worse.

The Rams had little choice but to pull off a mega-deal like this. They're entering Week 7 with the 19th ranked pass defense and an underwhelming 3-3 record, a far cry from the expectations for last year's Super Bowl runner-up.

Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense will have their hands full on November 17. The combination of Aaron Donald on the defensive line and Ramsey in the secondary is as intimidating as any defensive duo in the NFL and is capable of destroying even the smartest and most efficient passing attacks. And that's not exactly Chicago's pass offense so far.

Trubisky, who's expected to return from a left shoulder injury Sunday against the Saints, hasn't proven this season that he's capable of staring down the barrel of a Donald-Ramsey alliance. It will be a ridiculously difficult challenge for a quarterback who's still finding his way as a pro.

Ramsey has missed the last three games for a variety of reasons, most of which appear as tricks to remain healthy in anticipation of a trade.  He's a two-time Pro Bowler and has nine interceptions from 2016-2018.

Now, Ramsey is an opponent on Chicago's 2019 schedule. 

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

The Bears didn't play last week, but did that stop them from falling in Power Rankings across The Web? It did not! Going into the bye on a loss never fails to stoke the panic. Here's what they're saying: 

NBC Sports Chicago -- #16
Their power rankings slide is because of how well other teams performed Sunday; Chicago doesn't feel like a top-15 team when compared to the rest of the NFL.

NFL.com -- #9
The Bears do have a player who's good at all that stuff when given a chance -- that would be running back Tarik Cohen, who already had nine such "big plays" through five games a year ago. In 2019? He has just one, despite being healthy and available each week. Bears coach Matt Nagy needs to get Cohen involved.

ESPN -- #16
Their vertical passing attack is limited with Mitchell Trubisky or Chase Daniel at quarterback. The offense has been equally ineffective on the ground. Chicago has gained eight or more rushing yards on just 10 running plays through five games.

Bleacher Report -- #10
Chicago had best make good use of this week off and get things figured out. Four of the team's next five games after the bye are against teams that made the postseason a year ago, including trips to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.

Sports Illustrated -- #17
A Vikings win this week and strong starts from the Lions and Packers suddenly raises the stake Sunday’s game against the Saints. Unfortunately, New Orleans has a similarly great defense and a much better offense than the Bears.

CBS Sports -- #13
They come off the bye looking to generate more on offense. But it was the defense that also had some issues in London. That unit needs to pick it up as well.

USA Today -- #14
Coming out of bye, club currently just outside playoff picture hits brutal stretch with just two of final 11 opponents currently below .500.

Yahoo Sports -- #11
The Bears have only two games left against teams who are currently under .500. They face the Chargers and Giants, who are both 2-4 and not totally incapable. If the Bears make it back to the playoffs, it’ll be impressive.

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