Anthony Miller

Snap counts: Has Javon Wims passed Anthony Miller on depth chart?

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USA TODAY

Snap counts: Has Javon Wims passed Anthony Miller on depth chart?

Coming into the 2019 season, Chicago Bears second-year WR Anthony Miller was pegged as a potential breakout player on offense, and for good reason. He flashed plenty of playmaking ability as a rookie and if it wasn't for a shoulder injury that limited him for most of the 2018 season, his impact on the field and in the box score likely would've been much greater.

But in Week 1's loss to the Green Bay Packers, a curious stat emerged: Miller was out-snapped by fellow second-year wideout, Javon Wims.

In fact, Miller only appeared in 22% of the Bears' offensive plays (16 snaps) compared to 29% for Wims (21 snaps).

A five-snap differential is hardly enough to say for sure whether Wims has moved ahead of Miller on the depth chart, but the fact they're even that close is notable. Wims' usage may be a result of Trey Burton missing the game -- he offered a similar big-bodied target for Trubisky, but we don't know that for sure.

It's certainly something to monitor, especially if Wims and Miller have the same or similar snap distribution in Week 2. Wims was the Bears' most impressive offensive weapon in 2018's preseason and showed even more development this summer. 

Depth at wide receiver is a really good problem for the Bears to have, assuming Matt Nagy figures out how to use them all the right way. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in Chicago's 10-3 loss in Week 1.

 

Wide Receiver Anthony Miller returns to Bears practice for first time since training camp

Wide Receiver Anthony Miller returns to Bears practice for first time since training camp

The Bears got some good news on Monday, as wide receiver Anthony Miller (and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch) returned to practice in limited roles. 

It was the first time since the team broke camp in Bourbonnais that either had practiced, with Miller nursing an ankle sprain and Lynch dealing with an elbow injury. 

Miller led the Bears in touchdown catches last season, though a recurring shoulder injury limited his production in the second half. He finished 2018 with 33 receptions for 423 yards while averaging 12.8 yards per reception. The second-year receiver out of Memphis now has his work cut out for him before the season kicks off on September 5th. 

"When he’s on the field, he’s a playmaker," Matt Nagy said on Monday. "He can make plays. He’s a weapon for us. But we right now, just having him out the last several weeks, we’ve got to make sure he stays inside that playbook and he understands the details of this offense. That’s our focus - making sure he does that. Once you do that in the game, then your volume of plays starts to go up a little bit." 

Miller conceded that there were some minor setbacks with the ankle injury that he suffered in Bourbonnais, but was confident he'd be ready for Week 1. 

"I know everything’s going to click because we work so hard just to make things are right," Miller said. "We also go over things during meetings, so it’s not just on the field. Our chemistry I think is going to be on point this year.”

Miller also mentioned that he continues to do rehab on his shoulder to keep its strength up. That work is more of a continual process, however, and he noted that the area was pain-free. 

Bears pick up the tempo, and production, on offense

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USA TODAY

Bears pick up the tempo, and production, on offense

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The dominance of the Bears’ defense during camp ’19 has been a one-note samba for the most part, with the offense having its way on occasional plays but rarely establishing anything close to the kind of successful rhythm that coaches and players crave and every offense needs, or else.

On the last training-camp practice open to the public, attended by a camp-high 9,141, the offense showed progress discernable to the naked eye, without the filter of coach-speak or qualified assessments.

Coach Matt Nagy gave the offense an edge of sorts by increasing the tempo of plays in team sessions, interspersed with several “breaks” in which Nagy gathered the offense together for brief resets.

“Sometimes I’ll do that just to give our guys a little bit of a break and talk through the next play,” Nagy said, then deadpanned, “and if it’s a good play and it works, then it looks like I called the play and it’s not scripted.”

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and most of his huddle mates temperamentally prefer pace. According to Pro Football Focus, the offense ran 36 no-huddle snaps in 2018. Of the seven run plays from no-huddle, two went for touchdowns and two for first downs. Passing out of no-huddle was less successful overall but produced 8.7 yards per attempt, significantly more than the 6.8 yards per attempt coming out of the huddle.

The results on Saturday, whether because of the tempo change or whatever, were arguably at least incrementally better than too many of camp’s sessions. Using an informal measure of about 4 yards as the standard for a “successful” play, and tracking just the No. 1 unit, the offense in the first team session was successful on only three plays, vs. eight stops by the defense, including one near interception of Mitchell Trubisky.

In the second No. 1 team session, the offense “won” five plays, the defense five as well. In the third session, the offense netted the four-yard standard six times, vs. three stops by the defense.

“We had a good practice, great weather,” Nagy said. “We did some uptempo stuff just to change things up a little bit for the guys, the monotony of it, and I think they handled it well for the most part.”

Not insignificantly perhaps, the day concluded with just one total interception for the three offensive units, led by Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.

Also not insignificantly, the offense was managing its steps forward without a full measure of No. 2 wide receiver Anthony Miller, who was sidelined during practice with an unspecified foot issue, and without tight end Trey Burton, still being held out after offseason hernia surgery.

“I've played in this offense for four years now, I believe, so I know it like the back of my hand for the most part,” Burton said. “I just can't wait to get back out there.”

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