Anthony Miller

For the Bears and Anthony Miller, the 2020 offseason already feels like déjà vu

For the Bears and Anthony Miller, the 2020 offseason already feels like déjà vu

To give you some perspective on where all the attention lies at Halas Hall: No one on the Bears’ offense averaged more yards per reception (12.6) this season than Anthony Miller, and the wide receiver's second shoulder surgery in as many years didn’t come up for the first 20 minutes of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy’s end-of-season press conference. 

The Bears stayed away from specifics, only saying he hurt the shoulder on a kickoff return in the season finale against the Vikings and was eyeing the start of training camp as a return date. Despite this being the fourth (counting college) time Miller’s had an issue with his shoulder, the team says they’re still optimistic it’s something he can get past. 

“This is something that we can get fixed,” Pace said. “I know they're confident in the outcome of it. This is new news to us basically just yesterday that he's going to need this surgery. But we don't have any long-term concerns with him.” 

Miller’s stats were better in Year 2, though many around Halas Hall were still frustrated with what they perceived as unfulfilled potential and streaky play. Mental mistakes plagued him early in the season and up until late November, his most notable moment was (kinda unfairly) drawing a lot of public criticism for cutting a route short – leading to an interception – against the Rams in that 17-7 loss. 

Then a switch flipped, and over the next month he proceeded to catch 41 balls for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

“When I’m more involved, I feel like I can make a lot of plays for this team,” Miller said after setting a career-high in receptions (9) and yards (140) in the Bears’ 24-20 win on Thanksgiving. 

“I just think as the season went on he got more comfortable,” Pace said. “His dedication to learning it in meetings, away from the facility, I think you felt that. When Anthony knows what he's doing on offense, he plays so fast and he can be such a dynamic part of what we're doing — and that's important going forward. I think as the season went on, you just felt his comfort level improve and our trust in him improve.” 

Now Miller will be out for all of the Bears’ offseason workouts for the second consecutive season. Nagy called the situation “tough,” and emphasized that, as always, the team’s overarching concerns with the wideout’s game have never really been about the physical. 

“We’ve got to make sure that we keep him mentally in it,” Nagy said. “And then when we get back to training camp, we pick up from there. I’m really proud of the way that he grew. He needs to continue to keep maturing on the field with some of the stuff – post-catch type deals, you know. He’s been better at that. I think that his talent is there, and I love his energy. But we want him to keep growing as a player, especially on the field with being smart with that. He’s done that.” 

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Ryan Pace provides injury updates on Roquan Smith, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton

Ryan Pace provides injury updates on Roquan Smith, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton

The Bears were hit hard by injuries in 2019. The list of players who missed time was like a who's who of Bears starters: Kyle Long, Akiem Hicks, Mitch Trubisky, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan and Trey Burton, among others.

Wide receiver Anthony Miller didn't miss any time during the regular season, but his year ended with a left shoulder injury on a kickoff return in the season finale against the Vikings.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace met with reporters Tuesday at Halas Hall and offered an update on three of Chicago's walking wounded.

Pace said Miller will likey go under the knife to repair that left shoulder, which is the same one he had worked on after his rookie season. He injured the shoulder on a kick return Sunday in Minnesota.

"We don't have any long-term concerns," Pace said of Miller's injury. "He needs to continue maturing on the field. His talent is there. I love his energy."

As expected, Smith had surgery on his torn pec and is targeting a training-camp return. Burton, meanwhile, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip and, like Smith, is expected to be healthy for camp later this summer.

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Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

The Bears' Week 15 loss to the Packers brings to an end any far-fetched hope that Chicago would complete a miraculous late-season turnaround and sneak into the playoffs as an NFC wild-card team. And while there's still a chance the Bears can finish 2019 above .500, the theme of this year will be disappointment.

There will be plenty of time to nitpick the 2019 Bears and identify what went wrong to derail a club with Super Bowl aspirations over the summer. For now, though, it's worth pointing out a positive development from Sunday's loss that advanced a recent trend of production in Chicago's passing game.

Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller each eclipsed 100 receiving yards against the Packers and continued to provide the Bears with a look at what could emerge as one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL next season.

Miller caught nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown while Robinson secured seven catches for 125 yards. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky targeted the duo a total of 29 times in the game.

"We are just trying to make plays," Robinson said Sunday after the game. "Anthony Miller is a very competitive dude. He makes plays when he gets his chance. So for me I am just trying to do the same thing; make plays and give our offense a shot to move the ball and score some touchdowns.”

Robinson's big afternoon brings his season totals to 83 catches, 1,023 yards and seven scores. It's the first time A-Rob has gone over 1,000 receiving yards since his breakout 1,400-yard season in 2015.

Miller, who was an afterthought in the passing offense for the first month of the season, now has career-highs in receptions (50) and yards (649). He's averaged 86 receiving yards per game over the last five weeks.

Trubisky's stat line has benefited quite a bit from Miller's recent surge, too. He's averaging 298 passing yards per game over the last four weeks, which spread across an entire season would total more than 4,700 yards.

It's OK to be frustrated with how 2019 turned out for the Bears. The season got off to an unbearably slow start and didn't come anywhere near the lofty expectations fans had when training camp broke. But it's become very clear over the last several games that the Bears have a strong foundation for an explosive passing game in place with Robinson and Miller.

The goal in 2020 should be to make sure the explosive duo is unleashed much sooner in the season.

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