MILLER’S TRY­ING TO CATCH ON

Third-year BEARS WR has tools to suc­ceed in nfl but still needs to learn finer points of be­ing a pro

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY MARK PO­TASH | mpotash@suntimes.com | @markpotash

When Bears wide re­ceivers coach Mike Fur­rey was asked last week about An­thony Miller’s sud­den spate of pro­duc­tion late last season — five games in which he caught 33 passes for 431 yards, in­clud­ing 100-yard games against the Lions and Pack­ers — Fur­rey pointed to Miller’s mat­u­ra­tion as an NFL re­ceiver who fi­nally un­der­stood that it takes more than tal­ent to suc­ceed at this level.

“It’s just his con­tin­u­ing growth to un­der­stand what it takes off the field and how he’s gotta pre­pare dur­ing the week to be able to be suc­cess­ful,” Fur­rey said. “I re­ally be­lieve he’s learned that.”

Miller’s take on the same sub­ject was 100 per­cent An­thony Miller. You gotta love this guy.

“I think I just started get­ting more op­por­tu­ni­ties to catch the ball,” he said. “I think when I get a chance to get my hands on it, I can be some­thing spe­cial.”

Never change, An­thony Miller. Well, check that — the 25-year-old needs to con­tinue to ma­ture into the role of a pro­duc­tive NFL wide re­ceiver, learn­ing the nu­ances of be­ing a pro on and off the field. But there’s an­other part of Miller that just needs to keep be­ing An­thony Miller — brash, con­fi­dent and a lit­tle bit in-your-face.

The Bears’ of­fense is in dire need of a po­tent com­ple­ment to Allen Robin­son af­ter Robin­son dom­i­nated the wide re­ceiver pro­duc­tion in 2019 — 48.3 per­cent of the re­cep­tions (98), 47.6 per­cent of the yards (1,147) and 50 per­cent of the touch­downs (seven).

With 2019 fourth-round draft pick Ri­ley Ri­d­ley, vet­eran Ted Ginn, Javon Wims and 2020 fifth-round draft pick Dar­nell Mooney, the Bears feel they have plenty of can­di­dates to fill that role. But the 5-11, 199-pound Miller — whom the Bears traded into the sec­ond round in 2018 to ac­quire with the 51st over­all pick — still is at the top of the list.

He had 52 re­cep­tions for 656 yards and two touch­downs last season — most of it in the sec­ond half be­fore suf­fer­ing a shoul­der in­jury in the season fi­nale against the Vik­ings.

Healthy again en­ter­ing train­ing camp, Miller is pre­par­ing like he’s ready to take the gi­ant leap ex­pected of him. And for the record, while Miller isn’t quite as en­thu­si­as­tic about the whole ma­tu­rity/per­sonal growth nar­ra­tive, he en­dorses it and gets it.

“When [Fur­rey] says, ‘This isn’t the play­ground any­more,’ he’s say­ing I have more re­spon­si­bil­ity this year within the of­fense, and I’m ready to take that role,” Miller said. “I’m ready for any chal­lenge he throws my way.

“I don’t want any M-A’s [missed as­sign­ments]. I want to be per­fect on the field. I want to do each and ev­ery play right and to the best of my abil­ity. So I just want to have a smooth year as far as know­ing what I’m sup­posed to do.”

The chal­lenge for Miller is to grow up — and still be him­self. He re­cently be­came a fa­ther, which fig­ures to help the ma­tu­rity process. But this is still the guy who told us how awe­some he is when he was drafted.

“I’m more than a re­ceiver,” he said. “But I have all the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a re­ceiver. I can run, catch the ball, my YAC [yards af­ter catch], I would call it a 10 out of 10. I have great hands, and I’m also phys­i­cal, which a lot of peo­ple don’t know about me. My pas­sion for the game is just un­matched, es­pe­cially at the po­si­tion I play.”

That at­ti­tude of­ten is part of the pack­age for NFL wide re­ceivers — the cat­a­lyst for some, the ruin of oth­ers. Miller is at an early cross­roads, try­ing to strad­dle that fine line that leads to star­dom. He knows it’s up to him to find the right bal­ance. In the NFL, you have to learn the game to be the man.

“When I was drafted, I was just think­ing of the game as just go­ing out there and play­ing, not re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to the depth of my route or the [small­est] de­tails of this game. I was re­ally just go­ing out there and play­ing,” Miller said.

“But when you re­ally un­der­stand the game and the con­cepts of the play and what kind of de­fense is back there, then it puts you on an­other level. And I think this year I’ve gained a lot of knowl­edge, and I’ve been work­ing pretty hard — so I can’t wait to see the re­sult.” ✶

“It’s just his con­tin­u­ing growth to un­der­stand what it takes off the field and how he’s gotta pre­pare dur­ing the week to be able to be suc­cess­ful. I re­ally be­lieve he’s learned that.”

Mike Fur­rey, bears re­ceivers coach, on an­thony miller

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

An­thony Miller had nine catches for 118 yards and a touch­down against the Pack­ers on Dec. 15, 2019, at Lam­beau Field.

LEON HALIP/GETTY IM­AGES

An­thony Miller had 33 re­cep­tions for 431 yards and two touch­downs in a five-game stretch in the sec­ond half of the 2019 season.

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