Every interaction with Cole Kmet.
Every conversation with Flip and Bill Lazor.
Every single moment of Justin Fields’ training camp will be discussed and scrutinized this summer. So for now, we’re going to (a) acknowledge Fields is clearly the most important player to watch while (b) casting our gaze in a different direction for the sake of variation.
And my gaze is shifting to Anthony Miller.
Sam Mustipher and Teven Jenkins are going to be given time to develop during the regular season. Kmet is going to be a productive tight end, especially with more competent quarterback play. Allen Robinson is a professional and understands his clearest path to another big contract is paved with production. None of these players are fighting for roster spots this summer. None of these guys have anything to prove before they start keeping score.
Miller is fighting for a roster spot. Miller does have a lot to prove. Because Anthony Miller is a good football player. Inconsistent? Sure. Temperamental? Absolutely. But he clearly has the ability to be productive at this level. He’s not Javon Wims, a decent talent with the brains of a duffel bag. He’s not Riley Ridley, a late-round draft pick struggling to navigate his way onto the active roster due to lack of everything.
Miller is a gifted athlete and now, with the emergence of Darnell Mooney, can slide into his more natural slot role and rip defenses apart with an endless supply of crossing routes (where he seems to be most comfortable). With Miller, it is going to be about attitude. It is going to be about embracing a new role. It is going to be about understanding his ceiling is no longer frontline NFL wide receiver – that ship has sailed. His ceiling is now dynamic role player. Miller can’t be Isaac Bruce. But he can be Ricky Proehl. And Proehl had a brilliant NFL career.
If Miller has the summer he’s capable of having, the Bears will have their most exciting passing attack in years. Robinson, Mooney, Miller in the WR1-3 roles. Marquise Goodwin and DamIere Byrd for speed. Kmet and Jimmy Graham at tight end. Tarik Cohen and Damien Williams out of the backfield. And a quarterback – even if that’s Andy Dalton in the short term – capable of getting the ball to these weapons in a timely fashion.
The Bears need Miller because, in many ways, he is the key to this passing game’s production for the coming campaign. If Miller flops, the team will be forced to look to late-round rookies and street guys to fill the role. If he doesn’t, Miller could be looking at a 50-catch season.
And Miller will be given every chance this summer to solidify the spot.