Anthony Miller On The Cusp of Breaking Out

Photo: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

It's been mostly tough sledding for the rookie class of wide receivers at the halfway point of the season. Rarely will rookie wideouts enter the league and set the world on fire, but the class' production has mostly been modest. Only three rookie receivers have accumulated over 300 yards so far: Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, and Courtland Sutton.

While some other rookie wide receivers across the league have begun to find their footing, the second-half of the season will likely be more kind. Based on film study, the rookie wide receiver most likely to take a massive leap down the stretch is Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears.

Miller entered the NFL after a storied career at Memphis that saw him post consecutive 90+ reception, 1,400+ yard, 10+ touchdown campaigns. Miller had excellent athletic testing at his Pro Day, which alleviated concerns over an injured foot. The Bears would select Miller with the 51st pick in the Draft, the sixth wide receiver off the board.

Right away in training camp, it appeared that Miller belonged in the NFL. The hype began to build about Miller and second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky being the future of the Bears offense. Unfortunately for Miller, he suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss some precious game and practice time, throwing a curveball into his development and rapport with his quarterback.

After their last two games, it has become obvious that Miller and Trubisky are finding each other more on the same page, with progressing chemistry and comfort between them.

In the Bears Week 7 matchup with New England, Miller was able to shake loose vertically and separate from the Patriot defensive backs. However, on three separate occasions, the ball placement from Trubisky was off and they resulted in incompletions.

Additionally, the Bears schemed up a play for Miller in the redzone. He motioned across the formation and had the defensive back trail the motion, signaling man coverage. Miller stemmed the defensive back outside, and crossed back underneath to generate separation in the middle of the field. Trubisky sailed the throw through the back of the endzone.

When the young duo were able to get on the same page, their play was a thing of beauty. On this next play, you can see the potential that the Trubusky-Miller connection has. Miller runs a deep out, with a slight hesitation that makes the defensive back pause. Trubisky throws with anticipation before Miller has completed his break, and hits him in stride.

In the Bears most recent game against the New York Jets, there were even more examples of Trubisky and Miller's budding chemistry. Running an under, Miller does an excellent job of settling in the window of a zone coverage. Trubisky is able to find him in the void and Miller picks up yards after the catch. A veteran play by two youngsters resulted in a first down.

Despite the incompletions that Trubisky threw to Miller up the seam against New England, they went back to the well against the Jets. This time, however, Miller found open space and Trubisky hit him with with his ball placement. Miller holds on through contact, whereas the previous week against New England he wasn't able to do so.

Potentially the biggest example of the trust between quarterback and wide receiver came on Anthony Miller's touchdown reception. Running the concept known as "Double China-7," Miller has a corner route in the low redzone. The Overhang defender does an excellent job of sinking to take away the outside throw of the corner route, so Trubisky actually bends Miller back towards the inside. What essentially amounted to a "back shoulder" corner route resulted in a touchdown because of the trust Trubisky had in Miller to adjust to the pass.

As with every game, there will still examples of missed opportunities between Trubisky and Miller, including an incompletion where Miller was open on a corner route. However, the growing trust and chemistry was obvious on Miller’s three receptions.

With Miller’s ability, target share (29 through 6 games) and growing development with Trubisky, he is primed for a breakout second-half to the season.

Written By:

Brad Kelly

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Wide Receivers Coach at Salve Regina University. Salve Regina Football ‘15.