Most of the week leading up to the Super Bowl you’re going to read stories about Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, Bruce Arians and Andy Reid, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. Those seem to be the names that are making the biggest headlines. But we already know the stars are going to show up. The players who might make the difference between winning and losing likely won’t come from those we already expect.
For the Buccaneers, their offensive weapons are headlined by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Gronkowski. Those three were the top three players in terms of targets, attention, and output during the season, especially in the Buccaneers’ big run in the second half of the season and into the playoffs. But there is a name a little further down that target list who might be the one to take the Buccaneers over the top.
Wide receiver Scotty Miller.
Miller, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound sixth-round pick from Bowling Green, played in 38% of the team’s offensive snaps this year, but the volume of in-game reps went down once Antonio Brown was added to the roster. Yet, down the stretch, Miller has reminded opposing defenses that when he is on the field—even if it might not be as much—he has to be accounted for. Just ask Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King.
Miller’s name has become a bigger one over the last few weeks, first for that back-breaking touchdown to end the first half in Green Bay during the NFC Championship Game, but also because he said that he would bet on himself in a foot race versus Tyreek Hill. Both things were very bold, and even Hill himself had to respect it.
But Miller is also in national news because of something that is out of his control that could play a big role in his usage during the final game of the season.
Brown initially appeared on the Buccaneers’ injury report with a “doubtful” tag due to a knee injury. Now, it’s important to remember that the initial injury tag is made as if the game would have been played last Sunday, not the Sunday that the game is actually played on after the week of rest. So there is a good chance that Brown will, in fact, play in the Super Bowl. But if he does, or if he’s not 100%, that opens the door for more Miller Time.
What could that look like?
In the first half of the season before Brown’s arrival (Week 9), Miller saw five or more targets in five of eight games he played in. After Brown was inserted into the depth chart, Miller never saw more than three targets, including throughout the playoffs. But, as you would expect, he does have a streamlined role, even if it isn’t as utilized, and that is the deep ball.
Of the Buccaneers’ main pass catchers (Evans, Godwin, Gronkowski, Brown), none have a higher yards-per-catch average than Miller, who leads the team with 15.2. That number is where it is because of a big bump in the last four games. During the playoffs, Miller’s statistical output has been above his average. This all becomes very interesting when you note that the Kansas City Chiefs are a bottom-10 team in the league in terms of 20-plus yard plays (54) and 40-plus yard plays (9) given up in the passing game.
According to Next Gen Stats, Miller is 13th in the NFL this season in average yards of separation at the time of the catch for wide receivers. That, as you would suspect, means that his speed and quickness, on average, creates an elite level of separation, likely due to the fact that he’s getting vertical and winning most of his foot races.
The Buccaneers, like the Chiefs, put opposing defenses in tough spots due to the types of players they can trot out onto the field on offense on any given play. When mulling over your game predictions, don’t forget about Miller is a potential X-factor, whether Brown is there or not.
- Jun 24, 2022
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