By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears have been pouring over waiver wires, other team’s practice squads and the free agent scrap heap trying to find players that can come in and fit their system. They have spent a lot of time evaluating players to see if they are the right fit. And they have carried over some of the players that played during former head coach Marc Trestman’s regime to see if they are good fits. Some of those players have worked out while others have gone away replaced by new players that the new regime has brought in.
One of those hold over players that has, in just the past two games, worked out very well is tight end Zach Miller. Miller, who was quiet to start the season has recently burst onto the scene with well above average play and a knack for catching passes. This has been a true “coming out” party for Miller over the past couple of games and there could be much more on the way from this dynamic player.
The following is a look at Miller’s short and injury filled career in the NFL. There is a look at some of the statistics that he has posted in his career as well as a little bit about where he has been and what the future holds for him.
Miller was born October 4th, 1984. He played his high school ball at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo, Nebraska where he earned All-State honors as a senior. He was also very good at basketball and earned All-State honorable mention honors in that sport. He did have school records in football as a senior passing for 1,200 yards and rushing for 980 yards.
Miller began his college career at the University of Nebraska as a walk on but later transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. While was at UNO he was a three year captain of the football team and was basically a quarterback until later on in his career. While playing quarterback he passed for 4096 yards and had 26 touchdowns. He also rushed for a total of 3122 yards and 50 touchdowns which is a school record.
His first try as a tight end came in the team’s game in the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl and scouts saw him as a tight end after that and that’s how his NFL career would end up is as a tight end.
At his school’s pro day, Miller put up some good measurable the most notable running a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash. His pro day, his athleticism and his play in college almost assured him that he would get drafted. Miller was indeed drafted, by the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the sixth round (180th Overall) of the 2009 NFL draft.
For the 2009 season, Miller played in a total of 14 games catching 21 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He did miss two games with a knee injury. In his 2010 season with the Jaguars, Miller had 20 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown. He started in five of 15 games for Jacksonville but missed the final game of the season due to a concussion.
In the 2011 season Miller caught just four passes for 42 yards and missed some significant time with injuries during that season. In the 2012 season Miller would be placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season. He was waived as injured from the Jaguars a little later on that year but wasn’t picked up by any teams during the year.
Miller landed in Tampa Bay but his stay there didn’t last long as he was cut just prior to the start of the season. Miller was out of football up until December of 2013 when he was signed by the Bears to a reserve/future contract.
He played the 2014 preseason and had some very good plays in that stretch and looked like a promising player at the tight end position. It was not meant to be however as Miller suffered a foot injury in and was placed on season ending injured reserve not able to return to game action until the following preseason. It was thought, by some, that this might be his last go round in the NFL. He spent a lot of time injured and just couldn’t get out of the training room.
The Bears saw some potential in Miller though and signed him to a contract extension in February of 2015. He made it through preseason unscathed and played regularly for the Bears in their games. His big moment came, first, when he caught a one-handed 25 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jay Cutler against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night football. He would follow up that strong performance with an 87 yard touchdown catch and run against the Rams this past Sunday. He also caught another touchdown pass in that game. All told, he had five catches for 107 total yards.
As long as he can stay healthy, the future looks bright for Miller. Showing what he has been capable of has cemented him as a fixture on offense and it can be assured that Cutler will be looking his way more often when he has to get rid of the ball. Miller should see more looks and more touches as the season goes on and could become a larger part of the Bears offense.
Look for Miller to stick around for yet another season next year as long as health doesn’t become a factor for him. His health has caused him to miss a lot of time in his career and he is just finally starting to get back on track and play well. It will be important that he remains healthy for the rest of the season and beyond because one more injury that causes him to miss a lot of time could signal the end of his NFL career. Keep a close eye on Miller. He is bound to have a stellar year and contribute well on offense of the Bears this season.