Bears coach Matt Nagy sees growth from WR Anthony Miller, but is it real?

Miller has been erratic throughout his two seasons with the Bears. His game against the Giants could be a turning point.

SHARE Bears coach Matt Nagy sees growth from WR Anthony Miller, but is it real?

Miller had six catches for a season-high 77 yards against the Giants.


Maybe there’s hope for Anthony Miller after all.

The Bears have had trouble keeping Miller on track throughout his first two seasons, but coach Matt Nagy saw a substantial sign of progress in the win over the Giants. It wasn’t just that Miller put up his best game of the season with six catches for 77 yards, it was that he played virtually mistake-free all afternoon.

“I thought he grew,” Nagy said.

Miller has been scrutinized for imprecise route-running and other lapses in self-discipline, most recently a sloppy corner route against the Rams that led to Mitch Trubisky throwing an interception. But he promised Nagy he would tighten up. He pleaded for the chance to prove he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, and Nagy’s grace was rewarded with a sharp performance against the Giants.

“We just talked, and I told him I’m the type of player that if I mess up, I won’t mess it up again,” Miller said. “Just keep relying on me, and I’ll make the play for you each and every time.”

He added that he’s also intent on “just keeping a cool head throughout the game, don’t let anybody try to get in my head, just focus on the things I need to do each and every play.”

Miller has occasionally made repeat errors, but if he lives up to his words from here on out, it’ll help the Bears tremendously. They rank 29th in passing offense, and they’re the only team in the NFL that hasn’t had multiple players post a game of 80 or more receiving yards. Allen Robinson, on pace for 1,100 yards, isn’t getting much help.

Furthermore, there’s a strong possibility they won’t have No. 2 receiver Taylor Gabriel for the game at the Lions on Thursday. Gabriel missed practice Monday because of his second concussion of the season.

Miller is third on the team with 349 yards on 29 catches, putting him close to matching his rookie totals. He also had seven touchdowns as a rookie, though, and has yet to reach the end zone this season.

The Bears imagined Miller developing into the perfect running mate for Robinson when they drafted him No. 51 overall in 2018, but there have been quite a few glitches.

“Last year was just go-go-gadget, and I just held my breath hoping that he was gonna go to the right place,” receivers coach Mike Furrey said in training camp.

Furrey and Nagy were optimistic that Miller had matured heading into this season, but so far there hasn’t been much change.

He had four catches in the first four games, then finally got going against the Raiders, but was involved in an interception that hurt the Bears’ comeback bid on the final possession. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel said that play was “completely” his own fault, but Nagy said Miller also botched the route.

It was a corner route, just like his miscue a month and a half later in a game against the Rams.

Miller continued his wild ride by chipping in 60-plus yards — a solid contribution by 2019 Bears standards — against the Saints and Chargers in consecutive weeks, but didn’t do much the next two games. He had six catches for 54 yards against the Rams, but that’s not what anyone remembers from that game, of course.

Last season was like that, too, although it’s fair to point out he suffered a dislocated shoulder in September. The question for Nagy is whether Miller’s game against the Giants is a legitimate turning point, or just another intermittent spike from a guy who has yet to definitively prove he’s dependable.

“He said, ‘Give me a chance to not make the same mistake twice,’ and he hasn’t been doing that,” Nagy said. “I think that’s where somebody grows. . . He has a lot of confidence. You want to corral that the right way and use it.”

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