Bears ‘probably overloaded’ rookie WR Anthony Miller earlier this year

SHARE Bears ‘probably overloaded’ rookie WR Anthony Miller earlier this year
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Bears receiver Anthony Miller returns a kick against the Packers. | Nam Y. Huh/AP photo

In the first three months of the season, rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller caught 29 passes on 50 targets for 398 yards and five touchdowns.

In December, Miller, a second-round pick, has one catch on two targets — a one-yard touchdown on the Bears’ reverse pass as time expired against the Giants.

What changed?

“We probably overloaded him to some extent in the middle of the season because we — oh, my gosh — threw everything at him,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “And we kind of throttled that back a little bit.

“People adjusted to him. For a while it was, ‘Hey, let’s cover this guy. Or double this guy. Or what about this guy?’ So he’s been played a little bit differently.”

The Bears remain excited about Miller and his potential. But they know a player is overloaded, Helfrich said, when they’re not playing fast enough.

“You can see guys think through their route rather than just run their route,” he said. “Or think through a blocking scheme rather than just execute.”

Miller has returned kicks the last two weeks, totaling 95 yards on four tries.

“You see his energy and his juice on kickoff returns,” Helfrich said. “That confidence will carry over to playing receiver at some point.”

Jackson still out, Hicks sick

Safety Eddie Jackson, who sprained his right ankle against the Packers, remained out Thursday. He’s unlikely to play Sunday, as the Bears are focused on ensuring he’s healed in time for the playoffs. Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who sprained his right elbow, missed a second consecutive day of practice, too.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks — who, like Jackson, earned a Pro Bowl nod Tuesday — stayed home with an illness.

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Coach Matt Nagy quickly dispatched tips for the cold-and-flu season: “Wash your hands, Z-packs and lots of OJ.”

Gould one of the greats?

Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor, who coached Robbie Gould as a Bears assistant from 2008 to 2010, said the kicker is in rare territory.

“We know what we’re going up against,” he said. “Robbie is going to be considered one of the all-time greats. I’m really proud of him.”

Gould is “hitting as good of a ball as he’s hit” in his career.

He’s in his second year with the 49ers after playing 11 years with the Bears. Gould spent part of 2016 with the Giants after the Bears cut him at the start of the season.

No Long yet

Guard Kyle Long, who’s eligible to return to practice, did not participate Thursday. He has been on injured reserve since hurting his right foot against the Jets. According to league rules, he can’t play in a game until Week 17.

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