‘A bright future’: What the Bears’ defensive backs see in WR Anthony Miller

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Bears rookie receiver Anthony Miller tracks a pass during training camp. (AP)

BOURBONNAIS — Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara had a plan of attack for rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller. And one-on-one drills in training camp would be an ideal time to use it.

“I had wanted to quick-jam him since [organized team activities],” Amukamara said.

As it turned out, his plan fell apart fast. Miller not only beat him off the line, but Miller’s quick cut afterward left Amukamara reeling, allowing a wide-open completion.

“He was very aware, got out of it and made a play,” Amukamara said. “I said, ‘OK, you graduated. I’m not going to try that anymore.’ He’s pretty good. He’s just impressed me a lot.”

Miller, in fact, has impressed everyone from the Bears’ brass to teammates to reporters to fans during this camp. When it comes to big plays, no player on offense has been more consistent or more explosive.

And no one knows that more than Amukamara and the rest of the Bears’ defensive backs, who are not just seeing what Miller is doing every day at Olivet Nazarene University but experiencing it firsthand. Miller is testing them.

“He’s going to give you a lot of work,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s why I like going against him. You’re going to get a lot of work in. He’s got that dog in him a little bit. We love that.”

The defensive backs also see staying power, not a flash in the pan. Miller isn’t your prototypical camp hero. He’s not a late-round draft pick or undrafted free agent who makes splash plays against menial competition. He’s facing some of the Bears’ best and highest-paid defenders, and he’s beating them in one-on-ones, 7-on-7s and team drills. A second-round pick whom the Bears traded up for, he’s fun to watch in camp, and has been one to watch from the outset.

“He definitely challenges me,” said Amukamara, who’s in his eighth season.

And Miller does it in a variety of ways. It starts with “that dog” in him. Amukamara describes Miller, who started as a walk-on at Memphis and developed into an All-American, as “fiery” and “a talker.”

“I feel like he’s a miniature Josh Bellamy, just from the fire he brings to the team,” Amukamara said, referring to the Bears’ most prevalent trash-talker.


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Cornerback Kyle Fuller, having faced former Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in previous camps, took note of Miller’s demeanor early during OTAs.

“It gives you an edge,” Fuller said. “You definitely need that out here.”

The defensive backs also see a polished route runner — separating Miller from other young players and also some veterans.

“He’s good with his hands and his feet,” Jackson said. “He has nice routes. He’s smooth, especially off the line. It’s tough to put your hands on him. He’ll try to make you miss. That’s one thing he’s good at.”

But it’s more than beating jams or using his hands to gain separation before the ball is even thrown.

“Usually, a receiver has some type of tips, whether they’re tightening their gloves one play or whether they’re moving their hands, or whether they run fast or run slow in a route,” Amukamara said. “Anytime a receiver does that, I think it’s pretty easy to tell.”

Does Miller have any tips or tells?

“I haven’t studied him too much on film, but not what I can tell right now,” Amukamara said — though he’d be unlikely to detail them if he did.

What Amukamara will divulge is that Miller reminds him of former Giants star Victor Cruz because of his shiftiness and quickness. Miller has excelled both in the slot and outside during camp.

“I’m excited that he’s on our team,” Amukamara said. “I think everybody is expecting big things out of him.”

Added Jackson: “He’s nice, real nice. He’s got a bright future.”

Want your Bears training-camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times Bears beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the workout and interviews in a livestream conversation at1 p.m.daily throughAug. 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter@suntimes_sportsorfollow Sun-Times Sports on Periscopeto be notified of each live report.

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