When Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey watches tape of last year’s Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the things he notices is what’s not there: Anthony Miller.
Miller was essentially missing in action for much of the first half of last season.
Furrey in a Zoom call Thursday offered a candid – and frankly harsh – assessment of the first half of the 2019 season for the 25-year-old Miller, now entering his third season.
“You’re sitting there thinking, one of our best players is not on the field and one of the reasons why is because you can’t trust him,” Furrey said.
In Furrey’s eyes, Miller didn’t go about preparing himself well enough for Sundays.
“I just don’t think, from a maturity standpoint, preparation standpoint, that Anthony probably was 100% all in,” Furrey said. “I think he still had that college mentality, that ability was going to allow him to overcome whatever he wanted to overcome in games. As we all know, talent can only get you so far when you get to the pros.”
In college at Memphis, everything appeared to come easy for Miller. He caught more than 90 passes during both his junior and senior seasons. During his senior year in 2017, he tied for the FBS lead with 18 touchdown receptions.
Memphis went 10-3 that year. Miller caught three touchdowns in an epic 62-55 double-overtime loss in the American Athletic Conference championship game against Central Florida, nearly upsetting the unbeaten Knights.
Miller showed enough promise that the Bears traded up to select him with a second-round draft pick in 2018. The hope was that he would eventually emerge as a solid complement to veteran receiver Allen Robinson.
And Miller did that last year – it just took a while.
In Week 1 against Green Bay last year, Miller was on the field for 21% of the Bears’ offensive snaps. Even as late as Week 12 against the New York Giants, Miller was on the field for only 53% of snaps. When receiver Taylor Gabriel went down with a concussion late in the season, it provided more opportunities for Miller.
In Weeks 13 and 15, he emerged for games of 100-plus receiving yards against Detroit and Green Bay. He was on the field for nearly every snap in those contests.
“When he looks back, [he’ll start] seeing some things that he could have done in the past,” Furrey said. “Maybe if he’d have grown up a little bit, how much better he would have been. Now, he has that opportunity again, I think that’s there.”
Miller had a son in June, which Furrey said is only going to help his maturity level. Miller’s curiosity about the pro game has improved. Furrey said Miller is picking Allen Robinson’s brain, he’s providing more than one-word answers to questions, he has been watching other receivers on his tablet.
Miller’s Instagram account has provided some sneak peaks this summer of the work he has been doing with quarterback Mitch Trubisky. In an offseason without OTAs and a condensed training camp, that on-field time together can only help their chemistry.
“He needs to be playing football,” Furrey said. “He’s a heck of a football player. … I think his mindset is, obviously, in the right place.”