Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be?), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 24: Anthony Miller
Position: Wide receiver
NFL Experience: 4th year
Looking back: What a roller coaster 2020 was for Anthony Miller. In 2019, he was second on the team with 656 receiving yards, and entering camp in 2020 he was talked about as the presumed No. 2 receiver. And he had his moments early on, catching game-winning touchdown passes in comeback victories in Weeks 1 and 3. But then rookie receiver Darnell Mooney came into his own, effectively passing Miller on the depth chart by the end of the year. Miller’s last four regular season games looked like this: two catches for 16 yards; one catch for 13 yards; two catches for 10 yards; two catches for 13 yards. Miller finished the 2020 season with 49 receptions for 485 yards and two touchdowns.
Then, of course, there was the infamous punch he threw in the Bears’ Wild Card round playoff game, which drew an ejection. Miller retaliated at New Orleans cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson despite being reminded earlier in the week not to fall for Gardner-Johnson’s bait.
Looking forward: Somehow, despite the ire of team chairman George McCaskey, Miller has earned one more chance with the Bears. This is the final year of his four-year rookie contract. The Bears have brought in solid competition in the form of veterans Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Miller has shown flashes of ability and calling him a bust as a second-round pick is far too harsh of an assessment. He has produced in big moments, just not consistently enough.
If Miller makes it through training camp and remains a member of the Bears, they need him to be a threat in all 17 games. If he can do that, there’s no reason why Miller couldn’t be an important contributor for the Bears in 2021.