Sometimes you wonder if the best quarterbacks in Chicago aren't actually quarterbacks -- remember, Miller and Cameron Meredith both played QB in college. Miller was a top-10 TE for the first 11 weeks of 2016, but a busted foot ended his season in November. Miller knows his way around the Lisfranc injury, as he's suffered two of them in three years. The Bears will hope for the best but prepare for the worst, mindful that Miller turns 33 in October. The team used a second-round pick on TE Adam Shaheen -- a 6-6, 278-pound behemoth who runs well (4.78 40) for his size -- but the small-school product likely will be eased in as a part-time player, leaving Miller as the probable Week 1 starter. While he's been productive since late 2015, his late-career outburst may soon come to an end.
Not to be confused with the TE Zach Miller whose eight-year career ended in 2014, this Miller only seemingly came out of nowhere - he's actually been around since 2009. Injuries, though, kept him off the field since 2011. But finally healthy last season, he found a role in Chicago when Martellus Bennett got banged up. He impressed enough that the Bears were comfortable trading Bennett to save cap space and going with Miller as the starter this season. An option quarterback in college, Miller has excellent size at 6-5, 240, and he showed he still has good speed since running a 4.53 40 at his pro day seven years ago: his 9.5 YPT ranked second to only Rob Gronkowski among TE last season, his 12.9 YPC ranked fourth, as did his 6.7 YAC, and he had seven receptions of 20-plus yards, an impressive total on such few looks. He also has sure hands, catching 73.9 percent of his targets (4th among TE), and he scored two more touchdowns than Bennett last year on nearly half as many targets. It would be naive to expect 16 games from such an injury-prone player – indeed, he dealt with a rib injury last year, which limited him to one target Week 13 – but Miller looks poised for a productive year if he just gets close to the 6.3 targets he averaged in his other five games after Week 11 last season.
Despite having not appeared in an NFL game since 2011, Miller was on his way to claiming a roster spot with the Bears out of training camp last season. After excelling in the early stages of practices, Miller turned in an impressive preseason opener against the Eagles, reeling in six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. However, he suffered a foot injury in the next exhibition that effectively ended his chances of making the club, and he was ultimately placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Bears opted to bring him back in February on a one-year contract, and he’ll now have the chance with competing for Dante Rosario and a slew of other candidates for one of the two available reserve jobs behind starter Martellus Bennett. With Bennett emerging as one of the league's better tight ends last season and playing 90 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps, don’t expect Miller or any of the other backup candidates to see the field much.
With Martellus Bennett the unquestioned starter at tight end for 2014, Miller was on track battle for a role as his top backup, along with Matthew Mulligan, Dante Rosario, and Jeron Mastrud. That prospect was derailed by an August foot injury that landed Miller on IR.
Miller is an intriguing player who hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to put it all together. His frame and physical attributes make him an ideal target for QB Blaine Gabbert, but patience is likely wearing thin for the injury-plagued Miller, who will likely have to put it all together during training camp to be assured of a roster spot.
Miller showed great promise in his rookie year, but regressed significantly in 2010. As it currently stands, Marcedes Lewis has a stranglehold on the tight end position, and only seems to be improving. Targets may therefore be few and far between for Miller in 2011.
The lesser known Zach Miller showed signs
of development after two notable late-season
games last year. In Week 13 against Houston he
had three catches for 74 yards, and in Week 17
in a meaningless game against the Browns he
recorded eight grabs for 69 yards and two
touchdowns. He should continue to develop as a
sophomore this year and could push Marcedes
Lewis for the starting job.
Miller will battle for a backup tight end spot in 2009.