Just two years ago, he was actually leading the Bucs with 400 yards receiving prior to Antonio Brown’s arrival. He made a daring touchdown catch right before halftime in the NFC Championship Game win at Green Bay.
Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: USA Today
Miller’s 2021 season was nearly over just as it was getting started. A severe turf toe injury in a Week 3 loss at Los Angeles prompted the Bucs to put the speedy receiver on injured reserve for most of his third season. When he returned to action later in the season, he just wasn’t the same player.
“I think last year was kind of weird,” Bucs wide receivers coach Kevin Garver said Tuesday. “He went out with the injury. And with the timing of it, other guys kind of stepped up in that place and in that role. So, it kind of made it a little harder for him to get back right away.”
With Miller sidelined most of the season, Tyler Johnson ended up with a career-high 36 receptions for 360 yards. Breshad Perriman had 11 catches for 167 yards, including a game-winning, 58-yard touchdown against the Bills in overtime. Seldom-used Cyril Grayson emerged late in the season to catch 10 passes for 212 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown to beat the Jets in the final seconds.
Injury Leads To Miller’s Production Drop Off
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Miller missed seven weeks before returning against Indianapolis in Week 12. Tom Brady tried to connect with Miller on a deep pass in that game, but his route wasn’t precise and led to an interception.
That would be one of just nine targets Miller would get in the entire 2021 season. He would end the season with only five catches for 38 yards (7.6 avg.). This came on the heels of a breakout 2020 campaign where Miller caught 33 passes for 501 yards (15.2 avg.) and three touchdowns in the regular season.
When Miller came back from his turf toe injury, he had trouble separating from defenders. At 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, Miller relies on speed to create separation from defensive backs, and it wasn’t happening. That lack of separation, and the fact that he was playing behind Mike Evans as a split end, limited Miller’s opportunities down the stretch, according to former head coach Bruce Arians.
“It’s just opportunities,” Arians said last fall. “Mike doesn’t come off very often, so if Mike doesn’t come off, Scotty doesn’t go in.”
Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: USA Today
Miller did make an impact on some end-arounds late in the season. He had two for 43 yards rushing in Week 18 against Carolina, including a 33-yard touchdown in Tampa Bay’s 41-17 win.
Bucs Haven’t Forgotten What Miller Can Do
“I think Scotty got a bad injury at the wrong part of the year,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Tuesday. “That injury is tougher than you guys think. It just was a long time with him not being there and other guys stepping up.
“Scotty’s just got to be Scotty. He’s made plays since he’s been here. The Super Bowl year, I just envision the plays that he made. Not just the Green Bay [touchdown], but I envision the Minnesota plays. The plays where he jumpstarted us a lot – you watch him on tape and you try to give him more opportunities, really. More opportunities to be in certain situations to do what he’s done since he’s really been here.”
The Bucs haven’t forgotten Miller’s big plays late in the 2020 season, especially when Brown was hurt. Now that he’s healthy and in a contract year, Miller will need to showcase his playmaking ability and re-establish his rapport with Brady to make the team in 2022. The top of the Bucs’ roster is set with Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage, but spots 4-6 on the depth chart are wide open.
“Obviously, the Super Bowl run that year, he contributed a lot to us and to the offense and made a lot of big plays for us,” Garver said. “He definitely has the ability and I think it’s just a matter of what he does on the field moving forward.”
Miller Might Need To Be Special On Special Teams
Miller might have to carve out a prominent role on special teams in order to beat out his competition. Can he wrestle the punt or kick return job away from Jaelon Darden? Can he be a gunner on punts?
Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Serving as an emergency gunner on a few plays last year, Miller recovered two fumbles. The first came at Indianapolis and he had another against Philadelphia in the playoffs.
“Those were big, big plays. I have to give Scotty credit,” Arians said. “That fumble recovery, he was down there and beat a double-press and used his speed.”
Now that he’s back to full speed, Miller needs to use that speed to grab a roster spot.
“He’s going to have an opportunity just like everyone else,” Garver said.
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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