FAB 2. Miller Aiming For Bucs’ No. 3 WR Role
Breshad Perriman is gone, turning a brilliant three-game streak down the stretch in 2019 into a one-year, $6 million contract with the New York Jets in free agency. Incentives can push that deal to $8 million, which was just too rich for Tampa Bay’s liking. The Bucs wanted their No. 3 wide receiver back, but at a price that was similar to last year’s one-year $4 million deal.
With Pro Bowler Mike Evans averaging $16.5 million per year and the team wanting to extend the contract of fellow Pro Bowler Chris Godwin by the start of the 2020 season and give him a raise that would pay him an average of at least $11 million per season, throwing another $6 million at the receiver position was just too much for the Bucs’ salary cap in 2020.
Perriman won’t return, and head coach Bruce Arians has already put the kibosh on Tampa Bay potentially signing troublesome wide receiver Antonio Brown. It’s doubtful the team trades for Patriots wide receiver and Tom Brady’s best friend, Julian Edelman, although Jon Ledyard’s idea has some logic and merit.
So if the Bucs don’t select a wide receiver like Henry Ruggs III in the first round or another top talent on Day 2 in a deep draft class at the position, who will replace Perriman?
Scotty Miller, the Bucs’ sixth-round draft pick, is gunning for the No. 3 receiver position in 2020. During his rookie season, which was limited due to some hamstring strains, Miller had 13 catches for 200 yards (15.4 avg.) and one score, in addition to one carry for 18 yards.
“I don’t like to look at numbers (on the depth chart) and necessarily go for specific spots,” Miller said. “I’m the type of person that just tries to be the best he can be on an everyday basis. Wherever that lands me, it lands me. But obviously, with B.P. going to the Jets that spot is open and I’m going to want to be on the field as much as possible next year to help this team win games. I’ll do everything in my power to do that. Hopefully I can get that spot, play as much as I can, make as many plays as I can and help us win as much as we can.”
After being absent for a good deal of training camp due to a hamstring injury, Miller was slow to make an impact on offense because of all of the reps he missed with quarterback Jameis Winston. But as hamstring injuries hit the receiver position hard last year, beginning with Breshad Perriman in Week 4 at Los Angeles, Miller moved up the depth chart.
Miller’s most extensive action came at home against New Orleans in November when he had a season-high four catches for 71 yards (17.8 avg.), including a season-long 48-yarder, and nearly scored his first touchdown after being tackled at the 1-yard line. A few weeks later at Detroit, Miller had three catches for 49 yards (16.3 avg.) and his first career touchdown while filling in for the injured Evans, who had a season-ending hamstring injury against Indianapolis the week prior, only to pull his own hamstring again and join Evans on IR.
“Catching that touchdown was a dream come true – an awesome, unforgettable moment,” Miller said. “It was in Detroit, and I’m from Chicago, so it was the closest game I had to my hometown. I went to school in Ohio about two hours away from Detroit and had all my buddies there. I probably had close to 50 people there, so to have that moment in front of all those people was special.
“It was a long time coming. I had the Saints catch that was close to scoring. I had the Seahawks one where I stepped out of bounds before I caught the touchdown. I had one against the Falcons where I was close. To finally get that touchdown was a great feeling and hopefully there are a lot of those to come.”
Getting his hamstrings healthy has been Miller’s No. 1 priority as he trains this offseason in Tampa Bay.
“Availability is the number one thing for anyone on the NFL,” Miller said. “What we’ve talked about is staying hydrated. Just drinking a lot of water every single day down here, especially in this heat with training camp. Then it’s coming in early and rolling out every day, but really it’s in the offseason with the training. Last offseason I was really training for my pro day and I wasn’t working on specific muscle groups. I was training for all these specific drills like the 40-yard dash and the shuttle, but now I can really focus my training on what I need to make me the best football player I can be. I was on IR, so I needed to get cleared and work on specific drills to strengthen both of my hamstrings, as I’ve dealt with injuries to both in the past. Hopefully it won’t be a problem going forward and doesn’t hold me back in my career.”
The 5-foot-9 Miller is also hitting the weight room to add some size this offseason.
“Right now I would say I’m in the best shape of my life because I can focus on what I want to focus on,” Miller said. “In college you have to do what the strength staff wants you to do and you’re lumped in with everybody else on the team. So it’s not as specific as what you may need. I’ve been focused on getting stronger this year. I’m weighing about 176, which I’m very happy about. During the season I lost a couple of pounds and probably dipped in the 160s at some points, but was around 170 for the most part.
“Now at the start of the season I want to be around 180 and then dip down to about 175. I think that will help my game, especially if I am doing more slot stuff. It will help me with my blocking and just being able to absorb hits and get defensive backs’ hands off me. Every pound matters for a guy like me, but speed is my calling card. It’s what’s gotten me this far and I’ve always got to be able to take the top off a defense.”
Like his Buccaneers teammates, Miller was ecstatic to hear that future Hall of Famer Tom Brady will be the team’s new quarterback in 2020. Catching passes from the greatest quarterback to play the position has been a dream come true for the Bowling Green product.
“It was pretty crazy hearing that,” Miller said. “Everybody is really excited. I grew up watching him. He’s as old as my dad is, but Tom Brady is the best that’s ever done it. I don’t think anyone can argue that. To be able to play with him and catch passes from him is an unbelievable opportunity. I’m definitely going to learn a lot from him and soak up as much as I can from him.”
Edelman has been Brady’s top target over the last 10 years in New England, and has helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls and was named the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. Similarly built at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, Edelman has been one of the receivers Miller has emulated for several years.
“I studied him in college a lot,” Miller said. “I would pick out some guys to study each offseason and Edelman, Cole Beasley and DeSean Jackson were a couple of them. I’ve watched a lot of him. Edelman is a quick guy that really works the option routes and can really do a lot of stuff. I think I’m similar to him, but obviously we have our differences. I’m smaller, but faster than he is, and he is a little stronger than I am and maybe quicker. I’m definitely going to watch some more of him and I’m sure Tom is going to try to show me some of the things Edelman did so I can learn from him.
“Obviously Edelman has had a great career and accomplished a lot in the league. I’ve got a lot to prove still – I’m a young guy. But I have a lot of confidence in myself that I can be that caliber of player, and hopefully get on the same page with Tom and catch a lot of balls.”
Despite missing a lot of playing time due to his hamstring injuries, Miller was able to soak up a bunch of knowledge watching the Bucs’ Pro Bowl pair of Evans and Godwin in practice and in the meeting rooms.
“I learned so much from them, especially how hard they work every single day,” Miller said. “A lot of people from the outside world may think that Mike Evans, as big as he is at 6-foot-5, and with him running like he can, that he just goes out there and doesn’t work that hard because he’s so naturally talented. But he gets after it every single day. “CG does, too. Jameis might have beaten him into the facility, but CG was the second one in the building and one of the last to leave. That’s a true statement. That’s a fact. He’s always working on his body and eating right. He’s always studying the game. He’s one of the smartest guys around. I’m different from those guys, but I can pick up stuff from their games and they really helped me in my rookie year.”
Like all rookies, Miller had his share of “Wow!” moments being in the NFL for the first time, from his first preseason game, to his first regular season game, to his first catch, to his first touchdown. But he knows that another “Wow!” moment is coming when he huddles up with Brady, a 20-year NFL veteran and the league’s No. 2 all-time passer, for the first time.
“It’s wild because I was a little star-struck at first in the huddle last year with Mike and Jameis,” Miller said. “It’s so crazy that now it’s going to be Tom Brady throwing me the ball or looking at me in the huddle. It’s going to be a wild experience, but at the end of the day you have to remember it’s just football, so you’ve got to do your job, run the right routes and catch the ball. As crazy as it is to have Tom Brady in our huddle, you just have to stay calm and do your job.”
Do your job.
That’s the Patriots’ mantra, and it’s a mantra that Brady will be bringing to the Bucs in 2020.
If Miller does his job and beats out fellow veteran Justin Watson, who had a career-high 15 catches for 159 yards (10.6 avg.) and two touchdowns last year as injuries mounted at the wide receiver position, he could earn Tampa Bay’s No. 3 receiver role and replace Perriman and perhaps be Brady’s Bucs version of Edelman.
But Miller just doesn’t want to win the No. 3 receiver spot. He wants to win, period.
“I think we showed we could do a little bit last year, going on that three- or four-game winning streak there at the end when most of us were healthy,” Miller said of Tampa Bay’s 6-2 finish after a 2-6 start to the season. “I think that showed us what we could do. This year with the moves we made, obviously with Tom and bringing back most of our defense, we all know that we have the talent we need to win a lot of football games.
“We’re definitely all hungry this offseason. I keep in touch with all of the guys and everyone is working hard right now, especially with Tom coming to town. He wants to win another Super Bowl, and we’re going to do everything we can to get him another ring.”