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Miller could see increased role versus Vikings

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Nearly halfway through the second quarter against the Redskins, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found receiver Anthony Miller across the middle.

That play was the first chance Miller has had to show off his speed this season. He advanced the ball 15 yards to the Redskins' eight-yard line. Two plays later, Trubisky found receiver Taylor Gabriel for the Bears' first passing touchdown of the season.

Gabriel soon became the story of the game, catching three touchdowns, including an improbable catch just inbounds from 36 yards out.

However, Gabriel will not be taking the field against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, as he is still recovering from a concussion he suffered in the third quarter Monday night. With Gabriel out, Miller might get a few more chances to show off his speed.

"I feel like right now that you could definitely see more of him, which is great," said coach Matt Nagy. "That's where the depth comes in."

The Bears have invested heavily in their receiving corps in the past two offseasons. Three free agent signings (Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Cordarrelle Patterson) and three draft picks (Miller, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley) now comprise an entirely different unit than the group that welcomed Trubisky to Chicago in 2017.

"Taylor just had three touchdowns and had a good game," said Nagy, "but when one guy goes down, and you have a team with depth, it's not .. you have next guy that fills in." 

Miller is far from unproven. As a rookie, he led the Bears in touchdown catches, despite dealing with a shoulder injury that would lead to offseason surgery. However, a nagging ankle injury kept him out of a significant part of training camp. Miller was listed as questionable for the season opener and ended up playing only 16 snaps.

As Miller has gotten healthy, the coaching staff has eased him back into his old role. While he only has two catches on the season so far, his play off-ball has drawn praise.

"He's an example of a guy that in the Denver game did some things that were huge that decided the outcome of the game," said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, "but he didn't have the ball in his hands."

As Miller's opportunities grow, Helfrich emphasizes that the offense requires more from receivers than catching the ball.

"That's their validation, scoring touchdowns and getting yards and that part of it," said Helfrich. "But sometimes, it's the backside cutoff of a block. They don't celebrate it the same, but you want them to because it's just as important. The left guard is probably never gonna catch a touchdown pass. But he's vital. Just reinforcing all those things, he did some things really well. He did some things that we need to improve upon. Again, that's all of us."

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