How Chicago Bears could replace Anthony Miller

Chicago Bears (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

The idea that the Chicago Bears will trade Anthony Miller is turning more unlikely as we get closer to the season, although it is still on the table that they could still trade or even release. Either way, the Chicago Bears have to enter the season with fewer expectations on him than they have had in previous seasons.

The debate around Miller is that while he has struggled with Chicago, they do not have a slot option who is perfect to jump right in.

Last season Miller 584 snaps. However, the snaps that will be most important to replace are his slot snaps. With Darnell Mooney ascending across from Allen Robinson they need to fill that third receiver role in 11 personnel.

To complete that, they would be looking to replace closer to 427 snaps from last season. The Bears drafted Dazz Newsome, who is the second most experienced slot WR on the roster behind Miller. However, Newsome is a day three rookie who missed OTAs with an injury. At the least, he is unlikely to be trusted to start week one.

Chicago Bears will run more 12-personnel

One way the Chicago Bears will reduce snaps for Miller would be to run more 12-personnel which means two tight ends on the field. Last season the Bears has two tight ends on the field 19% of the time, which amounted to 208, but also had 3 tight ends on the field for 68 snaps.

In total, they ranked 17th in snaps with multiple tight ends on the field. If you know Matt Nagy you know that he wants to make this number higher.

Nagy has been on a mission to get the right players on the roster to run more two-tight end sets. Last season the rookie Cole Kmet was eased in, but by the end of the season, it was clear that he was set for starter snaps moving forward.

Jimmy Graham was kept this offseason despite a high cap hit, a clear indication that more two-tight end sets are on the table.

Last season the league average was 20% two tight end sets. One thing that is worth noting is that Chicago ran 19% with two tight ends throughout the year, but from week 11 on, that number was at 24%.

Once they got Kmet into the mix they were much closer to the top 10 in the league. Going from 19 to 24% over the course of the seasons means 60 to 70 more snaps for tight ends and fewer from the slot wideout.

Last season the top five teams in the NFL ran two tight ends about 29% of the time. If the Bears were to jump into the top five next year, that would reduce 100-120 snaps needed from their slot.

Still, that leaves about 300 snaps still needed from a wideout such as Miller.

Tarik Cohen

In 2019 Tarik Cohen was almost used solely as a slot wideout. That role was reduced in the opening stages of 2020, but we will never know the full extent of their plans to use Cohen due to his injury. For what it is worth Cohen was on pace for 56 snaps from the slot in 2020, which is well below 143 snaps he took in 2019.

The reality is that 2021 may be closer to the middle. Cohen will not be exclusively in the slot, but the signing of Damien Williams and drafting of Khalil Herbert throw Cohen into more of a versatile role than when he was looked at as the backup running back. Now, Cohen is truly a chess piece, something he could not quite be even in 2019.

The reality is that if we saw 50, or even closer to 100 snaps from Cohen in the slot, all of the sudden the need for Anthony Miller goes from a player with 427 snaps to much closer to 200.

Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd

These two were signed to push Javon Wims and Riley Ridley at the bottom of the roster, but they could surely make Anthony Miller more expendable. The issue is the neither are slot wide receivers. However, last season Byrd did play 62 snaps in the slot, and Goodwin was averaging closer to 20% slot snaps in his time before opting out last year. He would average between 50 to 100 slot snaps.

All of a sudden the Bears could find about 100 more slot snaps here.

Allen Robinson

One last note is Allen Robinson. In 2019 Robinson was moving around often and found himself in the slot for 41% of his snaps. However, in 2020 he stuck to the outside much more and played only 29% of his snaps in the slot. That is roughly 80 snaps that Robinson lost playing in the slot from the season before.

Whatever the reason for the change, it is worth noting Robinson saw fewer raw slot snaps in 2018 because he missed time, but once again was playing 39% of his snaps from the slot.

In 2018 and 2019 Matt Nagy was much more committed to moving Robinson around, but last year they scaled that back a bit. You can argue either way, but if the Bears do want to, Robinson has shown that he can surely succeed with a 40% slot rate.

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Overall many will argue that Anthony Miller is now hard to get rid of because he would leave a hole in the slot. However, if you are giving Cole Kmet and Tarik Cohen more slot snaps, and if you are moving Robinson back into the slot the way he was for 2 of the past three years, all of a sudden that number does look much small.

80 snaps for Robinson, 100 for Goodwin and Byrd, 80 for Cohen, and 100 more snaps out of Cole Kmet would almost be what it takes to replace all of the snaps they lost from Anthony Miller, and none of those actually involve adding a new slot receiver.