When the Chicago Bears traded away Martellus Bennett, they did so with the notion that a returning Zach Miller could step in and fill some of the void at tight end. Miller may not come close to the 65 receptions and 685 receiving yards that Bennett has averaged over the last four years, then again, he does have the hands and athleticism to make an impact.
If you consider that Miller didn't become a consistent part of the Bears' offense until mid-way though last season, his overall numbers (34/439/5) seem even more impressive. In Miller's last 8 games of the Bears season, he had 31 catches for 404 yards and all 5 touchdowns. The odds are he won't play in all 16 games of the 2016 season, but simple math puts his '15 season on a 62/808/10 clip. If he can come anywhere close to those numbers this year, the Bears will be pleased.
While Bennett was known as a decent to good blocker in the run game, Miller is more of an effort guy. He's a willing blocker, but he just doesn't have the size or strength to move people. But, if his technique is sound, he can be effective enough.
The fellas over at the analytics/fantasy site, NumberFire.com, believe that there's a good chance Miller has a breakout season in 2016 due to his size (6'4"), "athleticism and route-running ability," but more importantly because of their Net Expected Points (NEP) formula.
I would suggest hitting that link above because I'm sure the mathematicians at NumberFire will explain NEP much better than I could.
Miller earned 0.85 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target in 2015 due in large part to his high catch rate (73.91%) and overall Reception Success Rate (88.24%), which indicates the percentage of his catches that led to points above expectation, as measured by NEP.
For some context, Miller's per-target Reception NEP ranked second-best among tight ends with between 40 and 100 targets behind only Tyler Eifert's 0.98 mark. Bennett's 0.46 on 80 targets ranked 22nd.
They do have some concerns about Miller, one of which we talked about above, his blocking. At this point in his career, and at 240 pounds, Miller will never be a great blocker, but the Bears don't need him to be. A reliable enough blocking tight end will emerge from the group of TEs they have in camp, and if one doesn't, they'll either use an extra offensive lineman or scour the waiver wire to get a guy that can do the job. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will need to be creative with his formations in the run game to keep defenses honest.
Their other concern is health, but until we see how his soon to be 32 year old body holds up, there's no way to know if the years of injuries were just random fluky things, or if the career high in total snaps from 2015 (708) is the new norm.
What are you guys expecting out of Miller this year?