Nov 4, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller (86) catches a pass and is immediately hit by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) during the 1st half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
On August 2nd 2011 the Seattle Seahawks signed a contract with a then twenty five year old player who was considered a top ten talent at his position. That contract was worth 34 million dollars over five years and half of that money was guaranteed. That player was Zach Miller. What has Seattle received for this investment? In 25 games since the Seahawks signed Miller he has produced significantly less than he did in his previous season with Oakland in 2010. Has Miller been ineffective or simply underused? As I sought the answer I found that both of those things are partially true. As it happens it has been a tale of two seasons. In 2011 Miller was brutally ineffective but this year he has been effective but not used enough. Here’s a comparison between those two years including where he ranked/ranks in these categories in terms of NFL tight ends. Keep in mind with all statistics that are totals that Zach Miller played 5 more games in 2011 than he has so far in 2012. I think that just makes the comparison starker.
Yards per Reception
Yards Per Target
Miller 2011 Edition
Miller 2012 Edition
As you can see Miller was pretty much awful last year. He ranked 37th among tight ends in three of the seven categories I used to evaluate him, which was last in the league. Perhaps he adjusted poorly to a new offense and we know that he’s had some concussion issues but whatever the reason things didn’t click in 2011. This year Miller has excelled in multiple areas but Russell Wilson has not been looking his way/Darrell Bevell has not been drawing up plays for him. Miller is a totally different pass catcher this year but that is being obscured by his lack of usage. I am aware that the run-heavy nature of the Hawks offense might always hold down Miller’s overall totals but the fact he is only the 23rd most targeted TE in terms of percentage of his team’s throws is a crime. Miller is only 26, he is not an old player winding down his career. He still has the athletic ability to be a weapon for this offence. I am aware this analysis disregards run blocking, which is a big part of Miller’s role in Bevell’s offense, but these things are difficult to quantify and ultimately I think he was signed to a deal worth almost 7 million per year with the idea that he would catch the ball as he had earlier in his career. Ultimately I think the Seahawks are game planning with Miller as if he is the non-dynamic, virtually useless, TE of 2011. It’s a new year. It’s a new Zach Miller. Throw the man the ball.