Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz could unlock Anthony Miller’s potential

Do Philadelphia Eagles fans want the wrong Bears receiver?

Philadelphia Eagles fans are a particular bunch. They – we – love flash, excitement, and a little sizzle on their steak, if you will.

When their favorite team is lacking at a position of need, especially a ‘glamour’ position like wide receiver, you’d best believe fans aren’t going to be content with adding a reliable, possession receiver like Travis Fulgham. No, what they want oh so bad is a name brand, household name to come in midseason, and lift a team of underachievers to the heights of another Super Bowl run.

And through the first five weeks of the season, the player Eagles fans have been pining for most is none other than the Chicago Bears by way of Penn State superstar Allen Robinson.

In theory, it makes sense. After watching DeAndre Hopkins revolutionize the Arizona Cardinals’ aerial offense for the price of a second-round pick, Stefon Diggs make the Buffalo Bills’ offense Super Bowl worthy, and Odell Beckham rapidly come off the hypothetical trade block thanks to Kevin Stefanski‘s newfound pass-action deep ball game, Robinson is the biggest named wide receiver actively ambivalent to his current team, who could potentially be had if the Bears start to fall out of playoff consideration.

But here’s the thing: Allen Robinson really doesn’t fit into the Philadelphia Eagles’ current timeline.

Even with Dak Prescott in all likelihood out for the season with a gruesome leg injury that requires surgery, the Eagles are at best a Wildcard Round one-and-done even if they win the division outright. While having a receiving corps headlined by Robinson, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Travis Fulgham, and Jalen Reagor is a notable improvement over the crew the Birds trotted out in Week 5, when you consider AR12 wants out of Chicago because of his contract, it’s hard to envision the Eagles paying the 27-year-old WR1 money with a 70-plus million cap hole on the books in 2021.

But that doesn’t mean the Eagles couldn’t still look to the Chicago Bears for a little offensive upgrade if they feel so inclined.

But who could the team target? Cordarrelle Patterson? Riley Ridley? Ted Ginn?

None of the above. For my money, there is only one player on the Bears roster who could use a new home about as much as the Eagles’ offense could use another young, ascending playmaker: Anthony Miller.

A second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Miller made a name for himself in the hyper-online segment of indie football scouting for a pretty spectacular career playing wide receiver at Memphis. Over his final two seasons with the Tigers, Miller averaged 111 yards per game as the offensive focal point of Mike Norvell’s offense. His shake-and-bakeability meant the 5-foot-11 receiver was seemingly always open, his route running made college cornerbacks look goofy, and his uber-athletic catches have rapidly become the thing of American Conference legend.

Sure, Miller only faced off against Power 5 conference opponents seven times over his three-year college career, but his unique style of play – think OBJ mixed with Stefon Diggs – made for a risk worth taking, especially for a creative offensive mind willing to manufacture easy completions while hunting for mismatches both on the outside and in the slot.

That, in theory, made many a pundit declare Miller to the Bears a home run pick, only through the first 37 games of his NFL career, that hasn’t really been the case.

Since signing his rookie-scale contract in the spring of 2018, Miller has only started 11 of the 37 games he’s appeared in as a pro, occasionally getting the nod over clear-cut number two receiver Taylor Gabriel when the team wasn’t doing something wacky like starting three tight ends of six offensive linemen. Sure, Miller has still been able to fill out an ever-expanding highlight reel of impressive plays, especially as a rookie, but even with Gabriel officially out of the league in 2020, the third-year receiver has remained a part-time player in Matt Nagy’s offense.

Now stuck behind Robinson and 2020 fifth-round pick Darnell Mooney, Miller has yet to play more than 70 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps and has yet to be targeted more than six times in a game. While Nagy has praised Miller’s effort and insists that his dip in playing time is unrelated to the team’s confidence in his continued development, it’s never a good sign to see a former top-60 pick get supplanted by a small school Day 3 receiver who has limited opportunities to prove his mettle during 2020’s abbreviated offseason.

Let’s just say when three tight ends, three wide receivers, and two running backs have more starts than a team’s second-leading receiver; it’s probably not a good sign that he’ll be on the short-list for a contract extension.

If that’s the case, the Bears may be willing to cash in on whatever value Miller has now versus hoping for a hypothetical compensatory pick a few years down the line.

But why, you may ask, would the Eagles want a wide receiver that currently holds a drop percentage of 13? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Through the first five weeks of the season, Eagles fans can count the number of explosive ‘X Plays’ the offense has generated on one hand. Outside of Jalen Reagor’s 55 yarder in Week 1, Travis Fulgham’s 42 yarder in Week 4, Miles Sanders’ 74 yard run in Week 5, the Eagles’ offense has been rather reliant on meat and potatoes; living and dying on five yards here, and three yards there. While Miller isn’t exactly Tyreek Hill with the ball in his hands, Millers’ ability to make circus catches, land inbounds, and still make plays on would-be tackers in the open space.

Is Miller a guaranteed starter down the line? Not if his current issues persist, but if Miller can leave his case of the dropsies Chicago side and take a nothing-gained, nothing-earned approach to the second phase of his professional career, there’s still a chance the 26-year-old could still hit his NFL ceiling.

Remember, even with his current case of interception fever, Carson Wentz is still one of the more accurate ball placers in the NFL. Who knows, maybe all Miller needs to finally come into his own is a one-way ticket away from Mitch Trubisky and company? Seemed to have worked wonders for Alshon Jeffery back in 2017.

In my eyes, that ceiling is still worth pursuing.

If the Bears are willing to pull off a trade akin to the deal that landed Genard Avery in South Philly last October – a deal in the 40-40 range on the NFL’s draft value chart – Miller could be the perfect mid-season acquisition who could not only add another flavor to Doug Pederson’s offensive charcuterie board but do so with a relatively meager cap hit of $1.2 million.

A quartet of Miller, Fulgham, Reagor, and Ward is actually pretty exciting, especially if either John Hightower or Quez Watkins can prove to be a reliable change-of-pace option.

Next: The Packers look silly for cutting Travis Fulgham

Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles will go 4-1 over their next five games and improbably stand alone atop the NFC East with a 5-4-1 record. If that’s the case, throw a second-round pick to the Chicago Bears for Allen Robinson or some other win-now receiver and go all-in on an improbable playoff run. But if the team continues to plot along too good to outright tank but too bad to actually pursue a championship, why not surrender a future Day 3 pick for an underperforming player like Anthony Miller in the hopes of uncovering a gem in the process? Sure beats continuing to force-feed balls to players like JJAW hoping to turn garbage into gold. And hey, if he doesn’t work out, there’s always a comp pick waiting in 2022.