The Seahawks have one of the deepest and most complete rosters in the NFL. My Cover32 colleagues have already covered a couple positions, so today I’m going to take a look at tight ends. The top of the depth chart is pretty simple, but from there down it’s pretty interesting.
The obvious number one is Zach Miller. He excels at whatever Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell ask him to do. If you’re not talking about him during a game it’s because he’s being asked to help block at the line of scrimmage. If you ARE talking about him, it’s probably because he’s dominating the opposing team’s linebackers in the passing game. Two years ago in the Divisional Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons we saw just how thoroughly Miller can dominate a game. He had eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. We’re going to look at that game to define his contributions as a receiver.
Miller’s first catch was an outside shoulder throw, that was a little more outside than it was supposed to be, after blowing by two linebackers. Miller laid out for it and caught it falling down right at the sideline for a 22 yard gain. Guys, it was a great catch. His second grab was the very next play. Wilson saw immediate pressure on his right as two Falcons came at him nearly unblocked so he fired a quick dart to Miller up the middle for an eight yard gain.
Miller’s third catch was another long one. He flies off the line nearly unmolested for a quick route up the seam and Wilson hits him for a 32 yard catch and run. Miller quickly gets behind two linebackers playing low zones and as the pressure from both ends starts to get near Wilson he fires off a pass that maybe led Miller a little too far, but Miller dives and catches it right in the bread basket.
For his fifth catch, Miller runs an eight yard come back and Wilson hits him as Miller turns and fights his way to a one yard gain. His sixth catch might have been his most important (besides the touchdown). It came on second down and 18 at the Falcons’ 48 yard line while the Seahawks were down 20-0. Wilson drops back and immediately turns to his right and fires it to Miller who was six yards out. Miller turns and runs, bouncing off one Falcon before another grabs his ankles and drags him to a stop right as Miller falls over the first down marker.
Miller’s seventh catch was a 26 yard catch and run to bring the Seahawks to the 13 yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter. Wilson fakes the handoff to Lynch as Miller blows right through a linebackers zone to get behind him and make the catch. Miller’s eight catch was for the touchdown. He ran a crossing route at the goal line and the linebacker simply forgot to cover him as Miller ran behind him and got wide open at the corner of the end zone. All Wilson had to do was drop it in.
However, more often than not Zach Miller is asked to stay at the line of scrimmage, or at least near it, and keep pressure off of Russell Wilson. Before Miller came to Seattle, he was a Pro Bowl selection with the Raiders. Tom Cable had recently been hired as the Seahawks offensive line coach/assistance head coach and he knew exactly what Miller could do from his time with him in Oakland. Miller has not made a Pro Bowl since then. Why, you ask? Because blocking isn’t flashy; play after play after play Miller is asked to help our offensive line do their job and actually block people. Miller helps chip defenders before going out on a route, he blocks outside linebackers who are lined up to blitz, and he helps double team defensive ends. If not for Miller’s prowess as a blocker, the Seahawks backup QB’s (who I discussed last week) would be a lot busier people. As shifty and smart as Wilson is, he can’t get away from everything; but thanks to Miller, he has less to worry about than if he wasn’t there.