To see the full list of the 20 best Seahawks in 2012, click here.
Since arriving on that big 5-year, $34 million free agent deal, Seahawks fans have been desperately yearning for something they’ve never had: a tight end who would be a force on offense. I mean, Itula Mili was great and all, but when you’re pointing to that guy and saying, “There goes the greatest Seahawks tight end in team history,” you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. Obviously, Mike Holmgren and Company thought John Carlson would be that guy when they traded up to draft him. But, injury concerns (most recently the concussion he suffered in that playoff game against the Bears) forced the Seahawks to let the young man walk (where he went to the Vikings and caught 8 balls in 14 games in 2012 after not playing at all in 2011).
It’s putting it mildly that Seahawks fans have been desperate for a tight end they can count on. Not just a guy who sticks around forever, catching a ball here and there. A guy who other teams have to game-plan for! A guy who, even though other teams game-plan for him, he STILL manages to make a positive impact!
I don’t think anyone expected Miller to be the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski (if they were even a thing back in the summer of 2011, I don’t even know if they were in the league yet). But, I think it was safe to say they expected someone in the second or third tier. Maybe not Tony Gonzalez exactly, but at 6’5, 255 lbs, not too far from Tony Gonzalez either.
What we got was 25 receptions for 233 yards and 0 touchdowns in 2011. Was it his fault that the Seahawks were breaking in an all-new offensive line (including two rookies)? Not at all. He was required to stay in and block, helping everyone who’d be learning Tom Cable’s zone blocking system. It took that team at least half the season before they started clicking with the run game, but for the most part, pass protection suffered throughout the entirety of the season. That left Miller to mostly double-team on the right side of the line.
Also, not for nothing, but that was the year we had the Tarvar Experiment. Was it his fault his quarterback was kind of a dud? Again, not at all.
Yet, Seahawks fans – as impatient as they come, apparently – were livid. Every time Miller caught a ball, you’d read snark after endless snark on Twitter. He came back in 2012 to catch 38 balls for 396 yards and 3 TDs. Not an insane amount of improvement, but improvement nonetheless. In December, Miller caught two of those TDs, so I guess you could make the argument that the offense got better as the season went along when it comes to targeting its primary tight end.
What leaves me with a lot of hope is how he performed in the playoffs. With all the marbles on the line, Miller caught 12 balls (on 15 targets) for 190 yards and a touchdown in two games. That’s incredible! We all know Russell Wilson’s game improved dramatically as the season wore on, but until the playoffs, we didn’t really have a good sense of how he would gel with Miller going into next year. As it turns out, Wilson finally figured out how to use one of his primary weapons: seam routes down the middle of the field.
This is going to open things up that much more in 2013. Yes, the play-action passing game will always be there to stretch the field. But, if Wilson can work on his rhythm passing game, and start nailing those intermediate routes to guys like Miller, you’re looking at one killer offense.
But, this isn’t about 2013. This is about 2012. And Miller is on this list because he’s good, regardless of the crap you hear from most Seahawks fans. He’s an elite blocker for a tight end, and he’s starting to come into his own with this offense. This isn’t an offense that’s going to have huge numbers from its receivers. Miller won’t catch 100 balls in a season as a Seahawk. But, I’ll tell you this much: we wouldn’t have been in a position to win that game in Atlanta if we didn’t have Zach Miller.
I’m really looking forward to him breaking out in 2013. I would expect upwards of 8 or 9 touchdowns if he plays his cards right and manages to stay healthy.