Bears expecting more from Piccolo winners Miller, Amos
When coach John Fox and his staff arrived at Halas Hall 15 months ago, the first thing they did was review tape of the 2014 season to get an idea of the personnel they were inheriting.
At first glance, it didn't appear the Bears had a No. 2 tight end behind Martellus Bennett and they would have to look outside the organization for depth.
But tight ends coach Frank Smith knew better.
"Frank walks in and goes, 'Guys, we have a second tight end,' " said Dowell Loggains, who was promoted after last season from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. "(We thought) What is he talking about? We've watched all the tape."
Smith suggested the staff re-evaluate tape from a 2014 preseason game in which Miller had 2 touchdown catches just before an injury ended his season.
"(Smith) said, 'Go back and watch this guy in preseason,' " Loggains recalled. " 'Zach Miller can play football. He's going to be good. He can do the things we need him to do.' Frank was right."
Miller emerged with a banner year in 2015 with career bests of 34 catches, 439 yards, a 12.9-yard average per catch and a team-best 5 TD catches.
To cap off his breakthrough season, Miller was named Tuesday as the veteran winner of the Bears' annual Brian Piccolo Award. The award, which is voted on by teammates, honors a player who demonstrates the courage, character, loyalty and sense of humor that defined Piccolo's career, which was cut short by cancer at age 26.
Safety Adrian Amos, a fifth-round draft pick who started all 16 games, was the rookie recipient of the honor.
Coaches expect both players to play bigger roles this season.
"They're going to be a big part of what we're going to accomplish, and it's going to be championship-type of performances, championship-type seasons," Fox said. "Last year, we didn't meet those expectations. Here in the near future, we will meet those."
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Amos didn't play like a fifth-round draft choice. The Penn State product led the Bears with 108 tackles.
"From Day One, he looked like he belonged," Fangio said. "He looked like the safety position was natural to him."
That impressed Fangio. Out of necessity, Amos had started all over the Nittany Lions' secondary, including at cornerback and nickel back as well as safety. Now the expectations are higher for Amos, who has fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery.
"We do expect him to have a much better season this year," Fangio said. "He's one of the guys we're looking for to make a big jump from Year One to Year Two, and we think he's capable."
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