Barrington's Miller forging a connection with Tom Brady
Tom Brady was joining a new team after 20 years in New England. He needed to make new friends, connect with teammates and build chemistry with a new set of wide receivers.
Scotty Miller sure was in the right place at the right time, to put it mildly.
Through four games, Miller is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' leader in receiving yards. The Barrington High School grad is listed as questionable for Thursday's homecoming game against the Bears with hip and groin injuries, but he did participate in the final practice. Among the Bucs' other receivers, Chris Godwin is out for this game and Mike Evans is questionable.
If he does play, Miller is someone to watch. He's coming off probably the best game of his NFL career, with 5 catches for 83 yards, along with his first touchdown pass from Brady in Tampa Bay's comeback win over the Chargers.
Because of the short week and injuries, the Bucs did not make Miller available this week, but he talked about teaming up with Brady earlier this season.
"I was such a big fan of him growing up, big fan of the Patriots," Miller said. "I would have never thought I would be in this position. It's still crazy."
Miller was able to get to know the six-time Super Bowl champ during casual workouts in the spring and found Brady very approachable, despite his lofty status.
"He's just a normal dude, just another guy," Miller said. "He does a great job not making it anything more than it should be. So at this point, he's just one of the guys and we're all friends and stuff like that. It's all good, but it's still awesome just to be able to play with him."
Brady went into the season touting Miller as a player to watch and now the Buccaneers' social media account is hyping Brady-Miller as the NFL's best bromance.
"He's just another great, consistent, dependable, trustworthy player," Brady said of Miller before the season began. "Everything we talk about, he retains and he takes it to the next practice. You can trust where he's going to be, he makes the plays when they come his way. He's really been fun to work with and fun to see grow from the day that I got here."
Miller's size (5-11, 174) and Mid-American Conference background have prompted comparisons to one of Brady's all-time favorite receivers, Julian Edelman.
But Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians is quick to point out that he sees Miller as a deep threat. When the Bucs are at full strength, Godwin usually plays in the slot and Miller is outside. Coming out of Bowling Green, Miller ran a blistering 4.39 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL draft combine, before being chosen in the sixth round.
"I love going deep," Miller said. "That's my favorite thing."
On the season, Miller has 15 catches for 250 yards, a 16.7 average per catch. He ranks eighth in the league in targeted air yards (16.3), which is how far the ball traveled through the air before getting to him. He's also 16th in separation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which measures the average distance between Miller and the nearest defender when he completes a route.
"He's not Edelman because he's real fast," Arians said of Miller. "What has stood out about him is he's put on some weight. He's gotten stronger, his speed is showing up every single day."
Miller was the Daily Herald's Northwest All-Area Captain in 2014, but he received just one FCS scholarship offer from Bowling Green.
Now he's on pace for a 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL, assuming the connection with the 43-year-old Brady holds up.
"He can still sling it, absolutely," Miller. said "That was one thing -- when he announced he was coming here, everyone was saying, 'He doesn't have the arm anymore.' But I found out the first day I threw with him that he still has it. He throws just as hard as anyone I've ever thrown with, still. And then his deep ball is great as well.
"He's worked with so many receivers that are similar to me -- so many great receivers in general -- so I'm just trying to learn from him. I think if I'm on the same page as him, I'm going to be in a good spot."