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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scotty Miller Gets More Involved

Tom Brady and Scotty Miller haven't quite rekindled their long-ball magic of the Super Bowl season, but Miller demonstrated he could help the offense in other ways during Sunday's win over the Falcons

Tom Brady's two longest passes in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 21-15 win over Atlanta on Sunday were thrown in Scotty Miller's direction. Neither was complete; if either had been successful, Miller would have had his first breakout game of 2022. Even without those big plays, though, Miller had a good day, and that's a promising sign for the rest of the season.

Brady first looked to hit Miller down the field early in the second quarter on a pass that traveled a total of 57.8 air yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and went 42.9 yards down the field in the air. Miller got behind cornerback Casey Hayward but had to come back a bit to the ball as the two hit the end zone and became tangled up, with the ball bouncing off of Hayward. The second was late in the fourth quarter, on the game's final drive as Brady tried to put the dagger in with another long pass down the sideline to Miller, this one dragging him just out of bounds and eliciting a reaction from a home crowd expecting pass interference.

The missed connections were disappointing, but it's a sign that Brady still believes he and Miller can regain the deep-ball connection that led to a number of big plays during the 2020 Super Bowl season. In the meantime, however, Miller showed on Sunday that he could have an impact on the game in different ways. His final numbers – four catches on seven targets for 35 yards – weren't gaudy, but they were quite helpful on a day that Brady took what the Falcons' defense was giving and used 35 mostly underneath completions to rack up 351 yards.

"I thought he played well yesterday," said Head Coach Todd Bowles on Monday. "He competed, he played fast, he went over the middle, he went deep. He added some things in the blocking game that we were happy to see and I thought he progressed well."

Miller's first catch of the day was a 12-yarder in the second quarter that got the ball to the Falcons' 10 and set up a Leonard Fournette touchdown run two plays later. He had another 12-yarder on the Bucs' next possession for a first down on what would prove to be a field goal drive. Miller saw a little more action in the second half as the Bucs rested Chris Godwin a bit, helping in his gradual return to 100 percent after last year's knee injury.

"We were just subbing guys in and out and making sure people were rested," said Bowles of Godwin's added rest. "He's got to get accustomed to playing a full game as well, so we didn't want to overtax him."

Any player who is filling in for Godwin, an outstanding blocker, needs to fare well in that part of the game in order to maintain the same standards and it's encouraging that Bowles complimented Miller on that part of his game. Miller ended up playing 36 snaps, just five fewer than Godwin.

After several weeks of thinned offensive ranks due to multiple injuries to the receiving corps, the Buccaneers are getting closer to full strength. Godwin and Mike Evans are back in their starting roles and Russell Gage is the predominant third receiver, getting 73% of the snaps on Sunday even though he had been added to the injury report with a back ailment the day before. When all of those players plus Julio Jones and Breshad Perriman were active for the season opener in Dallas, Miller was a healthy scratch that week.

But Perriman is now dealing with multiple injuries and the Buccaneers do not wish to rush Jones back from a knee injury. When Jones was signed it was an attempt to proactively deal with the kind of receiver injury rash that short-circuited the offense at the end of last season. The Bucs would like to have Jones at full health for the playoff stretch drive, and they can have the luxury of waiting a while longer on him if players like Miller are stepping up into more productive roles.

"Just like Jason [Licht] said, we want him fully healthy and not coming out for a week and then missing another couple weeks," said Bowles of Jones. "We think we've got enough guys right now to weather that storm."

Miller is one of those guys, and if things go well he could reemerge as one of Tom Brady's guys. The two haven't hit on the home run shot yet like they did in 2020, but Miller is finding other ways to contribute.

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