Tom’s new BFF?

Tom Brady’s arrival in Tampa has fans, players and coaches excited. Brady himself knows he is coming into Raymond James with an arsenal of weapons that he has not had in years. There is Mike Evans, one of the best receivers in the league. Chris Godwin, completing perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the league and will be aiming to impress in a contract year where he can expect circa $15m per year based on his performances since coming into the NFL. Gronkowski has come out of retirement to play in Tampa. If those three don’t already have the NFC South worried then then you can add Cameron Brate, OJ Howard and Ronald Jones to the list too.

However, there is a player in Tampa coming off a quiet rookie season that may put up some more numbers as a typical Tom Brady safety blanket – Scotty Miller. Standing at 5ft 9in and weighing 174lb, Miller is similar in stature to slot receivers Brady has loved to use in the past.

Miller’s rookie season stats aren’t mind blowing and didn’t take long to analyse. With 13 receptions for 200 yards and a TD, as well as two rushing attempts for 18 yards, his performance on paper might get lost among other receivers. Yet, when you look at the plays that Miller did make, you can’t help but be impressed – particularly in the latter stages of the seasons when Evans and Godwin were both out injured.

His longest reception of the year was a 48-yard grab to get the Bucs down to the 1-yard line against the Saints. When you re-watch that play, you’ll first notice his speed in getting down the field. Then, you’ll see that he’s tracking the ball the entire way whilst showing elite speed, concentration and balance. It’s also worth pointing out that Miller clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day. The defensive back for the Saints, Gardner-Johnson, does incredibly well to trip Miller at the end of that play. It was originally called a TD but reversed to down at the 1. For a receiver that small and fast to keep his concentration, make a great catch down the sideline up against another impressive rookie, shows he has the potential to be used more than just a slot receiver.

Miller showed up well in a disappointing loss for the Bucs in London against the Panthers with limited reps. In a game where he caught three receptions for 39 yards, the play that stood out to me was an easy in-route for a 19-yard gain. The play was simple, but the defense were so worried about his speed, he was given the space to make the easy catch. These simple plays might be something the Bucs will want to make use of more often. Jameis Winston was inconsistent when it came to pass plays to receivers making simple in and out routes. This won’t be an issue with Brady at QB.

On what was probably his best play of the season, Miller makes a tough catch against the Cardinals. In between two defenders, he attacks the ball to make sure it’s his in an extremely tight window. He didn’t wait for the ball to come to him or allow for the defense to try make a play – he gave them no option despite his small frame. Once again his concentration and great hands ensuring the first down.

The rookie left his best game for his last of the season against the Lions, making the most out of Evans and Godwin being out.  Miller’s first NFL TD was overshadowed in a game where Perriman scored three. In his TD play, Miller explodes off the line of scrimmage, blows past the cornerback from the slot and knows exactly where the safety is, then finishes the play by hauling in the TD.  Unfortunately for Miller, he joined his teammates Evans and Godwin by picking up an injury which ended his season.

These small flashes of great receiver play we’ve seen during Miller’s rookie season shows a player with promise to improve on his rookie numbers. Now that Perriman has signed with the Jets, Miller is now competing with Justin Watson and the newly-drafted Tyler Johnson for a share of the balls that don’t go to the team’s star receivers. He’s shown that he can make plays and certainly has the potential and the qualities to be a safety blanket for ‘Tampa Brady’.

Ed – with thanks to Ryan for this thoughts on Scotty. Show him some love on Twitter!