While the Seattle Seahawks eagerly awaited the addition of Percy Harvin to their lineup, the return of tight end Zach Miller paid immediate dividends.
Miller returned to the starting lineup for Seattle in the middle of October after a two-week hiatus due to a hamstring strain. Miller was a repeat option for Russell Wilson on third down and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass as well as the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 34-22 in his first game back on Oct. 17.
Miller caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown against Arizona with three of his five grabs coming to extend drives on third down. He’s caught three touchdown passes in his last three games for the Seahawks.
As the Seahawks gets ready to host New Orleans on Saturday in the NFC Divisional playoffs, the Desert Vista and Arizona State product has 33 catches for 387 yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s a big part of us. He really opens up the middle of the field for us and gives us a good, experienced guy in there,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He just really has the experience, the savvy, the feel in there, and the quarterback has been with him long enough over the year, last year and this year, that he trusts him.”
Miller and Wilson seemed to hit their stride together late last season. Miller caught 12 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s playoff games against the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons. His five catches against Arizona where a season high he later tied against New Orleans.
“Just the way I want it to be,” Miller said. “I got involved early in the game. Russell, I felt, was looking my way quite often during the game. I felt good blocking, everything felt good and it felt nice just to be back in there healthy and feeling good.”
Miller missed a significant portion of offseason workouts and training camp with foot injuries. It’s taken some time for the chemistry to come back together but Wilson says they’re on the same page now.
“We’re locked in together,” Wilson said. “He’s so consistent. You know where he’s going to be. You know he’s going to make the catch when you need it. Having him back last week was huge for us.”
Miller’s presence isn’t just felt in the passing game. He’s played for offensive line coach Tom Cable for seven years between Seattle and Oakland and understands the intricacies of blocking in the running game and pass protection in Cable’s system. With the Seahawks still missing both starting tackles in Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini due to injury, Miller’s presence along the line gives Seattle a more capable option to help keep the running game going and Wilson upright.
“What a difference the guy makes,” Cable said. “He just kind of comes in and he gets it. The communication, the technique and where I’ve got to be when the ball is supposed to be thrown and all those things. It’s a big plus for us.”
Even though he doesn’t put up gaudy receiving numbers, the Seahawks still feel Miller’s impact when he’s on the field.
“He’s a tremendous football player, he’s the kind of guy you can just count on every single time you go out whether it’s blocking, catching, or running, the whole thing,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a big factor for us, it’s kind of what we’ve come to count on from the guy, and we’re going to expect him to continue to do that.”