It’s a little too early to pronounce Zach Miller as the Bears’ 2016 starting tight end, but there are a number of factors dragging the discussion in that direction.
The first factor to consider is the shaky ground on which current starter Martellus Bennett finds himself. Bennett has been outspoken about his desire to get paid after his Pro Bowl season last year. He skipped some voluntary portions of offseason training and general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox clearly have had a distaste for anyone who is not “buying in” to what they’re building in Chicago.
With Bennett being placed on injured reserve, Miller has had the opportunity to showcase his skills as the lead tight end, and he hasn’t disappointed. Miller hauled in a game-high 7 catches for 69 yards and was a focal point of the Bears offense in their 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The problem with anointing Miller as the starter for next season is twofold. First, Miller has missed three full seasons due to various injuries and will be 32 years old next season. Second, Bennett is still under contract for another season at a very reasonable price, and he brings several skills to the table that Miller does not have. Most notably among those are his ability to break or avoid tackles and gain yards after the catch.
If the Bears kept both players on board for another season — with the key being that Bennett is willing to buy in and be unselfish — then the Bears would have a solid 1-2 punch at the position for 2016.