RENTON — The Seahawks signed Zach Miller in large part because, in his first four seasons, he was one of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
In his first two games in Seattle, however, Miller has been little more than a high-priced extra blocker.
Through little faul
t of his own, Miller, who caught 60 or more passes in each of the past two seasons, has just three catches for 32 yards this season. With a young line that has struggled mightily to protect quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, Miller has spent less time than either he or the Seahawks would like running routes, and more time acting as extra protection against opposing pass rushers.
“There’s been some of that, a little bit more,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Miller’s extra blocking duties. “We have done that, particularly in the first couple games. We’re just trying to get our feet on the ground and make sure we’re solid. We’ll continue to do that. That will always be part of it, but we’ve been more protection-conscious because of our newness, yeah.”
The hope, starting this week in Seattle’s home opener against Arizona, is that Miller and the rest of the team’s offensive weapons can get more involved. The line, while still far from polished, showed improvements in pass protection, and Arizona is less of a threat defensively than both San Francisco and Pittsburgh. So while it is unrealistic to expect the Seahawks offense to suddenly look great, players like Miller and Mike Williams, who between them have just eight catches, should see the ball thrown their way more often on Sunday.
“Zach is a really good football player and the ball just hasn’t got to him enough,” Carroll said. “Those are the guys that will make our offense come alive. When Mike is getting the ball, or Zach’s getting the ball, or Sidney (Rice) or Ben (Obomanu) are getting the football, we’re going to be different than we’ve been. It’s not a question of us knowing that, it’s a question of us getting more chances and we have to create first downs to do that, which is a combination of things to get that done.”
A good sign for Seattle is that the Cardinals have given up an average of 343 passing yards in their first two games. In their last meeting with the Cardinals, the Seahawks put up 380 passing yards in a victory. Williams, meanwhile enjoyed two of his best games against the Cardinals, compiling 22 catches and 232 yards in the two games, while Miller had 64 yards and a touchdown when the Raiders faced the Cardinals last year.
Miller, who signed a five-year, $34 million deal that includes $17 million in guaranteed money, has been targeted just six times so far this season. Certainly he’d like to be more involved in the passing game, but he also knows blocking is part of the tight end’s job, even if it’s the less glamorous part.
“I knew we’d have a little bit of protection issues, obviously, when we’re so young up front,” he said. “There were no OTAs for the rookies on the line, so any time you come into a situation like that as a tight end, you’ve got to expect you’re going to be in to block a little bit to help out, and that’s what’s happened.”
Miller said the situation was similar early in his career in Oakland when the Raiders were developing a new-look line, and in that situation, as well as this one, he’ll do whatever is needed for the time being knowing that the catches will come.
“It definitely will (improve),” he said. “I’ve had similar situations in the past, so it’s nothing new to me, so whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it as well as I can.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog