Seahawks add a large dash of Zach (Miller) to their attack

Posted Oct 16, 2013

Zach Miller played his high school and college football in the Phoenix area, and the Seahawks tight end is returning from missing two games just in time to play Thursday night against the Cardinals.

Of all the good things the Arizona Cardinals’ 15th-ranked defense has done this season, dealing with opposing tight ends doesn’t crack the Top 15. Or maybe not even the Top 20.

It started in their season-opening loss in St. Louis, where the Rams’ Jared Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. It continued in their Week 3 loss in New Orleans, when the Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught nine passes for 134 yards and two TDs. It happened again in Sunday’s loss in San Francisco, when the 49ers’ Vernon Davis caught eight passes for 180 yards and two TDs.

Connect the dots between these impressive numbers and it only adds another layer to the portrait of just how productive tight ends have become in the NFL, and also helps create the picture that is featured on the poster of why the Cardinals are 3-3 entering Thursday night’s nationally televised game against the 5-1 and NFC West-leading Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Into this potentially productive scenario steps Zach Miller, the Seahawks’ tight end who is returning after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. During the first 4-0 start in franchise history, Miller had eight catches for 76 yards and a pair of red-zone touchdown receptions.

“Zach is a huge part of what we do,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, including Miller’s rock-solid blocking in pass protection as well as the running game. “The tight end is a big part of our offense.”

In Miller’s absence, rookie Luke Willson stepped in and showed he is a better blocker than expected as well as catching four passes for 45 yards. But Willson was selected in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft to complement and work in tandem with Miller, not replace him.

“It obviously starts in the run game, just being able to capture the edge for us,” Bevell continued with just how important the tight end is to what the Seahawks do. “And Zach is great at that. Zach has had big games in the receiving part of it for us at times. It opens up the middle of the field with what’s going on on the outside.

“So we’re excited to have that back.”

Count second-year quarterback Russell Wilson among that editorial “we.” In fact, Wilson offered, “No situation is too big for Zach.”

And it doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than playing against a division rival, in a stadium where the Seahawks are 1-6, in a the-whole-NFL-world will-be-watching matchup.

Miller is just glad to be retuning, and needs no extra hype to increase his anticipation of being back where he belongs – and the Seahawks need him.

“It’s tough to watch,” he said. “Luke did a good job of stepping up, and (No. 3 tight end) Kellen Davis, as well. It’s nice to know that we have that depth.”

Miller then cracked the slightest of smiles before adding, “But it’s good to be back out there and part of it again.”

Asked about the Cardinals’ problems defending tight ends this season, Miller said, “Each game is different. So even though guys have had success before it doesn’t mean anything unless we do it. But it’s a good matchup. The Cardinals play us tough, so it’s going to be a heckuva game.”

It’s also a good-timing return for Miller on a personal basis. He played at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, where he was a prep All-American and the No. 1 tight end prospect in the nation; and then Arizona State University in Tempe, where he set a school record for receptions by a tight end. He entered the NFL in 2007 as a second-round draft choice by the Oakland Raiders and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010. Miller signed with the Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent in 2011.

The Wilson with one “l” appreciates what the return of the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Miller return can mean to an offense that still is trying to settle into a consistent groove.

“He’s a strong, strong tight end,” Wilson said. “He’s very consistent in his approach. Very consistent in catching the football. Very consistent for us blocking-wise, as well. And he just understands the game, understands situations.

“So to have him back – in addition to Luke Willson and Kellen Davis, who have been doing a great job so far for us – that just helps our offense that much more.”

Miller just smiled, again, when told of the high praise from Wilson.

“I just try to be a consistent player, and obviously division games are so big,” Miller said. “So I’m definitely excited about this one.”