MOBILE, Ala. – Can’t you just picture Braxton Miller fitting perfectly into the Buffalo Bills’ offense?
Can’t you just see the multi-faceted, former Ohio State star lining up at his current position, wide receiver, as well as his former position, quarterback? Or in the backfield? Or in other packages that emerge from the creative mind of offensive coordinator Greg Roman?
Sure, you can.
The Bills likely can, too, even if they aren’t going to tip their hand about any specific players they’ll be targeting in April’s NFL Draft.
“(Roman) can totally fit (Miller into the Bills’ offense) because he can get so much out of people,” former NFL general manager and current ESPN and SiriusXM NFL Radio analyst Mark Dominik said. “Look what (Roman) did with (quarterback Colin) Kaepernick (when Roman was offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers).”
Look at the trickery Roman employed from time to time in his first year running the Bills’ offense.
He had Matt Cassel line up at quarterback for the Bills’ very first offensive snap of the regular season with the actual starter at the position, Tyrod Taylor, at receiver. He had backup QB EJ Manuel behind center, with Taylor also at receiver, in certain situations to run the ball. He had running back LeSean McCoy take direct snaps. He had wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the backfield and the slot. He even had wideout Chris Hogan throw a pass.
Yes, Miller could be an ideal addition to the Bills’ offense, further allowing Roman to explore the vast reaches of his imagination.
“I bring a different type of aspect to the game,” Miller said Wednesday while preparing to play in the Senior Bowl as part of the North squad. “I feel like every team needs playmakers. (NFL scouts) mention, ‘You can do it all. You can be back there playing punt return, be in the backfield, be a decoy, playing inside and outside. It’s a great feeling, being able to do that stuff, too, and still learn at the same time.”
Said Dominik, “I think the mental makeup’s really good for him. That’s going to give him a chance to handle multiple positions, understand it and be able to do it. It’s not easy. It’s a slow process. We’ve seen it in Denard Robinson, how it’s taken a little bit of time for him in Jacksonville (after converting from quarterback at Michigan to running back with the Jacksonville Jaguars). But Braxton needs to realize – and I think the club that gets him will – that it’s a process, not an event.”
Ohio State decided to switch Miller from quarterback to receiver before the 2015 season. He welcomed the move and now fully embraces receiver as the place where he will play as a professional.
“This offseason, I felt great, but now I feel even better,” Miller said. “I want to show (the NFL scouts and coaches watching Senior Bowl practices) what I’m capable of – playing inside receiver, outside receiver, going against the best DBs in man coverage and beat them with the ease. … From now on I’m a receiver. That’s how I think. All I want to be is the best I can be. The sky’s the limit.”
The most difficult part of the transition was conditioning. As a quarterback, the 6-foot-2 Miller kept his playing weight at about 215 pounds. But he immediately discovered in the Buckeyes’ training camp that, as a receiver, he needed to be much lighter.
Through a strict diet (that mainly consisted of eliminating his favorite meal, burgers and fries) and intensive training, he got down to his current 204 pounds. Miller said his legs feel better, he has much more energy and explosiveness.
“I feel like a receiver now, just the way my body is right now,” he said.
Mentally, Miller has had to make some adjustments. He has had to focus on technique work, such as being sure to keep his hips down, accelerate, and come back to the ball. He routinely has done that in North squad practices.
At times, though, he tries to do too much by putting more juking into his release from the line of scrimmage than the Cowboys’ coaches would prefer.
“Just use my speed, because it’s a scary thing when I use my speed,” Miller said. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett “told me, ‘It’s a good thing when you use your speed now, huh? You get a lot of separation. You should start using it.’”
Miller looks fast, physical, and aware of what he needs to do to make a play. As a former quarterback, he should know those things.
“When you understand what you’re looking for as a quarterback, what routes you need to run and where your break points are and your depth, I think it helps them,” Dominik said. “Because they’re like, ‘Wait a second, I know how important this route is’ or, ‘I know where I’ve got to be, because if I was the quarterback, I’d want you to hit 12 yards and you’ve got to dig it across and this is what I need.’
“(Miller) saw the field from (the pocket). It’s a little bit faster when you’re one-on-one, and I think that’s a transition that they struggle with, and also the use of hands and all those things that are so new to them. But I think, when you have the intelligence to be able to handle the quarterback position, I think that helps gravitate to the wide-receiver position or wherever you want to put him, and be able to find his holes, find the zones and understand how to read coverages while you’re running through it.”
The most critical part of making sure Miller would be a good fit for the Bills or any NFL team is a clear understanding by the GM and the coaching staff of the plan for him.
There must be a thorough discussion with no doubts or reservations about using his skills as a receiver, thrower, and runner to the fullest.
“Because depending on the answer you got back (from the coaches) as a GM would determine where you’re going to put him on your board,” Dominik said. “You would say to that coach, ‘Give me some history of how you would use this guy or someone you’ve had in this situation before.’ And if they can give you good answers, then, ‘OK, let’s move him up a little bit on the board so I can get in position to make sure I can take him if I want him.’ If I’m getting those answers that you’re kind of concerned about, ‘This will be the first time’ or you get that little trepidation, and you feel that, then you say, ‘OK, this might not be the right fit for us.’
“Not that he can’t do it, but he just might not be the right fit for that organization.”
That wouldn’t figure to be a problem for the Bills.