(Eds: Updates with details.)By TIM BOOTHAP Sports Writer
Through eight games, Zach Miller has been a glorified offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, and a very good one at that.
But Seattle didn’t lock Miller up for five years to just be an extra lineman. The Seahawks wanted his pass-catching ability across the middle as another component of their offense.
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So far, that hasn’t happened. Miller enters Sunday’s game against Baltimore with just 11 catches for 99 yards, no touchdowns and no catch for longer than 17 yards.
”It’s on us to get him the football. He’s been a terrific factor blocking and helping us in pass protection,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ”He had a great game last week for us, but not in the numbers way that you would see. If we can make him more of a threat by getting the ball in his direction more, that’ll help us.”
Miller was shut out last week against Dallas, and didn’t even get a pass thrown his way in the 23-13 loss to the Cowboys. That was partly by design as the Seahawks often needed Miller to stay in and help against the Cowboys’ potent pass rush.
But it also was the first time since Week 2 of the 2009 season that Miller played an entire game and went without a reception. He was also held without a catch earlier this season against the New York Giants, but left that game early with a concussion that sidelined him for the Seahawks’ next game as well.
Miller would like more receptions than what he has thus far, especially coming off 126 combined receptions the past two seasons. But he also understood the situation he was entering with a rebuilt and inexperienced offensive line.
”I think it’s a mixture of that and missing a game for injury, really a game and a half, so definitely with a young offensive line sometimes you’re asked as a tight end, especially going against these rushers in the NFL, you have to help out your tackles,” Miller said. ”No matter how good your tackles are, you’ve still got to help them out especially with a young offensive line. I expected to be in protection a little bit more.”
When Miller arrived during the abbreviated offseason, he was expected to team with John Carlson and be used in multiple tight end sets where one or the other could slip out into a pass pattern and not be solely relied on to stay in and block. But Carlson was lost to a labrum injury during training camp and placed on injured reserve.
That left Miller as Seattle’s best blocking tight end, and while that’s meant opportunity for young tight ends like Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah to become pass targets, it’s left Miller with paltry numbers.
”That’s kind of the challenge because Zach is our ace in the hole as a blocker in terms of protection and in terms of the run game, but then he can do some good things in the pass game,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ”But we usually end up sending the other guys out and leaving him in to block because he’s so good at it. So that’s something that we definitely need to look at and balance.”
Miller and the rest of Seattle’s offensive line helped open holes for Marshawn Lynch last week against the Cowboys to the tune of 135 yards rushing for Lynch and 162 total for the Seahawks. It was the best day on the ground for the Seahawks in the last two regular seasons. Miller hopes that continued success running might make it easier to find holes for the pass game.
”It’s important to get the ball to your tight ends and use that middle of the field,” Miller said. ”Especially the way we ran the ball, play action off of run fakes should be big when you run the ball well.”
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