RENTON – Zach Miller spent the 2011 season – his first in Seattle – mostly as a blocker, but the sure-handed tight end is back to being a productive receiver again.
After signing a five-year, $34 million deal that included $17 million in guaranteed money, Miller proceeded to spend most of his time helping the Seahawks’ offensive line protect the quarterback instead of running pass routes.
Considered one of the better run-blocking tight ends in the NFL, Miller rightfully was credited for helping to bring about the emergence of Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s running game last season.
Still, the Seahawks didn’t sign the 26-year-old to a lucrative contract just to have him block for Lynch.
Now in his second season in Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system, Miller has re-emerged as a legitimate threat in the passing game.
Miller is second on the team in receptions with 12 for 150 yards, an average of 12.5 yards per catch. Before signing with Seattle, Miller averaged 57 catches a year for Oakland during his first four seasons in the league.
Part of the struggle for the Seahawks last season was that the offensive line gave up 50 sacks, the fourth most in the league. This season, they have a more mobile quarterback in rookie Russell Wilson, who has been sacked 11 times through five games.
“Some of it is getting out in the pass game more,” Miller said of his re-emergence. “Some of it is just kind of developing a relationship with Russell and him finding me. And we have another year in the offense, so that’s helped as well, too.”
Added Wilson: “Zach’s so consistent every day. He has tremendous knowledge of our system and what he’s trying to do and what we’re trying to do. And so the fact that he can make people miss and catch the ball – squeeze it every time you throw it to him – that’s a great asset to have.”
Bevell said it’s important to get Miller more involved in the passing game so opposing defenses have to account for him.
“He does such a great job for us in our blocking and being a major part of our run game, so it makes sense to have him in there on those pass downs,” Bevell said. “You can’t have him in there running and then take him out. He’s showed up in the right places at the right time. He caught a couple big seam routes in the last game (against Carolina), which was huge for him. He’ll continue to be a part of it.”
Fullback Michael Robinson said it has helped that the Seahawks established an ability to run the ball during the second half of the 2011 season.
“I think once we found our identity, it helped better define everyone else’s roles,” Robinson said. “It’s great that guys like Zach and some of the tight ends are getting more involved. But in this offense, anybody can get involved, and anybody can make a big play. That’s how we’re built.”
KENNEDY’S JERSEY TO BE RETIRED
The Seahawks announced that Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy will have his No. 96 jersey retired at halftime of Sunday’s game against New England.
Kennedy will receive his Hall of Fame ring during the ceremony. It will be presented by Pro Football Hall of Fame president Steve Perry.
The Seattle City Council also will proclaim Sunday as Cortez Kennedy Day.
Kennedy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
Taken with the third overall pick in the 1990 draft, Kennedy played 11 seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, earned eight Pro Bowl invitations and was selected first-team All-Pro three times.
Kennedy, who already is a member of the Seahawks Ring of Honor, joins Steve Largent (No. 80) and Walter Jones (No. 71) as the only players in franchise history to have their jerseys retired. Jersey No. 12 also is retired in honor of the Seahawks’ fans, known as the 12th Man.
Center Max Unger (hip) and defensive linemen Clinton McDonald (groin) and Jaye Howard (foot) did not practice for a second straight day. If Unger can’t play Sunday, Lemuel Jeanpierre will get the start at center against New England. Offensive guard John Moffitt (knee) remains out. Lynch (back) was a full participant in practice.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks