If you follow sleek new Bengals right guard John Miller on Instagram, you’ve seen him do what he does twice a day five times a week to stack muscle upon muscle.
“Oh yeah. I’ve seen him. Tough,” said offensive line coach line coach Jim Turner Friday, shortly after the Bengals committed $16.5 million to Miller over the next three years to shore up the middle. “But I’ve been watching more of the film. The first word that comes into my mind is ‘physicality.’ There’s no substitute on any line for that. It’s contagious.
“He’s a going to a great fit for what we’re trying to do here.”
Since the 6-3, 315-pound Miller has started all four of his NFL seasons in Buffalo, the thinking is he’s primed for the right guard spot in Cincinnati. At the very least there figures to be a training camp battle between Miller and incumbent Alex Redmond. And it looks like Miller is going to get the reps in spring practices with Redmond recovering from a shoulder procedure that should have him back for training camp.
With new head coach Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan crafting their playbook, they got an eyeful during Miller’s visit that he wrapped up Friday. Callahan is particularly impressed with how Miller bulks up the inside on pass protection, where Pro Football Focus (PFF) marked him for allowing just one sack and five hits on the quarterback last season.
“He’s got good tape out there. He helps us a ton,” Callahan said. “He walks in the room and you see it. He’s big, he’s thick, he’s square and you watch the tape and that’s how he plays. He can move for a big man. Good athleticism. He’s an outstanding pass protector. He anchors. He doesn’t get pushed back. He does a lot of things in the middle of the pocket that are positive.”
Miller not only fits the Bengals schematically, but philosophically. They prefer their free agents to be young and ascending and by the age of 25 (he turns 26 in training camp), Miller has 47 NFL starts. In his first two seasons he helped the Bills lead the league in rushing yards per game, a category they’ve been in the top ten since they took him in the third round out of Louisville in 2015. Last year PFF graded Miller one spot below the Bengals' most consistent lineman, left guard Clint Boling, ranked 46th and 45th, respectively, among guards.
His familiarity with a former college and Buffalo teammate, Bengals middle linebacker Preston Brown, helped draw him to Cincinnati, as well as playing on the same Bills line with Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn. And he knows Bengals left end Carlos Dunlap through workouts at Bommarito Performance Systems in his hometown of Miami, Fla.
“The Bengals have a winning organization and it’s a fresh start for me and the coaches,” Miller said after chatting with Turner. “We talked about different offensive line techniques and he’s excited and I’m excited. We’re ready to go.”
When Miller isn’t on his boat in the South Florida waters, he’s grinding in workouts. He says he does two a day five times a week and he’s got the miniscule body fat to prove it. He hasn’t maxed out a bench press lately, but the last time he did he launched 525 pounds once. He’s matured a lot since his NFL scouting combine, when he tossed around 225 pounds a total of 29 times.
The new staff has made no bones about asserting the run game and that’s one of the reasons Turner is delighted with the fit. When he was coaching the Dolphins offensive line in 2013, he ran across Miller while scouting.
“Strong. Tough,” Turner said. “I remember him in college.”
The Miller deal wrapped up the first week of free agency in which the Bengals spent about $20 million in 2019 salary cap dollars, close to the figure they allotted in free agency. They kept three starters in Preston Brown, right tackle Bobby Hart, and tight end C.J. Uzomah while adding what looks to be another starter in Miller. Former New York Giant B.W. Webb figures to start at slot cornerback, but even they’re near their limit that doesn’t seem to preclude potential deals with incumbent slot man Darqueze Dennard or tight end Tyler Eifert.
Former Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron doesn’t look to be an option after being released in Oakland. The three biggest deals going into their contract year belong to wide receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd and cornerback William Jackson and the Bengals could move to extend them with the help of $8 million in roll-over cap money.
Reports had the Bengals hosting this week Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton and Denver linebacker Shaq Barrett, but they were apparently content to ink Miller and Webb in the last 24 hours while waiting to see what happens with Eifert and Dennard. Barrett ended up going to Tampa on a one-year deal.
Check out some of the images of new Bengals guard John Miller from his days with the Buffalo Bills.