Miller's play time increases with Walker gone

Miller: 49ers' struggling run game not Gore's fault

Miller's play time increases with Walker gone
September 19, 2013, 6:45 am
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Bruce Miller has made a smooth transition to the offensive side of the ball from being a defensive end at Central Florida. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Programming note: Watch Thursday's 49ers press conferences with Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Jonathan Goodwin streaming live right here beginning at 12 p.m.   

SANTA CLARA – Fullback Bruce Miller was at a position in which Delanie Walker likely would have lined up a year ago in the same situation.

Miller was in a wing position, just outside of right tackle Anthony Davis, at the snap of the ball. He then ran a crossing route, and was picked up by Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas over the middle.

Miller had a step on Thomas. And 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took the snap in the shot gun formation, drilled a perfect pass that traveled 25 yards in the air to Miller at the 2-yard line.

The ball deflected off Miller’s hands for an incompletion. Four plays later, Kaepernick threw an interception, and the 49ers’ best opportunity for a go-ahead touchdown to quiet the Seattle crowd early in the game slipped away.

[RELATED: Bruce Miller career stats | 2013 game logs]

“Yeah, I should’ve had that one,” Miller said. “That’s a catchable ball, and that type of game on the road, have to make those plays and it wasn’t made. Kap put it there for me to make it, and I just got to make it. I got to make those plays.”

Miller was a central figure in another important first-half play, as his holding penalty in the end zone on outside linebacker Malcolm Smith resulted in a safety and the first two points in the Seahawks’ 29-3 victory.

Two days later, the 49ers filled the roster spot that opened with nose tackle Ian Williams going on injured reserve with a broken ankle. Instead of signing another defensive lineman, the 49ers added free agent fullback Owen Marecic.

But 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Miller’s role on the team is not in jeopardy. In fact, Harbaugh said, “I couldn’t be more pleased with Bruce.”

Miller made a remarkably smooth transition to the offensive side of the ball from being a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end at Central Florida.

“Plus-plus across the board,” Harbaugh said of Miller. “(He’s) someone that has a very special place in my heart and with the team as well. He’s always about being the disciple of the team, what helps the team win. A great team player.”

[RELATED: 49ers sign former Stanford standout Owen Marecic]

When Miller showed up for the “Camp Alex” practices at San Jose State during the lockout before his rookie season, then-49ers quarterback Alex Smith remarked at how well Miller caught the ball. Miller had 12 receptions last season and had only one drop, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I’m confident,” Miller answered when asked about his hands. “I know some of them are easier than others. The ones out in the flat are easier than the one over the middle that was thrown to me. That was a bang-bang and he put in there for me to make a play and I didn’t make it.”

With Walker – and his 56.8-percent playing time – now with the Tennessee Titans, Miller figures to get more opportunities. He has four receptions for 46 yards with one drop in the first two games. Through two games, Miller has played 58.5 percent of the 49ers’ snaps, as he lines up in many of the same spots in which Walker appeared a year ago.

He sees his increase in playing time as a direct result of Walker's departure.

”Yeah, I think so -- a little bit," Miller said. "I know the first two weeks, we wanted to stay in our base game plan, keep those guys out of some nickel packages. We have (backup tight ends) Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek who are really good players and ready to go this week. They’ll be in the game plan.”