TAMPA — Bucs nose tackle Roy Miller had a fitting way to describe last season.
"It was just a blur," he said.
Miller, 25, battled knee and back injuries throughout the year, while having to adjust to a read-and-react system that didn't suit his strengths. But Miller believes it's finally all coming together, as he's healthy, and now in a more aggressive scheme.
And teammates can see the dramatic difference.
"Roy is on another level right now," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Something has clicked. He's like, unstoppable. He looks amazing on tape. I'm extremely excited."
Said defensive tackle Frank Okam: "He's been putting some highlight-tape kind of things on the field."
This is a big season for Miller in more than one way. In the final year of a four-year, $2.52 million deal, he still hopes to show the consistency the Bucs hoped for when drafting him in the third round out of Texas in 2009.
And Tampa Bay needs it now more than ever, as there's depleted depth behind Miller, thanks to injuries to Gary Gibson and Amobi Okoyi.
But Miller, under his third defensive line coach in four seasons, likes the position the Bucs have put him in, a tilted alignment that lets him get off the ball and use his quickness and strength.
"I just felt like Year 2 was similar to this and this is what I like, this is what I've done in college," Miller said. "I'm just excited to get back to it and the consistency of coaching is something I'm looking forward to.
"And I know Gerald and these guys, too, they've been in the same situation. I think that's going to be huge."
Okam, Miller's college teammate at Texas, could tell that playing through injuries during the team's 10-game losing streak was wearing on Miller last season.
"It was pretty hard, battling injuries the whole year, you're never really comfortable," Okam said. "You're always trying to work to protect the injury, so it's hard to get out there and put your best stuff out on tape. He's finally starting to get really healthy and we're finally seeing the full potential that he has.
"As long as he stays healthy and stays committed, which I know he will, the sky is the limit for him and this defense."
Coach Greg Schiano has liked what he's seen from Miller so far, noting how lining up in a tilted formation can work to the advantage of the 6-foot-2, 310-pound tackle.
"When you're tilted on a guy, you can suffocate him and when you're strong like Roy is — he's incredibly strong — you're not asked to do some of the things you're asked to do when you're straight up," Schiano said. "That leads better to using his strength."
Miller showed disruption in Friday's 30-7 preseason loss to the Titans, getting his hands on quarterback Jake Locker during an incompletion, and batting down another pass.
"I like what we're doing right now,' Miller said. "I'm excited."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]