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Safety First For Harlan Miller

Former cornerback hoping to make smooth transition in Cardinals' secondary


Cardinals safey Harlan Miller catches a ball during offseason work.

When Harlan Miller was at Southeastern Louisiana, he would implore his college coaches to let him play safety.

The pitch: He could be more involved defensively, swoop in for interceptions and have a better view of each play as it unfolded. The star cornerback's propaganda was always met with resistance.

"They never did let me," said Miller, before a half-smile creeped onto his face. "Now I can call and joke with them about it."

While the Cardinals also envisioned Miller at corner when they drafted him in the sixth round last season, desperate times called for desperate measures. After several months on the practice squad, Miller was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 19 to aid a banged up secondary.

In Week 16 against the Seahawks, Tony Jefferson was injured in the first quarter. The Cardinals needed a safety and had few options, so Miller's first foray into the NFL was at a foreign position.

"I was forced to play it," Miller said. "Well, I wouldn't say 'forced,' but I was the next guy up."

Coach Bruce Arians' advice to Miller that day was to stay deep and don't miss tackles. Miller was praised for the way he handled the emergency situation, and then found more success in the regular season finale against the Rams, registering four tackles and an interception.

The flash of potential was enough for the coaching staff to switch Miller to safety this offseason, where he will push for a roster spot during training camp.

While the position group boasts veterans Tyrann Mathieu, Antoine Bethea and Tyvon Branch as well as second-round pick Budda Baker, Miller has caught the eye of Arians, who said he was doing "extremely well" during offseason work.

Miller called the transition a smooth one, and he had a feeling this would be his path when the season ended.

"After the Rams game, I think I solidified I'd be playing safety for my NFL career," he said.

The biggest knock on Miller heading into the draft was his speed, a weakness that is more easily hidden at safety. On the flip-side, he possesses sure tackling and good instincts, which is why the move seemed natural.

One hurdle is the mental side, as safeties are much more involved in lining up the defense. Bethea said Miller has done a nice job picking up the complexities of the position thus far.

"He's been doing a great job communicating," Bethea said. "Obviously you see it differently at the safety position than at the corner position. From what I've seen, he's been making a pretty good transition. Getting more reps will make him better as well."

The Cardinals were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention at the end of last season, so the final two games didn't mean anything for that fate. But for Miller, it was a critical juncture.

"It gave me a lot of confidence to show I could play in the NFL," he said. "I was on the practice squad for a long amount of time knowing that I could play. I got the opportunity and I made it happen."

Miller is hoping for more chances in 2017.

 "I've just got to come in every day and work hard," Miller said. "Everything else will work out for itself."

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