The headline prior to Sunday’s matchup against the Bengals was the loss of offensive guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson to injury. But the biggest hole in the Raiders offensive line Sunday didn’t come from the interior, it arose from Derek Carr’s blindside.
Rookie offensive tackle Kolton Miller allowed two sacks and eight total pressures on 43-pass blocking snaps on Sunday according to Pro Football Focus.
This was just another chapter in what has become an awful rookie season for the Raiders first round pick who leads the league in sacks allowed (14) and pressures allowed (59). That’s to say nothing of his 44.8 run-blocking grade ranks 82nd out of 83 qualifying offensive tackles. And it won’t get any easier this week versus the Broncos elite pass rushers.
“Yeah, [Kolton Miller] had a couple pass sets that were uncommon for him and we have to fix that fast, especially this week with Von [Miller] and [Bradley] Chubb coming to town,” said head coach Jon Gruden on Monday. “He was isolated in some tough one-on-one situations like he always is. There were a couple pass sets that I’m sure he wants back and we have to continue to work with him on the practice field and become a lot more consistent in that aspect.”
The Broncos’ defensive ends have terrorized quarterbacks combining for 26.5 sacks through week 15. Based on what he has shown, the rookie tackle doesn’t stand a chance against either pass rusher in a one-on-one matchup.
One way Gruden can help the struggling rookie is by having running backs and tight ends chip on the edge to help stall the duo.
“For a rookie, he’s been able to handle the peaks and valleys of his rookie season very well,” Gruden added. “He’s had some really good games. He’s had some games where he’s had his eyes opened. He’s not the first rookie left tackle that has gone through this. We’d like to see him finish with some authority and we have to help him do that with a much better protection plan than I called yesterday.”
The question is why has it taken the Raiders coach 15 weeks and 59 pressures to realize their left tackle needs help? Gruden’s realization Miller needs a better “protection plan” is also an indication he isn’t confident in Miller isolated on the edge, and rightfully so.
In fairness, Kolton Miller struggled with injuries a good portion of this season while facing some of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He could still become a solid offensive lineman for the Silver & Black in the future. But for now, it is looking more and more like Gruden may have whiffed with the 15th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.