This offseason Jon Gruden was candid about the team’s issues at right tackle. Since then, the Raiders released Marshall Newhouse after one season, and really haven’t replaced him, making tackle the top need coming into the draft. Adding to the need is Donald Penn who is 35, entering what figures to be the final season of his Raiders career, and coming off a foot injury.
It became clear the Raiders were determined to address the tackle position with their top pick; first targeting Mike McGlinchey, then, with McGlinchey taken by the 49ers at 9 overall, trading down to 15 and drafting Kolton Miller.
Shortly after the selection, Donald Penn had a response that of a man who sees the Raiders as planning for his eventual or immediate replacement.
Miller has spoke to the media twice now, saying he prefers left tackle, but is willing and able to play both sides. He played right tackle in 2016 at UCLA and switched to left tackle last year. He is looking forward to learning from guys like Penn, even if Penn sees him as competition to take his job.
“I want to be a sponge to say the least,” Miller said at his introductory press conference. “I want to just soak in as much as I can from them, ask a lot of questions, and I really want to establish that bond between us. I think that will be really important in the future and I think it will be huge for my development. I hope to maximize it.”
Even with Penn’s foot injury, it was assumed that Kolton Miller would be playing right tackle this season with the hopes he could move to left tackle after that.
Gruden spoke on how Miller’s addition affects Penn, and his answer was interesting.
“Donald Penn is still on our football team and he’s still rehabbing his foot injury,” said Gruden; a rather non comital answer.
“Donald has been a very good player for the Raiders, a guy that I coached in Tampa, know extremely well, but this has nothing to do with Donald Penn. This is about the future of the Oakland Raiders, we have an outstanding young quarterback, we have a need at the position, and we’re very fortunate to address it, but it doesn’t really say anything to Donald Penn.”
Gruden lauded Miller’s versatility and ability to play both sides of the line, but again, his wording was interesting as he emphasized Miller as a left tackle prospect with right tackle as secondary.
“We added an outstanding young prospect at left tackle who can also play right tackle,” he said.
It’s certainly possible, Gruden is still referring to Miller this way because he sees right tackle as a temporary position for him with ultimate designs on him being their long term answer at left tackle. After all, he added “he’s gonna be a huge part of our future. He’s playing that’s very hard to find these days.”
But you can certainly see how this might open the door to Miller being the short term answer at left tackle as well, which, of course, would put the Raiders right back into the situation of needing an answer at right tackle.