There was a lot of controversy over the Oakland Raiders picking Kolton Miller No. 15 overall but I think it’s a solid pick. He has all the athleticism in the world and is an ascending player. The problem many have with him is his tape from the beginning of the 2017 season at UCLA.
And of course, the problem starting left tackle Donald Penn had with him is that he’s competing to play at his position. That’s why he made a very intense phone call to head coach Jon Gruden to let him know how he felt about it. But he would later find out that Gruden has a plan for Miller that doesn’t remove Penn from the picture.
“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.” Gruden said at minicamp. “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.”
“I’m not going to lie, as soon as I saw the draft pick, I called Gruden immediately. Like ‘man, what the F?’,” Penn said on Michael Rappoport’s podcast per Tyler Green. “He didn’t answer, but when I saw him the next Monday, he was joking with me saying, ‘You were ready to kick my ass, huh, Donald?! You were mad as a motherF-er!’”
So with Penn settled down after hearing the plan, I thought he would be on the left side and Miller would start out on the right side in 2018 and eventually take over the left side. After all, he was a right tackle at UCLA until moving to the left side in 2017. But David Sharpe, who showed some potential against the Philadelphia Eagles filling in at left tackle for Penn last year, is now a strong candidate to start at right tackle.
“I’m really excited about David Sharpe.” Offensive line coach Tom Cable said at minicamp. “I look at David Sharpe, I know they picked him in the fourth-round last year, and I’m looking at this guy and for a while it was uncomfortable for him. He didn’t like being uncomfortable, but you can’t be a lineman in this league and not almost cherish that ugliness side of it. It’s kind of cool because it’ll help you in life. But this guy, he’s learning that right now.
“You look at him and you think, ‘My God, there’s a right tackle that might play in this league for 10 years if he ever captures it.’ To your question, it’s the same answer I gave him. When David realizes who he is at his best, this kid is going to go off the chain on something and it’s going to be cool and you hope he’s on your team. I see right tackles in this league. There aren’t a few good ones and I think this guy has the potential. It doesn’t mean anything right yet, but he has the potential to be a really good football player. It’ll be up to him whether he chooses to do that or not.”
Sharpe did “capture it” last year for that one game against the Eagles last year, allowing just one QB pressure and no sacks. He wasn’t quite as good in his other start against the Los Angeles Chargers. So it’s up to Cable to make him consistent, assuming Sharpe wants it bad enough. But he’s off to a good start, down to 343 pounds from 357 last year.
Through the offseason program, Miller has been at left tackle much more than not. Plus the Raiders drafted Brandon Parker in the third round to play right tackle. So it’s hard to say how much of a plan there is to play Miller at right tackle short of all else failing. But there is definitely a plan for him at left tackle and when that starts is up to Penn.
I know 1st-round picks are usually expected to play right away but that isn’t always the answer. Franchise QBs don’t always get thrown out there right away so patience can be used for other positions as well. Miller has a chance to be special so the Raiders need to make sure he’s over his technical flaws from early in 2017 before putting him out there.
There’s no need to risk a young player losing his confidence due to playing before he’s ready. With Cable as his position coach, Penn as his mentor and Mack Sharpening him up in practice, he has everything he needs to succeed. We just might have to be patient and if he becomes that special player he can be, we won’t remember he didn’t start right away.
Here is why it could go that way.