Perhaps no rookie’s debut was as anticipated as Kolton Miller, whom the Raiders selected with their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Miller has so far taken the majority of the reps at left tackle since incumbent starter Donald Penn has been mending a foot injury. There has been a lot of talk about Penn taking a pay cut due to the emergence of Miller and the Raiders pre-season match-up was the first topic in that conversation.
Miller actually ended up on Levi’s list of Busters due in large part to his holding penalty that brought back Marshawn Lynch’s terrific 60 yard score. However, Miller held up admirably after that mistake and put some impressive things on tape. He’s not a finished product of course but certainly could start at left tackle should Donald Penn not be ready come week 1.
First things first, lets take a look at the holding penalty. Miller ends up blocking Anthony Zettel on this outside zone play. He almost executes a perfect reach block by stepping laterally and getting his body outside of Zettel’s frame. But Zettel shows off that NFL strength and creates enough torque with his upper body that Miller’s arm slips around his neck. Not the most egregious hold ever but certainly a learning moment for Miller.
Miller shows he is a quick learner on this rep. Almost the same play as the Beast Mode score that was called back, Miller again blocks Zettel on a zone play. This time he’s ready for the upper body twist and creates a stalemate. Miller should finish this block off and drive his man into the dirt next time.
This is an up and down rep for Miller. Watch how quickly Zettel beats Miller off the line with a quick swim move. Miller’s head is down and he takes a step up-field before securing his block, two big no-no’s. But it’s what Miller does next that is really special. He is able to execute the mythical “wrap-around” block and finish his assignment to prevent a tackle in the backfield. There are only a handful of tackles in the NFL with the quick feet and length required to recover like this. This play perfectly highlights why Miller was taken in the top 15 and the areas in which he can still improve.
Miller did some good work in pass protection. Most impressive was the different pass sets and techniques he put on film, proof that he is taking the coaching from Tom Cable. On the rep above he sets the tone for Zettel with this savvy cut block on a 3 step drop pass play. By using this technique, Miller makes Zettel think twice about how he will attack the left tackle.
Next Miller uses a “shallow set” or “jump set” where he takes a lateral step to attack the pass rusher and punch him before he starts his rush. This technique is great for limiting the power from rushers by stopping them before they even get started. Miller executes this pass set perfectly and helps create a perfect pocket for Carr to step up and make a downfield throw.
The play above shows Miller is also a quick mental processer. This is a 5-man protection so that means the QB is responsible for the free rusher in case of a blitz. Miller makes this easier on Connor Cook when he sees his man slip and instead decides to deliver a shot on the blitzing linebacker. Solid physicality from Miller here and a heads up play.
Of course not every rep was great. Here Miller employs what is called a “vertical set” against Zettel. This pass set protects against speed rushers. Miller has perfect positioning here but his feet come out from under him and he’s unable to anchor against Zettel’s power leading to a pressure on Carr.
Kolton Miller played with the first and second team offensive lines exclusively at left tackle. He had a relatively quiet day aside from the holding penalty and pressure allowed, which is what Gruden wants out of his left tackle. There were times when he showed smarts, instincts, and great athleticism blocking the run and the pass.
The instances Miller struggled were against strength and power. This is an area where technique can only help so much. It is nearly impossible to gain strength once the season starts. With the toll that a 16+ game season takes on NFL players, Miller is going into the 2018 season with this baseline of functional strength. It will be up to coaches to prepare him for whichever side he ends up starting on. But make no mistake Raider Nation, Kolton Miller is here to stay.