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Raiders rookie report: Kolton Miller leads the way for not so great season opener

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Kolton Miller was the most criticised of all the 2018 NFL Draft picks for the Oakland Raiders but he looked the best in Week 1.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There has been more excitement for the Oakland Raiders’ draft class of 2018 than there was of the class a year ago. One exception being top pick Kolton Miller whose selection was criticized heavily and often described as a reach. And not many knew what to make of 2nd-round pick (DT) PJ Hall as he came from a small school and the Raiders have been cursed in the second round lately.

Most of the excitement was over defensive end Arden Key and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. Key, the team’s 3rd-round pick, was a potential first round pick talent if not for off-the-field issues. Hurst, the team’s 5th-round pick, was considered a top-10 pick before his heart condition was discovered at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

The defensive linemen drafted didn’t have much of a Week 1 as they had a grand total of just one sack and that veteran Bruce Irvin produced. But the draftees did show potential while not having much of a productive day on Sunday.

Active

  • Kolton Miller
  • PJ Hall
  • Arden Key
  • Brandon Parker (DNP)
  • Maurice Hurst
  • Johnny Townsend

Inactive

  • Nick Nelson

Kolton Miller

With all eyes on him in Week 1, he looked the best of his classmates in a day that wasn’t great for the class overall.

Miller gave up just two quarterback pressures in his NFL debut according to Pro Football Focus. His pass-blocking grade for the day was 68.2, which isn’t too bad for a debut against the fierce Los Angeles Rams pass-rush. His run-blocking grade was only 49, which brought is overall grade down to 59.5. He didn’t have the grade of a franchise left tackle or look like one on Sunday but he did look like a guy that could get there pretty soon. His next assignment, All-World edge-rusher Von Miller, who said the Raiders’ O-line just got “a whole lot better” as a result of picking Kolton Miller.

PJ Hall

Hall had a team rookie best 57 pass rushing grade on 20 pass-rushing snaps according to Pro Football Focus. But he had the most disappointing play of the night as he ripped through the offensive line on one play and stopped instead of continuing on for a sack. The play was significant because the Rams threw deep and drew a pass interference call on it.

Hall sprained his ankle early in the game and that might be a part of why he had an overall lackluster performance. He has not practiced all week and it looks like he won’t play Sunday in Denver.

Arden Key

Arden Key got two pressures in 20 pass-rush snaps for a pass-rush grade of 53.1. His get-off is on point but he looked like he was trying too hard as he was often out of control and off balance. But one good thing is his run defense grade was the second highest among all Raiders D-linemen at 71.5. Remember, his ability to hold up against the run was a concern coming out. His overall grade was 53.7 against the Rams, who have a solid offensive line. It will be interesting to see what he does against the Broncos, who’s O-line isn’t as good.

Maurice Hurst

Hurst didn’t start Sunday and was barely visible with just one pressure on 25 pass-rush snaps. His pass-rush grade ended up being 55.9 and his overall grade was 58.9. Hurst was most effective against the run, where he finished with a grade of 61.1 according to Pro Football Focus. Nose tackle Justin Ellis is on injured reserve now and Hall is no lock to play this coming Sunday. So Hurst will get a real shot to show what he has against the Denver Broncos.

Johnny Townsend

He wasn’t impressive, especially when he needed to be when punting deep in Raider territory. All he could produce then was a 35-yard punt, giving the Rams a short field from which to score. Perhaps the mile-high altitude in Denver will help him against the Broncos.


Of all the rookie starters that got a significant about of playing time, Miller, the 1st-round pick, was the best in Week 1. The defensive linemen that were brought in to help rush the passer could only show tiny glimpses of their potential. Townsend is going to have to pick it up to if the Raiders are to have any hope of flipping the field too. Week 2 will be interesting as Miller has the Broncos edge-rushers to deal with while the defensive lineman aren’t playing against as good an O-line.