Under head coach Jon Gruden, the Raiders have made it a priority to get big offensive tackles who protect the quarterback. Gruden’s first selection in the 2018 draft was LT Kolton Miller who played poorly down the stretch last season after suffering a knee injury. With another season of Kolton Miller getting his legs underneath him in the NFL, Gruden doubled down on the big tackle philosophy and made RT Trent Brown the highest paid offensive lineman in football.
Both tackles have faced a bevy of top tier edge defenders in the first 5 weeks of football. They have each handled the pressure admirably giving up a rare sack and few pressures while allowing Derek Carr more time in the pocket than he had in 2018. Here’s a look at how each has played to start the season.
Week 1 vs Von Miller and Bradley Chubb
The NFL schedule makers wasted no time giving Trent Brown his first test to see if he really was the most valuable offensive lineman in football. Brown squared off against Von Miller the first week of the season and lived up to his billing. Von Miller disappeared during this game. In the clip above watch Brown gain ground on his initial kick step, stay patient and land a strike on Miller to take him around the back of the pocket.
Kolton Miller had a great game against Bradley Chubb as well. While he is still a work in progress, Miller got the better of his fellow first round draft pick and held the young pass rusher at bay for the entire game. In the clip above, Miller’s footwork isn’t as clean as Brown’s and he can work on landing his punch more violently but he gets the job done against a good rusher.
Week 2 vs Chris Jones and Frank Clark
Against the Chiefs the Raiders offense stalled but it wasn’t because of Brown. He throws elite interior defender Chris Jones to the ground on this block. While Jones isn’t technically an edge defender, he’s the best player on the Chiefs defense and wrecked Denzelle Good in one on one match-ups. Brown can be a punishing road grader when he puts his almost 400 pounds behind a block.
Miller got to redeem himself in this game against Frank Clark who beat Miller like a drum when the pair matched up last season (while Clark was a Seahawk). Miller handled his business against Clark during the week 2 contest holding the pass rusher to 0 total pressures. The Raiders haven’t made it a habit to run the ball very often to Miller’s side. He isn’t the mauler that Brown is but he has had some positive moments like this block against Clark, collapsing the defensive end down the line.
Week 3 vs Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen
The Vikings handed the Raiders their worst loss this season in week 3. After getting behind early, the Raiders strayed away from the run game. So many obvious passing situations doesn’t help offensive linemen in pass protection and the Vikings were able to pin their ears back and get after Derek Carr. This rep above shows Brown using a “jump set” on Danielle Hunter. Hunter is ready and makes an inside move, getting far enough outside of Brown’s frame that the Raiders behemoth isn’t able to prevent him from sacking Carr.
Miller had an off day as well giving up this sack on another inside move, this time from Everson Griffen. This is the type of sack Miller gave up most in 2018 and its a little discouraging to see how he still doesn’t have consistent technique. Watch how Miller takes an angled pass set and turn his shoulders towards the rusher. Usually you’d like to see the tackle fight to keep his shoulder square to the line of scrimmage a little longer. Miller’s weight is on his back foot and when Griffen lands a strike it knocks Miller off balance.
Week 4 vs Justin Houston
The Raiders got back in a groove against the Colts and both tackles were able to face off against former division rival Justin Houston. First take a look at one of Brown’s reps against the Colts pass rusher. Brown takes a slight hesitation before attacking Houston. The best pass protectors vary their pass sets, making it difficult for rushers to time their moves when they are seeing so many different techniques. Once Brown’s hands get on Houston it’s over.
Justin Houston rushed from both sides giving us a good litmus test for Miller’s progression as a pass blocker. Miller’s technique isn’t as sound as Brown’s and we again see him immediately turning his shoulders to face the rusher. Houston beats Miller to the punch and gets into the 2nd year tackle’s chest driving him several feet backwards. Small credit goes to Miller for being able to anchor at the last second and stopping before he was driven back into Carr. At the end of the day it’s not a pressure, its not a sack, but not the best rep from Miller.
Week 5 vs Khalil Mack
The Khalil Mack revenge game didn’t go quite as planned. Credit goes all around to all the players who blocked Mack and Gruden’s game plan for limiting the game wrecker. But Brown deserves a large part of that praise. Raiders fans know how elite Mack is defending the run. Well in the clip above an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and Brown exerts his will on Mack to open this run lane up for Jacobs. You can talk about pad level and technique all day, but Brown has what can’t be coached and his massive body will push even the best players around.
Mack played on both sides for the Bears and when it was Miller’s turn to block him the results weren’t nearly as good. Miller attacks Mack and delivers a violent blow while keeping his feet moving. The strike he delivers however bounces both players away from each other and allows Mack to extend his arms on the first round pick. Mack’s extended arms create space for him to read the runner and disengage to make a tackle for no gain.
Brown is clearly head and shoulders better than Kolton Miller at this stage. While Miller has played solidly, Brown is operating at a higher level in the pass and run game.
The Raiders favor running towards the right side. It makes sense when Brown is on that side and his punishing style will likely lay nasty blocks all season long the for the Raiders.
Miller has done well playing in space this year. The screen pass to Tyrell Williams in the 4th quarter of the Denver game and the big first quarter run by Jacobs in the Chicago game are examples of when Miller gets out on the perimeter. The second year tackle has the athleticism to block fast guys in space. He will be used like this often.
The entire offensive line deserves credit, you’ll see great blocks from all of them in the above clips. When Gabe Jackson comes back the Raiders strength will have gotten even better.