Last time we checked on Kolton Miller we looked at how he compared to Trent Brown through the first 5 weeks of the schedule going up against elite pass rushers. In that piece it was evident that while Miller had taken strides from his 2018 form, he still was a work in progress and clearly Oakland’s second best tackle.
Over the past several weeks, Miller has continued to grow and is showing glimpses of living up to his draft status as a first round pick. Miller has the size and athleticism to be a dominant tackle in the NFL, that much has never been in question. It’s the technique and mental aspect of the game that seemed to elude him in 2018. And although he may not be an All-Pro just yet, his trajectory as a player is something Raiders fans should be happy about.
Pass protection progress
An NFL tackle needs multiple tools at his disposal in order to deal with the beastly pass rushers who come their way. Miller used the cut block at times last year with middling success. This year he is saving it as a true change-up and the success is evident when it works on a walking Hall of Fame caliber player in JJ Watt.
All offensive linemen need to be able to diagnose and pick up stunts. Miller struggled with this at times last season and it wasn’t so much mentally being able to recognize the twisting pass rushers as putting himself in a position to lower his center of gravity and block a defensive tackle. This year it looks like he’s picked up some tips from Richie Incognito as he buries this poor defensive tackle. Kolton, that man has a family.
Gruden likes to give both his tackles a little help in the pass protection game plan. Whether with quick passes, play action, or keeping TEs and RBs in to block. There will always be times when this just isn’t possible and Miller will be on an island against a defensive end like Joey Bosa. This rep shows Miller isn’t backing down from that challenge. Bosa lands a long-arm on Miller, but the second year tackle bats the arm down, throwing the rusher off balance.
Blitz pick up is a crucial mental test for offensive linemen. Last year there was an example of Miller getting very confused against a similar look during a game against Denver. Fast forward to this season and Miller seems to have cleaned that part of his game up. Against this blitz from the Jets defense, Miller has three potential threats coming off the edge. Instead of blocking any of them, he recognizes that he needs to slant towards the right and pick up the rusher who has the quickest line to the QB. This ins’t a physically remarkable, play but it highlights Miller’s ability to recognize blitzes and play within the scheme.
My favorite rep from Miller in the past few weeks is shown above against Frank Clark. You might remember Clark beating Miller like a red headed step-child when they first met in 2018. Now that Miller is healthy and a season more of experience under his belt, he made this battle more equal. Watch closely while Miller is taking his vertical set, he makes a subtle flinch as if he’s going to land a strike on Clark. Clark goes to counter a move that wasn’t even coming and it throws off his rush plan. This type of chess match is something that elite tackles execute on a week-to-week basis. One rep doesn’t make a season, but if Miller can incorporate this into his game with consistency, he will be a tough tackle to beat.