The Raiders selected an offensive tackle with their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Many panned this move mostly because of a few other players who were available at the time. The Raiders seemingly made this selection to stay ahead of the pass rush arms race in the AFC West where Derek Carr would need to be protected against multiple great edge rushers from every team in their division.
Miller’s 2018 season was a disappointment in part because after a knee injury Miller became one of the weak spots on a banged up offensive line. But how did Miller hold up in the first few games prior to his MCL injury?
It’s a small sample, but the work Miller put on film should make Raiders fans optimistic about his development.
Miller is a work in progress as a pass blocker from a technique standpoint. This became painfully obvious after his injury which took his main tools (athleticism) away from him. That being said, Miller was able to get through his first 4 weeks of NFL play only giving up 1 sack and a handful of pressures. When healthy, Miller has the size and athleticism to be a great pass blocker.
Miller got his first NFL game experience against the Rams. He allowed zero sacks and performed well in pass protection. The Rams didn’t have much edge rush to speak of, but Miller had a few reps matched up against All-Pro Aaron Donald like this T-E stunt in the above clip. When Kelechi Osemele passes Donald off to the rookie left tackle, Miller doesn’t flinch, keeps his hands active and blocks Donald into the ground.
In week 3 Miller matched up with stalwart defensive end Robert Quinn the entire game. He got the better of Quinn who grew visibly tired as the game went on having to go up against a younger and equally athletic player. The majority of Miller’s pass rush sets against Quinn looked like the one above where he keeps his hands fighting and ushers Quinn around the back of the pocket.
Week 4 brought Miller’s biggest test and yielded the most proof he could turn into a great pass protector in the NFL. He was matched up against Cleveland Browns elite pass rusher Myles Garrett. This was a great battle to watch on tape and while Miller did give up his first sack of the season to Garrett, he showed the most consistency as a pass blocker with his hand placement and ability to anchor. Miller was able to stall or stop Garrett for the majority of the game with pass sets like this. Notice how Miller grabs onto Garrett’s wrist in the above clip. He did this 3 times in the Cleveland negating Garrett’s formidable power.
This rep week 1 against the Rams shows a common occurrence on Miller’s tape where pass rushers executing power rush plans are able to knock Miller back into the pocket. He is able to anchor here but after his injury struck, he was no longer able to stop his feet in these situations—plays like this turned into pressures or sacks. Miller needs to land his hands first and bring the fight to pass rushers with more frequency in 2019.
There were also a couple plays like this where the defense confused the young player. Denver lines up with 3 potential rushers outside of the rookie left tackle and Miller’s head spins trying to decide which player to block. He ends up blocking none of them but luckily Derek Carr gets the ball out before the blitz gets home.
The lone sack Miller gave up came in week 4. You could argue Derek Carr holds onto the ball too long here and initially Miller does a solid job stopping the pass rusher’s first move. Miller gets his feet stuck in the ground however and loses his hold on Garrett who counters inside to get the sack. Miller will need to clean up his feet and hand placement to secure these blocks longer so Carr can have more time in 2019 to allow routes to develop and throw deep.
While pass blocking was more up and down for Miller in the beginning of the season, his work as a run blocker was usually good. He has the athleticism to really thrive in Tom Cable’s zone heavy run blocking scheme.
This play in week 1 is a zone play to the right. Miller’s job is to “reach” the backside defensive tackle who just happens to be Aaron Donald. Miller shows off impressive lateral agility to position his body in front of Donald at the snap of the ball. Donald adjusts and attempts to take the back door in this situation but Miller is able to recover and do just enough to prevent the All-Pro from making a play in the backfield.
Miller’s tape on the back side of zone plays is really good. This time he doubles with Kelechi Osemele and shoves the defensive tackle to the ground before moving to the second level. When the Raiders run to the right watch for the cutback lanes Miller is able to open up on the backside in 2019.
Miller can also work in power schemes where some offensive lineman block down and other pull around. This time in week 3 against the Dolphins, Miller executes a down block on the Dolphins defensive tackle and moves him 5 yards over, allowing for what should have been a big hole in the run game.
On this sweep play to the left Miller shows off his athleticism pulling outside to the left and getting to the second level. He executes a key block affecting two defenders who would have had a good angle on this Marshawn Lynch run. Miller’s cut block sends one defender to the ground and trips up another linebacker who as a result is unable to get Lynch on the ground.
Week two against the Broncos, his pass protection was great, but he struggled greatly in run blocking, giving up at least three run stuffs as Levi Damien noted in his Ballers & Busters that week. Shaq Barrett in particular gave him problems outside
There was a common theme to Miller’s run blocking woes. For all Miller’s gifts blocking defenders at an angle, he doesn’t fare as well when its a one-on-one head-up block. When he has to stretch the edge there were a few instances where he loses inside hand placement and gets pushed back by the defender causing the hole to close before the runner gets through. The strength that Miller added this off-season should help him rectify this area so he can develop into a complete run blocker.
In his first 4 weeks of NFL action Miller had to block a gauntlet of high quality NFL pass rushers including; Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Robert Quinn, and Myles Garrett. Miller handled this challenge with aplomb officially allowing half a sack and 5 pressures according to Pro Football Focus figures.
Technically there is plenty of room for improvement from Miller’s footwork to his hand placement and his ability to anchor against power rushers.