The Las Vegas Raiders face a tough test in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, especially in the trenches. Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack are expected to become a premier pass rush duo for the Chargers this season, but the Raiders have will have a good counter on Sunday in left tackle, Kolton Miller.
Miller was excellent against the Bolts last season, logging overall PFF grades of 74.5 and 78.3 in the two matchups. He allowed just two pressures — both QB hurries — on 87 combined snaps in pass protection. While his marks as a run blocker weren’t as impressive, he still finished with an above-average 63.0 grade in Week 4 and a strong 74.0 in the final game of the regular season.
Las Vegas is going to need Miller to replicate those efforts to move the ball down the field this time around, so what reps can he build on from last season to help the team win on Sunday?
Our first clip comes against the aforementioned Bosa in pass protection. With Bosa playing from a wide alignment, Miller has the difficult task of covering a lot of ground laterally and vertically without oversetting to open up an inside rushing lane. But the offensive tackle does a great job with his pacing on his first few steps to beat the pass rusher to the spot.
Bosa then counters by turning speed to power and trying to go through Miller’s chest, but watch Miller’s outside hand at the point of contact. He catches Bosa’s wrist, allowing him to take the rusher’s outside hand off of him which simultaneously, diminishes Bosa’s power and prevents Bosa from being able to use that arm to work a counter move. That gives Derek Carr plenty of time and space to get rid of the ball in rhythm and make an accurate throw. Side note, Hunter Renfrow is going to want this play back.
One aspect of this rep that Miller can improve on, is he can do a better job of dropping his hips to anchor and keep his feet in the ground. That will give Carr even more time and space to make the throw.
The next play is similar to the last one with Bosa playing the same wide nine technique. However, this time he’s going to try and win on the inside instead of using instead of trying to go through Miller’s chest.
You can tell Bosa was worried about getting his outside arm pinned down like last time as he pulls it away right before contact, which shows how much of an impact Miller’s technique had on Bosa’s pass rush plan. Instead, he tries to work an inside stick move but the tackle’s footwork is perfect to stay in front of the rusher. Also, notice how Miller maintains a wide base throughout the rep. That makes it easier for him to change direction and defend against a bull rush if Bosa tries to counter with power.
Also, much better from Renfrow!
This time the Chargers line Bosa across from Miller but try to use an E/T stunt to generate some pressure since just a straight rush wasn’t working.
Miller uses the same 45-degree pass set we’ve seen in the other clips, and his first step is perfectly placed by splitting Bosa’s legs to take away the outside lane while still being able to recover against an inside move. Once the edge rusher starts to work the stunt, the tackle shoots his hands and lands on the rusher’s side to kick the rusher inside and successfully pass him off to the guard.
The ball is out too quickly for it to matter, but Miller also does a great job of picking up the defensive tackle who is looping around to the outside. This is a textbook stunt pickup.
We’ll get our first run-blocking clip from the famous Week 18 winner take all game. Here, the Raiders call mid-zone and have John Simpson and Miller combo block to reach the three-technique. That’s a difficult assignment for the tackle since he’s out-leveraged pre-snap with the defender shaded on the guard.
However, Simpson uses a strong post arm to get the DT’s shoulders turned, and Miller initiates contact almost immediately and swivels his hips around to reach the three-tech and create a cutback lane for Josh Jacobs.
While run-blocking might not be Miller’s strong suit, reps like this one should be more than enough for Las Vegas to move the ball on the ground this Sunday.
Uchenna Nwosu is now in Seattle so he won’t be there this weekend, but he was a good pass rusher last season who racked up 41 pressures but not here against Miller.
Nwosu is going to try and get Miller to stop his feet with the head and shoulder fakes during the stem phase of the rush so that Nwosu can catch Miller flat-footed or on his heels when bull rushing. But the tackle doesn’t fall for it and keeps his feet moving.
That being said, Nwosu still gains a leverage advantage with his helmet under Miller’s chin. However, Miller counters that with an excellent snatch and trap technique to use the pass rusher’s momentum and leverage against him and bury him into the ground.
Having a counter for everything that was thrown at him makes this one hell of a rep for the Raiders’ left tackle. That effort also gave Carr more than enough time to throw a dart and give the team a two-score lead to start the fourth quarter, so there’s an element of clutch to this play as well.
3rd & 4 in OT, #Raiders need a 1st to kick a game-winning FG and go to the playoffs— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) September 8, 2022
Kolton Miller washes the DT all the past the C to open up the backside line and the Raiders go to the playoffs
We’ll end with another example of Miller having the clutch gene as our final clip comes from overtime where it’s third and four and the Raiders are looking to set up the game-winning field to clutch a playoff birth.
Vegas calls inside split zone and Los Angeles does a pretty good job of plugging up the playside gaps. So, Jacobs looks to cut it back, and luckily, Miller rides the defensive tackle’s hip all the way past the center to help create a backside lane. The leverage, hand placement and leg drive couldn’t be better from Miller to set up this huge run.
Also, shoutout to Foster Moreau for sealing Bosa and to Jacobs for making some sharp cuts to punch the Raiders’ ticket to the postseason. Here’s to hoping for more of the same on Sunday!