Top Pick Kolton Miller Continues to Struggle

Raiders rookie left tackle, handicapped by injury and a revolving door at left guard, has given up 14 sacks but Jon Gruden says he still believes in his "huge upside"

Kolton Miller didn't have a good day against the Bengals.

The rookie offensive left tackle allowed two sacks and eight total pressures in 43 pass-block snaps on a day in which quarterback Derek Carr was sacked five times and pressured 16 times. Miller, the team’s first-round pick out of UCLA, has now allowed the second-most pressures (59) by a rookie tackle at this stage of the season since 2006, noted Pro Football Focus analyst Austin Gayle.

Overall this season, Miller has allowed 14 sacks to go with those pressures, which both are league highs. Plus, as Pro Football Focus notes, Miller’s run-blocking grade puts him 82nd among the 83 tackles who qualify.

While there are times when Miller’s athleticism is evident, and it’s obvious why the Raiders like his upside, there have been many others where Miller looks overmatched.

And, it hasn’t helped that Miller has had to fight through a knee injury that has required him to play with a brace. With the injury, his quickness – his best asset – is missing and his strength hasn't been a match for stronger and more experienced defensive linemen.

The injury to Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele also has hurt Miller, who’s had to play with a variety of backups in Osemele’s spot, meaning he has to worry about pressure coming from his inside and outside.

Yet Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says he has faith Miller will prove to be a fine player – despite this rocky year.

“He’s improved in one-on-one pass protections, improved in the running game, he’s handled a lot of audibles,” Gruden told reporters Monday. “He’s played next to five different left guards. He’s been mentally tough and physically tough, and those are the two qualities I admire the most. …

“He’s battled through some legitimate injuries and he’s seen Melvin Ingram, Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Von Miller. He’s seen some great players.”

Gruden said through it all, Miller hasn’t missed practice and keeps learning, keeps focused on improving.

Said Gruden: “He’s got a huge upside.”

Miller’s next task will be to slow the Denver Broncos pass rush, which features edge rusher Von Miller, who is tied for second in the NFL with 14½ sacks. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb has 12 sacks. In the Broncos’ first game vs. the Raiders this season, Von Miller had a sack, quarterback hit and a tackle for loss in a 20-19 victory over Oakland.

The 3-11 Raiders will take on the 6-8 Broncos Monday at 5:15 p.m. at Coliseum.

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