Murray Miller

21 May 19
The Mercury News
ALAMEDA — Kolton Miller’s rookie season was largely a disappointment. The Raiders’ 2018 first round pick started all 16 games at left tackle but received a 48.2 season grade from Pro Football Focus, 76th among offensive tackles. Only 64 offensive tackles start each week when every team plays. Derek Carr finished 2018 tied for third in the league with 51 sacks taken, and Miller was the reason for plenty of them while battling nagging knee and elbow injuries. Entering his second season, Miller is bigger, healthier and cognizant of what needs to change. He’s up to 328 pounds – he started last season at 310 and peaked last year between 315 and 320 – and currently has no physical ailments. Raiders coach Jon Gruden is keeping Miller where he feels most comfortable, left tackle, despite giving Trent Brown the biggest contract ever for an offensive lineman. In return, Miller has vowed his second act protecting Carr’s blind side won’t be like his first. “It felt good staying left,” Miller said. ” … I know I have a job to do and I know last year wasn’t good enough. There were a lot of problems with that. I’m expected to be better and I will be better.” Against some of the NFL’s best pass rushers in the AFC West, Miller will have to be better. A lot better. Regardless of which offensive tackle spot he plays, he’ll have to block Von Miller or Bradley Chubb when playing the Broncos and Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram against the Chargers. The Chiefs recently acquired defensive end Frank Clark from the Seahawks, and Miller might still see Clark in his nightmares from the Raiders’ blowout loss in London last year. Carr is fully convinced Miller will show why the Raiders used a first-round pick on him a year ago, and the quarterback’s justification for that belief stems from watching Miller grind in practices last season. “When he was playing early in the season, he was locking some people up,” Carr said of Miller. “And then when he got hurt, never missed a practice, never missed a rep in practice. If coach said he gotta get out he said, ‘No coach, I’m good.’ I knew right then and there this guy’s gonna do whatever it takes to come in next year and be better, and I’ve seen nothing but that from him.” Miller spent the majority of this offseason in his home city of Sacramento, where he worked out every day and ate, ate and ate some more. “My parents were struggling to try to pile on the food every night,” Miller said with a smirk. He felt the benefits of an offseason without an NFL Combine or Pro Day to worry about. Instead of performing non-football-related drills for teams, Miller focused solely on his strength, speed and nutrition. Now better physically equipped to handle the NFL’s rigors, Miller is also reaping the benefits of already having one year in Gruden’s offense under his belt. “I think the game experience helps, and I think now that I’m stronger, I think I’ll be a lot better,” Miller said. “Just having that experience underneath your belt, playing all your snaps, even with injury, it could help me tremendously.” If the Raiders can find a reliable starting left guard, the only starting spot on the offensive line still up for grabs, Gruden thinks Miller will be even better because of it. Last year Miller played alongside four different left guards, Kelechi Osemele, Jon Feliciano, Denzelle Good and Justin Murray. Good is penciled in as the starter, but the Raiders also have Chaz Green and Jordan Devey, while showing interest in free agent Richie Incognito. But most importantly Miller has reformed himself, and that should elevate his performance more than anything. “Man, he’s huge. Y’all saw him,” Carr said. “I don’t know if he’s gained 30 pounds or what. And he looks great. Not being weird, but the man looks like he’s ready. He’s worked his tail off. I knew that about him all season. “I’ve seen him grit his teeth and really bear down in certain situations where I’ve seen other people coward away to be honest with you. And he hasn’t shown that, not even close. To see him come in, how big and strong he is in the weight room, how much it meant to him, it was really cool to see because it confirmed everything I believed about him.” Miller has found himself observing rookies struggling during practice an thinking back to a year ago, when he was a flawed first-rounder trying to prove the Raiders didn’t reach for him. Of course Miller is still flawed – every player will say they are – and he’s yet to prove the Raiders didn’t reach for him at No. 15 in the 2018 draft. Miller has shown reasons for optimism, a dominant Week 16 performance against Chubb and the Broncos atop that list, and now those impressive showings will need to come more frequently if he wants to stay on the left side and show the Raiders made the right choice after all. “We think Kolton Miller is gonna be one of the best at left tackle in football,” Gruden said. “He’s not only healthy, he’s in great shape. He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s added some weight, some muscle and he’s still a real flexible athlete that can run and change direction. Being in the second year of the system, I expect a lot of good things.” [related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”] – Antonio Brown was the only Raider not present at OTAs on Tuesday, but Gruden said nothing excessive should be deduced from Brown’s absence, even though he knows those conclusions will inevitably be drawn. “Hopefully we’ll see him here in the next couple days,” Gruden said. “He’s been working extremely hard in our offense.” – First-round rookie running back Josh Jacobs left the field after team stretch and didn’t return. Gruden didn’t specify why, only saying some players, like Tuesday’s limited participants DT Mo Hurst, LB Vontaze Burfict and LB Brandon Marshall, are on different “programs” this early in the offseason.            
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Brian's Editorials

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