A Franchise Left Tackle? Kolton Miller’s Year In Review

Kolton Miller, the second year NFL offensive tackle from UCLA, experienced a bounce back season in 2019. After an injury riddled rookie campaign, the Raiders sophomore displayed more than just mental fortitude after battling through a severe MCL sprain in his first year as a pro. Las Vegas now has two physical behemoths entrenching the offensive tackle position for years to come.

As the 15th overall draft pick in 2018, Miller was baptized by fire both on and off the field since draft night.

Criticism of Miller was warranted in 2018 as he allowed, a league worst, 16 sacks as a rookie. For a first round draft selection, that was abysmal performance. In context, he was placed in a less than ideal situation. The Raiders were running thin on healthy offensive linemen, and that unit allowed 51 sacks as a whole, the third most in the league. Despite the dark times, The tackle fought his way though a severe MCL sprain in his right knee and started in every game. While many in Raider Nation berated him (including myself), there was one significant NFL pass rusher that acknowledged his ability on the field.

Broncos defensive end Von Miller was right, as Kolton silenced most critics with his 2019 campaign and showed he has the skillset of a cornerstone tackle.

Related: Raiders in Review: Daryl Worley

Athletic Prowess

In 2019, Miller showed that a full offseason of recovery can make a difference. The former Bruins tackle consistently displayed why he dominated the offensive line group at the 2018 NFL Combine.

Miller’s athleticism spurred both the run and pass game for the offense in 2019. When Gruden schemed plays that had him at the point of attack on the perimeter, great things followed. What transpired above was the victory clinching first down on opening week Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos.

In the final game of the season, his block on the edge allowed Darren Waller to reach maximum speed unhindered. While Kolton’s athleticism is unique, his physical strength shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Bigger is Better

Miller’s knee recovery didn’t just get his athletic ability back, it also enabled him to play stronger in 2019. On top of having a healthy knee, he added an additional 20 pounds during the offseason, which paid dividends for his physical strength throughout the season.

The play above displays the tackle’s power to drive through and flatten a Bears defensive tackle in the process, compared to his rookie season, when his ability to anchor and work against defenders was hindered by his knee injury.

With the addition of Richie Incognito on his right hip, the Raiders left tackle saw an uptick in his pass protection ability as seen here. From allowing a league high 16 sacks as a rookie, Miller only gave up seven in his second season. It wasn’t elite play, but it was an improvement from his rookie season and his effort to become a stronger player in the offseason, has made him a reliable asset to the Raider offense.

A Steady Pillar

If you had to guess who led Oakland in snap counts in 2019, many would assume quarterback Derek Carr was the one. Believe it or not, Miller led the way with 99.8% of offensive snaps. Durability is a quality you can’t replace or undervalue, and as an offensive lineman in the NFL, to play in all but two percent of snaps was pivotal for the team’s chemistry that assisted both the running and passing game. While his continuity is more than welcome in a franchise recently full of roster turnover, there is room for improvement.

Moving Forward

While Miller is maneuvering the learning curve as a left tackle, he still has areas to improve upon. He made significant strides as a pass blocker in 2019, but his run blocking needs refining. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller ranks as the 80th best offensive tackle in terms of run blocking. Inevitably, that should be priority for his development moving forward. Another aspect of his game that needs adjustment is small fundamental offensive line play, as seen here.

With a little fine tuning of core concepts, Miller will become a more consistent NFL tackle. He is on the track to prove he is a vital component of the Raiders offensive line. If his play keeps trending up, expect him to have his most complete season with the Silver and black in 2020.

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