Is it "Miller Time?"

Senior Editor
Posted May 21, 2008

Everyone’s been talking about Darren McFadden, JaMarcus Russell and Jevon Walker but the player who might hold the key to the offense is Zach Miller.

Miller quickly proved himself one of the top young tight ends in the NFL as a rookie in 2007 when he had 44 catches, 444 yards and three touchdowns. He was easily the Raiders’ most consistent receiver in terms of getting open and hanging onto the ball. That was key for Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown last season, both of whom spent the majority of the season on the run and often needed a security net to bail them out.

Miller, the Raiders’ second-round pick last year, provided that and was also a solid receiver underneath.

With Russell stepping in as the full-time starter now, Miller’s development in his sophomore NFL season will be critical. That’s why it was encouraging to see the two have already developed a good rapport on the field during Oakland’s offseason workouts.

With some question marks at wide receiver — Jevon Walker’s knee, Ron Curry’s foot, just to name a few — getting the Russell-Miller combo going early is also going to be key to keeping teams from stacking the box to stop the running game.

Miller had a pretty good season as a blocker last year. Though he had his problems a few times, he showed enough to keep the Raiders’ confidence and was easily the team’s most consistent tight end in that area.

The Raiders have drafted four tight ends in the last six seven years (Doug Jolley, 2002), Teyo Johnson, 2003) and Courtney Anderson (2005) and Miller. The first three showed some promise in the first years but couldn’t sustain their early success and wound up either being traded or let go.

Miller doesn’t appear to be in that same mold.

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