By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, February 26th, 2010 at 11:39 am in Oakland Raiders.
Fourth in a series analyzing Raiders position groups with a contingent of scouts and coaches in Indianapolis at the scouting combine:
Starter: Zach Miller. Backups: Tony Stewart, Brandon Myers.
Review: Once upon a time the Raiders being laughed at behind the scenes when they signed Miller, their second round draft pick in 2007. It wasn’t that they’d taken Miller so much as they ended up paying him about a million dollars more than necessary when looking at the way contracts were slotted before and after him.
Turns out it was money well spent.
Miller is proof the Raiders don’t always go for the biggest, fastest and most imposing physical specimen. On this occasion, the Raiders instead went with moderately-sized player who wasn’t a basketball or track star and whose best attribute was finding open areas and catching a football. He’s the anti-Rickey Dudley.
Over the past three seasons, Miller’s receptions have gone from 44 as a rookie to 56 and 66. His yardage has escalated from 444 to 778 to 805. While not a blazer, Miller had a 63-yard touchdown reception in 2008 and an 86-yard catch in 2009. He’s pretty much the only receiver who developed any kind of chemistry with JaMarcus Russell.
If there’s a criticism of Miller it’s that he doesn’t get into the end zone often enough _ seven touchdown receptions among his 166 catches.
Miller’s backup, Tony Stewart is a core special teams player who caught 10 passes for 78 yards and is a physical blocker. Brandon Myers had an excellent training camp and caught four passes for 19 yards. His forced fumble and strip on a kickoff return against Cincinnati set-up a game-winning field goal.
Contract status: All tight ends are under contract.
What’s next: Miller had two concussions last season and missed a game because of his second one. With the NFL paying much closer attention to concussions, the Raiders will be looking hard at young tight ends. Myers also missed time due to a concussion last year.
It may not be someone who plays tight end at the moment _ Al Davis is fond of tinkering with athletes at the position. If Miller can keep his head clear, the Raiders can comfortably experiment with the tight end position in hopes of finding someone unique while at the same time knowing they’ve got a classic, sure-handed tight end on the roster for the next several years.