In the aftermath of a second consecutive failed attempt to come from behind, it is easy to lose track of Zach Miller’s command performance.
Since Miller was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft, he has emerged as one of the premier young tight ends in the league. To fans outside the Raider Nation he has toiled in relative obscurity owing to the dismal state of the Raiders offense overall in the last few years. However, other NFL teams know that he is not merely the best receiver on the Raiders, but that he is a real threat if he is not defended.
Today, Miller showed what he could do when he wasn’t the focus of the defensive coverages. He had 11 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. That 11 catches was the first time the Raiders had a receiver with double digit catches since Ronald Curry hauled in ten Josh McCown passes in the opening week against the Detroit Lions.
The loss did take the luster off of Miller’s accomplishment. “Bruce and I were on the same page. We felt pretty good out there that way, but any time you lose it sucks. I want to have a great day when we win.”
Miller has led the Raiders in receiving for each of the past two years, and after his performance today he is back in the team lead for the number of catches with 22. He asserted, “Our passing game is a lot improved from years passed no doubt about that,” he continued, “We just throw the short game, we can throw deep down the field. Get me involved over the middle if they are gonna give up the short stuff. We did that today quite a bit. “
His quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski, expressed the utmost confidence in his teammate. “Zach, he’s such a good football player. You see that guy, he catches a 2-yard route and he turns it into 10 yards. I mean, guys are bouncing off him, he gets hit three or four times, he’s a tough football player, and any time you can get it into his hands, you want to. He’s one of the veteran guys on this offense, I know that he’s still a young football player, but the way he makes plays and the way he plays the game, tough and how bad he wants it, you want to get that guy some catches and get him into the flow of the game.“
Miller credits a tweak in the offensive scheme to his success today. “If you saw today, I was kind of in two point flexed out today. They were giving up some of the short stuff playing a bend and not break. “
A few more performances like this and Miller will be the household name that he deserves to be. Once the Raiders establish a rhythm offensively, Miller will be a fixture in the Pro Bowl at tight end. With this game, he made a statement.