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Meet new KC Chiefs DT Roy Miller, a run defender

As I type, it is 1:40 in the morning. I’ve got a heckuva day tomorrow that includes work in all of my jobs, a wife that expects me to help out and five screaming hooligans that need me to act like a dad and not sell them to anyone that’ll take them. Yet here I sit, having just finished reviewing four games of the newest Chief, Roy Miller.

Why do I do this? In equal parts because I’m crazy, because it’s my job, and because someone has to (well, not really. But still). All this is a way of saying don’t bust my chops too hard on typos and how deep we get here, because it’s LATE guys.

Anyways, the Chiefs signed Roy Miller? I had never heard of the guy prior to the Chiefs signing him. I had a couple of Jaguar fans tell me that they were bummed to see him go, so that was encouraging. I also heard good things about his run defense from a few analysts I interact with on the Twitter. But of course, the only way to really know is to check him out for myself.

Before we get to the film, a quick breakdown of who Miller is. he was drafted in 2009 and is 30 years old. He’s listed at 6’2” and 318 pounds (very thick dude). He played for years in Tampa Bay and then years in Jacksonville. He suffered a torn achilles (ouch!) last October and missed the rest of the season after that.

Now let’s talk film. If you’ve never read a DL film review by me before, read this if you want some background (you can also read a similar writeup on Bennie Logan here). Basically, I track wins, losses, and neutral plays on every snap using all-22 film (Madden cam view is great for this). I also track effective double teams and pressures/hits/sacks.

Got it? Great. Here are Miller’s numbers in the four games I reviewed.

A few things surprised me about Miller. First of all, it was surprising to me how often he was on the field (basically the majority of run defense snaps). Now, he was still OFF the field the majority of the time, but I kind of assumed that since he was available in August he was likely a bit player who wasn’t a big part of the Jaguars defense last year.

I was wrong. Miller was a very important part of the Jaguars run defense in 2016. There was a noticeable dropoff when he wasn’t on the field against the run. That was my first pleasant surprise.

My second pleasant surprise is how well Miller acquitted himself against the run. Now, he wasn’t quite to the level of what I saw in Bennie Logan... but he really wasn’t THAT far off in that capacity. You can see that his win total stacks up decently next to Logan (though he didn’t play as many elite interior OL as Logan did in my review), and he only lost a few more times (albeit on fewer snaps). Numbers-wise against the run, Miller did a nice job, both in terms of wins, lack of losses and effective double teams. Compare him to Dontari Poe’s review (here, written before he left) and you’ll see Miller was SIGNIFICANTLY better against the run in terms of W/L ratio. That’s a big deal.

Against the pass? Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat it... Miller is a virtual non-factor as a pass rusher, and the numbers reflect that. We’ll talk about that shortly, though. First, let’s look at what Miller does as a run defender (his clear strength).

What you see here is often what you get with Miller against the run. He quite often has good pad level (being 6’2 helps) and presses individual offensive linemen off him without too much trouble (depending on the opponent, he definitely had more issues with Rodney Hudson). He keeps a strong base and is very tough for solo blockers to move, showing active hand usage and good placement. Additionally (and pleasingly), he is very consistently good about keeping his eyes up and locating the ball, whether he’s engaged with a blocker or not.

That last point sums up Miller’s game pretty well. Though he’s a big, strong guy, he’s a plus run defender due to the fact that he does things correctly and knows what he’s supposed to do out there. He seems to recognize where runs are going pretty quickly, often seeming to read the blocker as the play develops, then locating the ball thereafter. Whether he’s standing guys up during a power run or moving down the line on a stretch run, he’s constantly aware of where the ball is. That’s huge, and like his general technique against the run, demonstrates a veteran who has seen quite a bit of action.

A good example of Miller’s savvy is on plays like the following.

Miller does not have naturally quick feet or an explosive first step (or second step). He’s not going to burst through the line like Chris Jones. It’s just not something he’s capable of. However, here (and a few other times while I watched) Miller anticipates the blocker and dekes him out, sidestepping the hapless center and quickly zeroing in on the ball to kill a run before it even starts. A nice play that represents a player overcoming a physical deficiency (he really is quite slow) by understanding what’s going on around him.

Miller also demonstrates a willingness and ability to take on double teams. There were plenty of examples of Miller effectively holding down a double, but I found this one the most impressive, as it involved holding his ground against two of the best interior linemen in the NFL.

This is the type of play that goes unheralded. Miller takes on both Rodney Hudson and Osemele, both of whom make their living humiliating interior linemen on their own or as a tandem. While Miller does get moved, he doesn’t get thrown out of his spot (he’s already moving right when he takes on the double team, for what that’s worth) and doesn’t get pushed back. Even more importantly, he’s savvy enough to know that Osemele is trying to disengage to reach the linebacker behind him and refuses to allow him to do so.

This may sound crazy to you, but a play like that means a lot more to me than some stat-bumping sack where a guy isn’t blocked. Taking on a double team and commanding it enough to leave the linebacker running free is HARD. Doing it against those guys? Dang impressive stuff.

Really, how I’d describe Miller as a run defender is a poor man’s Bennie Logan. Now let me be clear, I don’t mean that as an insult. Logan was highly impressive on tape against a number of the best centers in the league. Being mentioned in the same sentence as him as a run defender is high praise, even if you’re not at his level. Miller does all the same things Logan does as a run defender (holds firm at the line, takes on double teams, locates the ball, etc), he just doesn’t do it at as high a level. Additionally, I saw him get handled a few times (Osemele chucked him once, as did Hudson) in a way I never saw with Logan. However, he’s overall a pretty impressive run defender, surprisingly so given the late hour of his signing.

As a pass rusher? You can’t compare him to Logan, who collected seven pressures, two hits and a sack in the four games I watched him and had almost as many “wins” as losses” as a pass rusher. Miller is basically a warm body on the field against the pass. For whatever reason, he’s not able to translate his strength into a powerful bull rush the way Logan can. He also doesn’t have Logan’s athleticism (Logan is no Poe, but he can move a bit. Miller is much slower of foot).

Overall, after watching Miller I would be surprised if he didn’t make the final roster if he’s healthy. He helps address a weak spot (run defense) and adds depth to a position group that was concerning in its lack of proven players outside the first 3-4 guys. Chris Jones is expected back by Week 1, but his injury highlighted how quickly things could get thin there (and really, last year should be an object lesson in how quick DL depth can vanish).

However, I don’t see his signing as some kind of worrisome omen regarding Jones’s health. They are very, very, very dissimilar players, and there’s no way the coaches would anticipate Miller taking on the same role as Jones. He’s much closer in playing style to Logan. Additionally, virtually every snap I watched of Miller involved him lining up on either gap beside the center, and no further out. Jones, on the other hand, is consistently at the 5-tech spot (though he moves all over the line). Just two different players.

I think Miller is competition for the backup NT spot as well as a rotational defensive lineman. And really, I’m glad they were looking to address that. After Logan, all they had on the roster to play NT was Cam Thomas, who is no sure thing to even make the roster. Adding Miller increases the competition along the defensive line and adds a (hopefully healthy) proven defensive lineman who has shown he can get it done as a run defender.

I think the main reason Miller was available so late in the year has more to do with timing than it does his ability. Having torn his achilles last October, it’s quite likely that Miller wasn’t in a position to work out for a team until the last month or so (assuming it would take a DL and actual human a bit longer to heal up than Derrick Johnson, who is not a DL and absolutely no human). The injury likely scared teams off, and since he doesn’t rush the passer there wasn’t an upside making him worth the risk.

After watching Miller, I’m hoping he’s back to full strength. Because he could absolutely help the defensive line rotation this year if he’s anything like what he showed in 2016.

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