Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2015, offensive guard John Miller has had a roller coaster of a career to this point. The primary starter in 2015 and 2016, Miller was replaced by Vlad Ducasse early in the 2017 season. With Ducasse sliding to the left side in 2018, Miller reclaimed his rightful spot on the line. However, toward the end of the season, Miller lost significant snaps as the Buffalo Bills tinkered with his position. It seems clear that the Bills would like to upgrade. Let’s turn to the tape to see if we can find what’s fueling their ire.
John Miller draws consistent criticism but as an important public service announcement, it’s important to note that you can make a solid highlight reel for even the worst lineman in the NFL. Miller has no shortage of plays that elicit a “WOW” when looking through his snaps. For this play, Miller is fluid with his hands and swim move. As a result, he maintains excellent momentum heading out to block at the next level.
One of the reasons Sean McDermott was looking to tinker at right guard is undoubtedly Miller’s ability to turn in a different kind of “WOW” play. Contrasting to Play 1, there’s essentially no difference in how fast the defender reaches the quarterback. The issue is that, unlike in Play 1, Miller was supposed to be trying to block. Miller’s weaknesses seem to creep up more against speed and finesse players. Generally speaking, if Miller loses to the first step, the second and third ones only make matters worse.
We have a nice microcosm of Miller for this clip. The initial block to help out Russell Bodine and the second, solo block are both good. Unfortunately, though, Miller doesn’t stay on the second block and then is unable to choose who to hit next. The end result is that he’s effective through about half of the play.
Here’s a fun tangent. This is the second play where Miller taps Bodine’s leg. This is the Buffalo Bills’ cue for a silent snap count. A potential issue with the line in 2018 may have been related to this habit. While the Bills aren’t the only team that uses an obvious visible cue the defense can see, they were pretty predictable with the timing. After a short amount of practice I felt pretty comfortable timing their snap based on the tap from Miller. That’s not necessarily a knock on Miller alone, but a possible factor in the overall performance of the line.
When it comes to raw tools, John Miller has the goods. We’ve talked up Star Lotulelei for his ability to take on a double team and here Miller is acting as a similar space eater. Both Russell Bodine and Jordan Mills have a little trouble with their block and Miller is able to help them out at the same time.
Speaking of raw tools, this is a solid move block with a nice change of direction and finish. Chris Ivory gets a chunk of yards and John Miller is a big reason why. This play is absolutely more highlight reel than norm, but illustrates what Miller is capable of.
Miller’s feet take him back a few short steps before he can anchor, but in the end this isn’t a bad block. Derek Anderson can’t fully step up if needed so it’s not a tremendous block either for the record. Still, it got the job done. For quality of competition, Miller is up against Margus Hunt. The 6’8” nearly 300 lb defensive lineman is absurdly strong and athletic. While Hunt is also inconsistent, he looks like he’s on his game for this clip so an “alright block” should get a small bump when we grade it.
For comparison purposes Hunt graded nearly identically to Tremaine Edmunds in the 40-yard dash and broad jump but doubled Edmunds’ bench press numbers (Hunt matched Star Lotululei on the bench).
If you keep looking you will definitely find that John Miller has a lot of positives across most major areas you’d like to see in a guard. For this play, Miller uses his hands to turn his man around. As a result of his hand-fighting, he doesn’t give up any ground.
I’m sure you’re asking, if John Miller has all these tools, why are the Bills so eager to find a replacement? Miller unfortunately has what could be the single worst trait for a lineman, known as “inconsistency.” He’s strong enough to take on a double team and ward off the likes of Margus Hunt but he’s just as capable of letting his feet slip up and getting shoved around as a result. He’s agile and fast enough to move block and bounce around the field, but can be indecisive. Miller’s volatility means that when he turns in a bad rep, it can be really bad. As a result, it’s not unfair to consider Miller a liability.