Panthers No. 67: Is OL John Miller the answer to protection problems?

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) John Miller
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) John Miller /

Could offensive guard John Miller be the answer to the protection problems suffered by the Carolina Panthers last season?

The Carolina Panthers go into 2020 with few expectations. They gutted their roster and brought in a brand-new coaching staff who will be tasked with turning around their fortunes at the earliest possible opportunity.

Head coach Matt Rhule has a strong reputation of doing exactly this in the college system at both Baylor and Temple. But this didn’t happen overnight and those associated with the Carolina Panthers will need to show patience if things don’t trend on an upward curve next season.

Rhule’s rebuilds have shown signs of life during their second year. And this could be the case in Carolina thanks to a bigger amount of salary cap space to work with next spring.

Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the Panthers’ week one opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 67. John Miller was highly coveted by the front office during free agency. And he has the potential to be the answer to the team’s offensive line interior struggles.

Miller will be tasked with filling the void left by five-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner, who was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for veteran left tackle Russell Okung. This was one of the more bizarre decisions made by the organization this offseason. But one suspects that the financial aspect of the deal was enough to get it over the line.

The Panthers have plenty of potent offensive weapons who can make things happen. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater should also give them a more assured presence under centre that simply wasn’t there in 2019.

However, this all counts for nothing if the line cannot provide the protection needs to get their offense going. And Miller is going to shoulder plenty of responsibility in 2020.

What difference can John Miller make to the Carolina Panthers?

The player has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success during his career after he was taken in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. After going through his fair share of rookie struggles, Miller bounced back with a strong 2016 campaign that saw him earn a creditable 69.6 grade from Pro Football Focus.

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This was followed by a third year full of frustrations that hampered his development. Miller played just four games due to injury. And he was only on the field for 24 percent of the Bills’ offensive snaps.

Miller returned to his old self in 2018, giving up just one sack in 885 snaps. However, this did not result in Buffalo giving him an extension. He eventually signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. But the lineman lasted just one season with the organization before moving on.

The former Louisville standout penned a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers that could be worth $4 million. If he performs well then there is nothing to suggest that he is not capable of earning a longer-term commitment from the franchise.

This is a real opportunity for Miller to make his presence felt in a different environment. The Panthers were pourous on the interior last time out. And things will need to improve dramatically to give the team any chance of securing a winning record next season.

Miller might be seen as a short-term plug and play starter coming in. But he is just 26-years-old and should be entering his prime in the coming years.

Whether that will be in Carolina or elsewhere is up for debate. It will be up to the player to prove his worth. And Miller could become the answer to the Panthers’ protection problems in-between the tackles.

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