Miller, Campbell build strong rapport for Raiders |

Miller, Campbell build strong rapport for Raiders

ALAMEDA – With the Oakland Raiders in a 2-minute drill needing a touchdown at the end of practice, Jason Campbell got the offense started with two quick passes to tight end Zach Miller.

Then with the Raiders near the goal line and only seconds remaining, Campbell found Miller again in the back of the end zone for a touchdown that gave the offense the win in the head-to-head drill.

Campbell may be new with the Raiders this season but he has already figured out who his most reliable pass-catcher will be.

“You need a touchdown in that situation. You saw who he went to,” coach Tom Cable said Monday.

Campbell and Miller have quickly built a strong rapport in their few months together following the draft-day trade that brought the quarterback to Oakland to replace JaMarcus Russell as the starter for the Raiders.

The two hit it off during offseason workouts, and that chemistry has carried over to training camp, where Miller is often the player Campbell goes to most – especially in difficult situations.

“We have good trust,” Miller said. “On certain routes he knows I’m going to win. We have a good feel for each other already on where I’m going to be. I try just to be consistent for him and make the plays for him so he keeps coming my way.”

Campbell relied heavily on the tight end in Washington, where Chris Cooley was often his most trusted target. Cooley caught 83 passes in 2008 before being slowed by an injury last season.

So it was only natural for him to start looking for Miller as soon as he got to Oakland. Miller caught three of Campbell’s seven completions in the exhibition opener against Dallas.

“The way the defense is played these days with teams doubling outside receivers, you have to have a guy who creates space on the inside,” Campbell said. “I think Zach is a guy that creates that space for us and helps draw some of that attention away from those guys on the outside.”

Miller has often been the person Raiders quarterbacks have looked for since he entered the league as a second-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2007.

Miller was tied for second on the team with 44 catches as a rookie, followed that up with a team-high 56 receptions his second year before increasing his total to 66 last year on a team that struggled mightily to move the ball consistently through the air.

But Miller has only seven touchdowns out of his 166 career catches – the fewest of any player in the league in that span with at least 160 receptions.

“You see other tight ends in the league scoring a lot of touchdowns and you get a little envious,” Miller said. “You want to be in there celebrating the touchdowns and I believe this year, finally, will be the year it comes.”

The Raiders have made getting Miller the ball in the end zone a priority in training camp as Campbell and the other quarterbacks have been looking his direction often during red-zone drills.

Cable said the team is trying to do different things to create positive matchups for Miller near the goal line, and that’s just what he had at the end of Monday’s practice when he used his size advantage to make a leaping catch over safety Tyvon Branch.

“There’s more emphasis on getting matchups down there and just working it,” Miller said. “A lot of it has to do with the fact that we didn’t have a lot of red zone opportunities last year. We didn’t put together enough drives to get down there. With that comes more plays down there.”

Notes: WRs Chaz Schilens (foot) and Jacoby Ford (quadriceps) sat out the morning practice but were set to practice in the afternoon. … CB Chris Johnson did not finish practice because of a tight hamstring. … Cable said he hopes to have an update on the status of DE Jay Richardson (knee) on Tuesday.

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