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 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -When the Oakland Raiders open the season next week against Detroit, only one of their first three draft picks will even be in uniform.
With top pick JaMarcus Russell still holding out and third-rounder Quentin Moses getting cut, tight end Zach Miller is the only one of the top three on the roster.
Miller, a second-round pick, is in line to start the season opener Sunday against Detroit after showing good progress during training camps and the preseason.
``I'm definitely a ton more comfortable than when I arrived,'' he said. ``I'm comfortable with the guys on the team, with the offense. I'm not swimming anymore like I was. I'm pretty good on all the plays and the game plans and stuff. As far as information overload, I feel good. When I first arrived, I was struggling to learn the plays. I wasn't sure what I was doing. I'm much better now.''
The tight ends are expected to play a bigger role in coach Lane Kiffin's offense than they did in the past for the Raiders. Oakland hasn't had a tight end catch more than 50 passes in a season since Ethan Horton had 53 in 1991.
But with Kiffin emphasizing quicker passes, the tight ends and running backs should be a bigger part of the offense this season.
``It's part of the offense that Coach Kiffin likes,'' Miller said. ``I'm glad for that. It gives us some good opportunities to get involved in the passing game. It's good to be used like that on offense. I really like what we're doing on offense so far.''
Randal Williams' 28 catches last season led the team's tight ends, but he was released over the summer along with the second-leading receiver at the position, Courtney Anderson. The leading returning tight end is second-year player John Madsen, an undrafted free agent who played receiver in college before making the switch in the pros.
Madsen had 11 catches as a rookie when he did well in the passing game but struggled as a blocker. Kiffin has been pleased with his progress during training camp and Madsen should get plenty of opportunities during the season - especially in obvious passing situations.
``I'm way more comfortable this year,'' he said. ``The learning curve was a lot steeper last year having never played the position for a guy like me. It seems to be coming together a lot better for me. I understand the position a lot better. I never played a down at tight end until I got here. Obviously, the route running and stuff has been there for me. I'm just trying to do everything well.''
The third tight end is Tony Stewart, a seventh-year player who has served as a tutor to the young tight ends and is the best blocker of the three. But Kiffin has been impressed with Miller's all-around play.
``I think he is a very good blocker,'' Kiffin said. ``We're excited about what he's done in preseason and what he can do in the regular season for us.''
Kiffin spoke for the first time since making roster cuts Saturday. The biggest surprise on that lost was Moses, who was the first pick of the third round and impressed the coaches early in training camp.
Moses, who was beaten out by fifth-rounder Jay Richardson and veteran Chris Clemmons, was immediately picked up by Arizona.
``There were some hard ones where it wasn't that a guy wasn't doing everything that we asked,'' Kiffin said. ``We wish great luck to Quentin and I think he'll be a good player in this league. But at the end of looking at all of it we had other people that could help us more.''
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