ALAMEDA – Kolton Miller isn't an excitable sort. The Raiders left tackle is a soft-spoken guy, with neither actions nor words reaching a fever pitch. Trash talk won't bait him into fits of rage, and hyped matchups barely raise his pulse.
One piece of advice: don't mistake quiet for timid.
The No. 15 overall pick in last year's NFL draft carries an air of confidence with him now, a strident belief that he can beat and compete with the best.
He has the stats to back it up. Miller has allowed just nine quarterback pressures through five games despite facing Bradley Chubb, Frank Clark and Khalil Mack already this season.
"I am gaining confidence game after game," Miller said on this week's Raiders Talk podcast. "I continue to overemphasize the details because, once you get that down, you can just go play and have fun with it."
Miller wasn't having much fun as a rookie. He played hurt most of the season, fighting through a Grade 2 MCL sprain suffered in Week 4 and aggravated a few times later in the year. He never missed a start, playing 1,067 offensive snaps. They weren't all pretty. He allowed 16 sacks and 65 total pressures. Miller continued to fight, though, and actually gained confidence from the experience competing with highly touted pass rushers at far less than full strength.
He knew gaining size and strength this offseason would put him in prime position to make a quantum leap in his second season. He felt an obligation last year and this to validate his selection last year at No. 15 overall. He wanted to reward those who had immense faith in him.
"That was a huge thing for me last year," Miller said. "I really wanted to play well for this team and the people that believed in me. I wasn't going to let injury or setbacks stop me. I think it's a huge year for all of us to prove ourselves and make a name for ourselves. I'm doing things for the Raider Nation. I hope to make those guys proud."
Miller showed great improvement in training camp, which has carried over into this regular season. He was the biggest question along an offensive line full of stable forces (when healthy and available), but he has proven a reliable part of a real team strength.
"[Kolton] is playing better than he's ever played," Gruden said. "I think [left guard Richie] Incognito and the stability we've had at left guard has helped him. He's stronger, he's better versed in the offense."
His two sacks allowed came against Minnesota, a rough day at the office for everyone in silver and black.
Miller and Incognito have been excellent against the run game, forming a formidable left flank. The offensive line has been solid all around, and a driving force earning respect with every strong showing. The men who comprise this front believe they should rank among the very best.
"If we continue to improve, we should be in the running for sure," Miller said. "…I'm really excited for this group."