The AFC West is home to a group of dominant pass rushers that puts an immense amount of pressure on both the right and left tackle positions in the division.
With a weak right tackle position entering the offseason and Donald Penn on the PUP list, the pressure is on Kolton Miller. His success is vital to giving Derek Carr a clean pocket and winning football games in the fall.
Miller put on weight during the offseason, but Gruden is of the mindset that it is only the beginning for Miller.
“He put in a lot of work physically,” Gruden said. “He’s going to get bigger. He’s just a pup getting started. He’s obviously worked hard.”
But it isn’t just Miller’s physical traits getting noticed as well.
“We’re really pleased with Kolton, not only from an athletic standpoint but from a mental standpoint,” Gruden said. “[Offensive Line Coach Tom] Cable is on him every day. He’s learning how to play with Derek Carr, who’s doing a lot at the line of scrimmage. He’s showing a lot of poise and he’s very talented.”
Carr has also been impressed with Miller’s work ethic and strength thus far.
“Kolton is awesome,” Carr said. “He’s really tall. I think that’s the first thing I noticed. Very tall. Very athletic. Can move, can run. He’s strong. You can tell that he put in a lot of work in the weight room before he came back...He came back and he’s strong, ready to take those bull rushes. As a tall guy, you know that’s coming. You know the bull rush is coming. But he’s ready. He looks really good.”
Linebacker Bruce Irvin has been making sure to give Miller a good test during practice.
“Just to go against Bruce every day – go get the quarterback, you know?” Carr said. “He’s playing defensive end, we know that. And for Bruce to do that, it’s scary for opponents. So for Kolton to see that every day, that’s going to make him work. Bruce has a similar skill set to what Von [Miller] can do and some of the other guys can do in our division, so it’s good for Kolton to see, get a taste of that and try and lock that up as hard as it is.”
Miller understands the difficulty of stopping Irvin but is going to do all he can to survive the baptism by fire.
“[Irvin] has a lot of tools that he uses, a lot of moves,” Miller said. “It means you have to really hone on your craft and not...he wants you to mess up. That’s something that you have to focus on and make sure you don’t because then he can get you.”
“I’m trying to hone my craft as much as I can going against those guys and I’m really excited for Sunday when the pads come on because you don’t really know how guys are gonna be until you get those pads on,” Miller said. “It’s just another level, so I’m really excited for that.”
All of the heat Miller is receiving during practice is great for now as there aren’t many players in the NFL that are a tougher test than Irvin. However, the real test will come when Khalil Mack makes it back to practice. That is when everyone will know what the team has in Miller for the upcoming season.