HENDERSON, Nev. — Kolton Miller was more animated than usual, speaking with his hands in an exaggerated manner while describing the Las Vegas Raiders’ fresh start with a new coaching staff and his status as a four-year NFL veteran.
The youngsters on the offensive line, the Raiders left tackle said as he rotated his hands toward himself, are trying to absorb as much information as they can in the early stages of organized team activities.
“Our job as old guys,” Miller said with a Cheshire cat grin and pointing to his barrel chest, “we’re trying to show them the ropes.”
Wait, “old” guys?
Miller is 26 years old. But he has already been around long enough to see three general managers — Reggie McKenzie, Mike Mayock and Dave Ziegler — three coaches — Jon Gruden, Rich Bisaccia and Josh McDaniels — and two cities for the Raiders — Oakland and Las Vegas.
“Man, four years has gone by like that,” Miller said as he snapped the fingers on his right hand.
“It goes by quick. But I’m still trying to compete and learn and pick up something each day. There’s always something to work on. And I think that’s spread out across the room. We’re still young, and we’re trying to improve in as many areas as we can. It’s all new — new coach, new system. Trying to get the basics and execute as well as we can.”
The No. 15 overall selection of the 2018 NFL draft out of UCLA, Miller was Gruden’s first pick during his second go-round as Raiders coach and he often referred to Miller as a foundation piece for the franchise.
But after struggling mightily as a rookie — injuries played a role — Miller has found a groove.
Last season, his 85.0 Pro Football Focus overall grade was the highest by a Raiders tackle since 2016, and his 85.1 pass-blocking grade was the highest by a Raiders tackle since 2015.
Oh, and Miller, who played every offensive snap last season, was also named all-AFC by the Pro Football Writers of America. As such, his presence has been a welcome salve for McDaniels as he builds a team.
“Yeah, he’s one of our best workers, there’s no doubt about it,” McDaniels said. “And you can see why he has improved each year that he’s been in the National Football League. He puts a lot of time and effort into it in the facility. He works really hard in the weight room. He’s in great condition. He studies hard.
“In order to be really good in this league, there’s a lot of things you’ve got to do well. And Kolton gives a great effort every day at everything that he’s responsible for.”
The 6-foot-8, 325-pound Miller is the only sure thing on an offensive line that was full of question marks in 2021. Quarterback Derek Carr was sacked 40 times last season, the second most of his eight-year career. Las Vegas responded by drafting a pair of offensive linemen in Dylan Parham, who has been working at guard, in the third round, and Thayer Munford, in the seventh round.
This after using a first-round pick last year on Alex Leatherwood, who started the season at right tackle but was moved to right guard in Week 5.
Leatherwood was getting reps at right tackle during last week’s open-to-the-media OTA practice.
“He looks like he’s leaned out and he looks good in the weight room,” Miller said of Leatherwood. “Get on the field and his feet look real nice. I’m excited. I’m excited for him.”
In fact, Miller took the glass-half-full approach to Leatherwood being moved inside last season.
“It’s a tough job to try to learn tackle and then go to guard,” Miller said. “It speaks on how dynamic he can be.”
And on this year’s top pick Parham? Miller said he is “young, smart and absorbing.”
Sounds familiar. Though Miller is, well, an old guy, right? Well …
“He’s got things we’ve identified already that he can improve on and he’s working hard to try to do that, and we’ll continue to work that way as we go into training camp,” McDaniels said of Miller. “But he’s just got a great attitude, a great approach every day.
“Kolton’s a great leader for us. Brings a lot of others along with him, which is great, and affects his teammates in a positive way.”
Miller, less animated now and using O-line speak, smiled when asked how his job description changed in going from Tom Cable to Carmen Bricillo as position coach.
“You’re still blocking the end,” Miller said with a smile, “most of the time.
“I still feel good. I still feel good. Fresh.”
Even for an, ahem, old guy.