There is something really interesting going on in Oakland Raiders training camp with regards to first round pick, Kolton Miller.
No, it’s not that Miller is having a better camp than I thought he would, though that is definitely interesting, and exciting for that matter. It’s how Jon Gruden has managed to convince his players that it’s their duty to make sure Miller succeeds as the team’s newest left tackle.
So many times we hear about how incumbent starters are unwilling to work with the rookies who were drafted, presumably, to replace them one day. With the Raiders, that’s not an issue. Donald Penn, who is sidelined while nursing a foot injury, has been very active in helping Kolton Miller learn the position. This despite the fact that many believe Miller has a chance of unseating Penn this season. And if he does unseat Penn, there’s a chance Penn finds himself without a roster spot this upcoming year.
And then there’s Bruce Irvin, the defensive end who has always been a vocal leader but is taking that leadership to the next level. Not only has he taken rookie edge rusher Arden Key under his wing, he’s also helping Miller develop as well. When asked about Miller and Irvin, Gruden noted that Irvin is one of their captains right now and is throwing as much as he can at Miller early on in order to help him prepare for the pass rush heavy AFC West. I know that may not sound like much, but when you’re a veteran with as much experience as Irvin, you don’t always go hard in training camp the way youngsters trying to prove themselves will. Irvin has nothing to prove, but he’s going hard at Miller every play anyway, because he knows it will help Miller improve.
Even Kelechi Osemele, who ideally will play alongside Miller once he is ready to be a starter, has taken ownership of the need to develop the rookie: “As far as the framework of being an elite left tackle, (Miller) has the tools there. I think it’s really up to us to get him where he needs to be.”
I know the idea that players are helping develop a rookie may not seem groundbreaking, but it’s also not something that should be taken for granted. We didn’t hear many stories like this coming out of Jack Del Rio led training camps. The past few years, there was more of a lackadaisical feel about camp. This year, you get the distinct feeling that the players feel an urgency. They feel like they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, that not only do they need to do their best, they also need to help others around them do their best.