Raiders' Kolton Miller quietly confident while playing best football

Raiders' Kolton Miller quietly confident while playing best football

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.

[RELATED: Why Waller's extension is money well spent for Raiders]

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.”

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

ALAMEDA -- Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans' offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and are armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back that never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down -- physical -- he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders' defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. "... He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

[RELATED: Raiders' offense takes big hit with Brown out vs. Titans]

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have launched a campaign to help running back Josh Jacobs become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They have opened a website extolling his virtues. They have passed out buttons. They even have fullback and "chief of interior transportation" Alec Ingold giving a fireside chat about how awesome Jacobs has been in 2019.

The promotional materials may draw some extra attention, but Jacobs’ case is easy to make.

He has smashed every Raiders rookie rushing record. He exceeded 1,000 yards in his 12th game and will have huge totals even if he isn’t able to play Sunday against Tennessee. He’s formally questionable with a fractured shoulder he's been playing through since trucking Green Bay safety Adrian Amos in Week 7.

His numbers are pretty awesome. Jacobs has 218 carries 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s 4.9 yards per carry, and he ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards. He also has another 18 receptions 146 yards.

The competition must always be considered, but he has to be the frontrunner after winning back-to-back rookie of the month awards.

Arizona's No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is certainly a candidate, but the Cardinals don’t have many wins. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and Baltimore wideout Marquise Brown have had good seasons, but they shouldn’t be considered serious competition here.

The Raiders haven’t had an offensive rookie of the year since Marcus Allen won it in 1982, and Jacobs has smashed Allen’s records from that strike-shortened year. Charles Woodson was the last rookie of the year on either side of the ball, winning the defensive award in 1998.

[RELATED: NFL prospects for Raiders to watch on Championship Weekend]

Jacobs’ shoulder injury could hurt the campaign more than anything, especially if he misses a few games or gets shut down for the rest of the season if the playoffs become a distant pipe dream.

Outside of that, he should be the favorite to win the award heading down the stretch.