Any rookie season is a trial by fire – perhaps especially so for rookie tackle Kolton Miller.
The UCLA product was selected in the first round (No. 15 overall) of this year's draft to be the Oakland Raiders left tackle of the future, but the future came in a big way – and in a hurry – for Miller in 2018, as he's started all nine games thus far for the Silver and Black.
And while the results for the team haven't materialized just yet, the progress that both Miller and fellow rookie tackle Brandon Parker have made since Week 1 has been a storyline worth watching this year.
"He [Parker] and Kolton, together, they had their physical ailments against the 49ers. I thought Parker, other than a few plays, handled his own, did well," said Head Coach Jon Gruden when discussing the rookie linemen. "Showed some progress."
As Gruden alluded, both Parker and Miller have dealt with their fair share of injuries this year, but as far as Miller in particular is concerned, the Raiders head coach has been encouraged by not only the physical, but mental toughness, that the young lineman has demonstrated.
Asked about Miller's mental makeup in dealing with injury, Gruden offered high praise for No. 77.
Take a look through the top images from the Raiders' game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10 at the Coliseum.
"I think what you're dealing with Miller is one of the most mentally tough kids that you will find," Gruden explained. "I think he's gaining strength from playing. I think he's really learning a lot about this business the hard way. Not only losing, not only playing hurt, playing from behind a lot, but learning how to play well against great rushers when you're not at your best. That's really the definition of a lot of these great pro football players. A lot of these guys don't feel good after Week 2 or 3. For that young man to go out there and give us all that he's given us under these circumstances is really exciting."
The fact that Miller played all 63 offensive snaps in Sunday's matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers is impressive, but even more impressive when you realize that just a week-and-a-half ago, the rookie wasn't healthy enough to play even half the reps against the San Francisco 49ers.
Sitting at 1-8, the positives for the Silver and Black are hard to see right now, but with seven games left on the docket, we're going to learn a lot about what the Raiders have to build on going forward.
Next up for Miller, and the rest of the lineman? A Week 11 clash in the desert against the Arizona Cardinals.