Raiders showing clear signs of progress after strong start to season

Raiders showing clear signs of progress after strong start to season

The Raiders are 3-2 at the bye. Knock on wood if you expected that after all the Silver and Black have been through.

We should be able to hear the refrigerator hum. Even wide-eyed optimists might not be reaching for pine after the Raiders lost Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Gabe Jackson and Johnathan Abram, and after they got dressed down in Minnesota to start a season-defining five-game road trip.

These Raiders persevered through all that and managed to beat Indianapolis and Chicago away from Oakland -- in consecutive weeks.

Go ahead and load up the AFC playoff picture. Yup. Raiders are in it right in it, as a wild-card team. That doesn’t mean much given there are 11 games to go and tough opposition littering the schedule, but that was never even a pipe dream last season. The fact that it is, even at this way-too-early stage, is a sign of progress.

The Raiders have been tough, transitioning to a run-first team to focus on strengths at offensive line, tight end and running back. They’re using extra defensive backs to account for a lack of linebacker depth, and have continued to function well and remain tough even in the face of adversity.

Head coach Jon Gruden had plenty of reason to put his shoulders back, take a deep breath and smile in his Tuesday bye week press conference. The work his team and his coaching staff have done to this point is impressive.

He didn’t take that tact.

“We’re building our team. That’s all I’m going to say,” Gruden said. “We’re not making any other statements other than that. We like the progress. We like the development of some young guys. I think our veteran leadership has been excellent.

“…I can’t say enough about the camaraderie that we have on the team and the guys that have stepped up. It’s fun to be around.”

This team has gotten close, bonding over all the early-season adversity. Confidence comes from the ability to overcome it.

That was clear after beating the Bears in London, a victory established with a 97-yard drive in the waning moments.

“It was nice to see the fruits of our labor,” tight end Foster Moreau said. “We’re really coming together, and you could see how well we worked as a unit. That’s the type of drive, the type of win that you can really hang your hat on.

“I think this team is getting really tight. You need good chemistry to win tough games, and we have that.”

And they have some emerging talent. The Raiders are far from a complete product, with glaring deficiencies at several spots, but there are stronger areas carrying the team through. Overcoming those issues is a testament to coaching, from game planning to player development to chemistry built over training camp and a week holed up in London.

That has been vital considering all of the team’s setbacks. Younger or unheralded players have filled in well and played critical roles in this quality start.

“Well we’ve had a lot of players play critical roles that maybe we didn’t think would play this substantial of a role this soon,” Gruden said. “I’m really proud of the development of some young players. Really pleased with our coaching staff, the job that they’ve done.

“But I’m proud of our team. We have a lot of respect for how far we have to go, but we’re making some progress.”

[RELATED: Why Gruden credits Carr for helping Raiders run game thrive]

There’s no telling how the rest of this season will go. They have two more legs left on this crazy five-game stretch played away from home, against Green Bay and Houston. Detroit visits the Oakland Coliseum after that, with several other top teams remaining. But the schedule does ease up a bit as a whole down the stretch.

We have no idea if the Raiders will remain competitive beyond this point, or whether more setbacks push the team over the edge.

We do know this group is better built to handle whatever comes next.

“We're a better football team this year than we were last year. Coach Gruden built a solid foundation,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I just want to win. But the cool thing about it now is I could see this last year. We're going to be awesome; I know it. I know we'll be able to play in big games and beat people. That said, no one else believed him except the people in our building, and that's all that matters. I think it has carried over since last year. I think it will continue to grow.”

Raiders' Keelan Doss enjoying 'unorthodox' NFL journey amid inactive streak

Raiders' Keelan Doss enjoying 'unorthodox' NFL journey amid inactive streak

ALAMEDA -- The start to Keelan Doss' NFL career has been unique, to say the least. 

After going undrafted out of the University of California-Davis, Doss was signed by the Raiders and impressed early on in OTAs and training camp. The Alameda native became a fan favorite during the Raiders' run on HBO's "Hard Knocks," but eventually he was cut and signed on the Jaguars' practice squad. 

Doss' time away from the Raiders didn't last long, as he was given a $300K signing bonus along with the $495K salary to take Antonio Brown's spot on the roster after the star receiver demanded his release before Week 1. 

The rookie wideout was active from Weeks 2-7, totaling six catches for 79 yards as the receiver-starved Raiders tried to reshape their offense on the fly. Doss showed some promise in games against the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, but he has been inactive for the past four games, with newcomer Zay Jones and Marcell Ateman getting the nod to suit up. 

No player likes to sit on the sideline as his team battles for a playoff spot, but the rookie is taking everything in stride, focusing on getting better to earn his way onto the field. 

"I've just been in practice really just focusing on my game," Doss told NBC Sports Bay Area."The tools I know I can use when I do get in a position to play. Obviously it's tough just watching the team and everything, but at the end of the day I have to get better every day and that's what I continue to try to do."

"Just consistency, just every day," Doss continued. "I know my ability and what I can do. When I get an opportunity to go in I just have to continue to make plays like I have been and was when I was in the game."

[RELATED: Gruden enjoying Jacobs' success after Mack trade criticism

Not being able to contribute on Sundays has been tough, and his NFL journey has had more early twists and turns than most undrafted rookies. 

Still, Doss is happy to be a Raider and is taking each new curve with a positive attitude. 

"I couldn't make it up, you know what I mean?" Doss said about his first NFL season. "It's obviously unorthodox, but at the same time, I feel like God puts me in a position and I can handle it. I've enjoyed it. You've got to live in the moment, so that's what I try to do."

After three straight wins, the 6-4 Raiders will travel to New York on Sunday to face the Jets as they look to cement their foothold in the AFC playoff race. 

Doss will continue to hone his craft and be ready to make plays for the Silver and Black should they need him down the stretch. 

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner's status vs. Jets uncertain

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner's status vs. Jets uncertain

ALAMEDA – Raiders slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner stretched with his team to start Wednesday’s practice, a light session conducted without helmets.

The veteran cover man did some work during the portion open to the press, but he apparently didn’t do much after that.

He was formally considered a non-participant on the team’s practice report, which is an estimation considering the workout was only a walk-through.

The Raiders have moved lighter sessions to Wednesday, with intensity ratcheting up on Thursday and then down a bit Friday.

Coach Jon Gruden didn’t say much about Joyner’s health status after he missed a Week 11 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals due to a hamstring injury from the previous game.

“He got in some work,” Gruden said. “… We weren’t doing much today, as you could see, in terms of full-speed work. We got a lot of reps today. I’m hopeful that he’ll be ready to play, but we’ll see how it goes when we lather them up [Thursday].”

Nevin Lawson assumed Joyner’s role against Cincinnati and was solid in the high-priced veteran’s place.

The Raiders obviously need one of their defensive captains healthy as soon as possible, as they push to make a playoff run. It’s uncertain, though unlikely, that Joyner can come back to play the Jets.

Oakland would like him back the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs, which could be a showdown for AFC West supremacy.

David Sharpe wasn’t available with a calf strain, though starting right tackle Trent Brown continues to play through knee issues.

The Raiders conducted a walk-through practice Wednesday. Therefore, the following participation report is an estimation.

[RELATED: Gruden enjoying Jacobs' success after Mack trade criticism]

Raiders practice report

Did not practice
CB Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring)
OT David Sharpe (calf)

Limited practice
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
OT Trent Brown (knee)