WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Raiders are going to have tough decisions to make at wide receiver when it comes time to trim the roster.
That’s been clear throughout the preseason, and it remained so in the team’s 22-21 comeback victory over the Packers on Thursday night.
The contest was unusual by any measure, given the shortened field due to a patch of turf in each end zone that was deemed unsafe at IG Field, home of the Canadian Football League’s Blue Bombers.
The first 10 yards were off-limits on each end of the field, so kicker Daniel Carlson officially connected on a 33-yard field goal on a play in which the line of scrimmage was effectively the five-yard line with eight seconds left to give the Raiders a one-point lead.
That encapsulated much of the night’s oddity.
But when it comes to those wideouts, undrafted rookie Keelan Doss continues to show up and make a good case to crack the Raiders’ initial 53.
“I mean, I like Doss. You all don’t know this because you don’t see it every day like we do, but he’s playing three positions,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “And he’s playing them all well, and I’m happy for him.”
Sure, there are things at practice we can’t see. But if you don’t know Doss’ name by now, you just haven’t been paying attention.
The undrafted rookie out of UC Davis grew up in Alameda and has been featured on this season of “Hard Knocks.”
He’s also been one of the Raiders’ most consistent targets in the exhibition season.
In the first half against the Packers, Doss took a short pass in the middle of the field and turned it into an 18-yard gain to Green Bay’s 26-yard line. In a game played on an 80-yard field, that catch effectively put the Raiders in the red zone.
The possession ended with quarterback Nathan Peterman connecting with fullback Keith Smith on a five-yard touchdown.
Later in the contest, Doss was wide open on a shallow crossing route to the left. He made another catch and run for an 11-yard gain.
In the fourth quarter, Doss adjusted to a pass a bit behind him, reached up to make the grab and tapped his toes in bounds for a 17-yard reception down the right sideline.
“The ball was in the air, and I didn’t even know I was that close to the sideline,” Doss said. “I turned around, and it just all felt kind of slow motion to me. I was able to just look at the sideline, get both feet down and just make the catch.”
Doss caught a three-yard touchdown pass against the Rams in the preseason opener. Then he had five receptions for 38 yards last week against the Cardinals. He led the Raiders on Thursday with 52 yards on four catches.
“I just play my game, man,” Doss said. “I feel like a lot of dudes, or certain dudes, they start thinking about where they’re gonna fit in. And for me, it’s just going out there and just executing and doing my job, and I just try to play to my highest level and let the rest take care of itself.”
Peterman has played the majority of his snaps with Doss during the preseason, and their connection has undoubtedly aided in Doss’ August emergence.
“He’s awesome,” Peterman said. “Obviously, you see him winning on the sideline there, just give him a 50-50 ball, he goes up and makes a play. And a couple other times, running away from guys in shallows, yeah, really talented guy.”
Doss says with his approach nothing feels too big for him. And that’s been key to becoming such a consistent target for Raiders quarterbacks this preseason.
“It’s just staying calm, staying confident and knowing and trusting my ability, and going out there and making plays,” Doss said.
And as he does so,
Doss has made a strong case to make that initial 53-man roster — at least that’s the way it seems.
“I’m trying to. It’s just trying to build every game upon each other and we’ll see,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”