ALAMEDA, Calif. — At their Week 6 bye, the Raiders are a surprising 3-2 following two wins away from home over the Colts and Bears.
The schedule-makers did the Raiders no favors with seven consecutive weeks without a home game. And the Raiders have had to shuffle their roster at a number of positions — most notably wide receiver, offensive line and linebacker. But head coach Jon Gruden has gotten the most out of his players to have a winning record through five games.
With that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at how the Raiders have done so far:
In the Raiders’ three wins, quarterback Derek Carr has effectivley managed the offense. He’s kept the unit in the right plays, made good checks at the line of scrimmage and completed key throws to not just sustain drives, but also put points on the board.
But in the two losses, Carr’s inconsistent play has led to costly turnovers. Put simply, in the two games Carr has thrown an interception, the Raiders have lost. The three games he hasn’t, the Raiders have won.
Still, in completing 73.3 percent of his passes for 1,117 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions, Carr appears to be on the right track.
RUNNING BACK: A
First-round pick Josh Jacobs has been the Raiders’ best offensive player through five games and is making a case for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s currently on pace for 1,376 yards rushing with 430 yards and four touchdowns through five games — averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He’s also caught six passes for 77 yards.
But as good as Jacobs has been, there’s likely room for him to be even better if the Raiders increase his involvment in their passing attack.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C
In no small part because the club let go of Antonio Brown just before the start of the regular season, the Raiders have not gotten much out of their wide receivers — and have continued to shuffle the group.
While Tyrell Williams has caught four touchdown passes, he’s gained just 111 yards receiving after racking up 105 in Week 1.
The Raiders were able to defeat the Bears without Williams, but they need more from the group. Fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow has made 12 receptions for 101 yards, but he’s only caught 52 percent of his targeted passes.
Trevor Davis, acquired from the Packers in late September, has shown flashes. And the Raiders just traded for Bills’ 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones.
But the shadow of Brown looms large as the Raiders try to get more production from that spot.
TIGHT ENDS: A
The Raiders have found a gem in Darren Waller, who leads the team with 37 receptions and 359 yards receiving. He’s been the club’s second-best offensive player through the first five games, as 17 of his 37 receptions have resulted in first downs. Plus, Waller has been as good blocking as he’s been catching — springing Jacobs for key runs.
Fourth-round rookie Forster Moreau has also emerged in the last two contests, making a combined seven receptions for 76 yards with a touchdown. Waller and Moreau will be key to keeping the Raiders in contention for the rest of the season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
For the most part, the Raiders’ offensive line has done a nice job navigating through constant shuffling. Kolton Miller and Trent Brown have performed well at tackle, most notably against the Broncos in Week 1 and the Bears in Week 5. Rodney Hudson has also played up to his usual strong standard at center, and Richie Incognito has been good at left guard since his Week 3 return — though he must reduce his penalties.
Right guard Gabe Jackson should return in the next couple weeks to give the group an even bigger boost.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
The Raiders defense has been better overall, largely due to improvement along the defensive line. The group already has nine sacks, after registering a league-low 13 last season. Free agent signee Benson Mayowa leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Fourth-round rookie Maxx Crosby also looks like a gem, coming up with a forced fumble in Indianapolis before registering the first sack of his career against the Bears.
The run defense has improved significantly, and Tahir Whitehead’s proven versatility alone almost gives this group an “A.” But Vontaze Burfict got himself suspended for the rest of the season for his dangerous play, and that could prove to be a significant blow as the schedule continues. Burfict had been playing well, battling through injury in a familiar scheme. But without him, the Raiders will primarily turn to Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow.
The Raiders are No. 22 against the pass and have been up and down through the first five games. Losing safety Johnathan Abram for the entire season after Week 1 to a shoulder injury hasn’t helped. But there have also been a few consequential coverage busts. Gruden said the Raiders will use Daryl Worley in a more versatile role going forward, which could help the unit as a whole make more plays.
Most outside of the Raiders’ building did not expect the club to be 3-2 at this point. There’s certainly plenty for the team to clean up and improve upon over the rest of the season. But at this point, they have an identity as a team that can run the ball well and play solid defense. Plus, they already have three wins. They’re in good shape to stay in contention through the rest of 2019.