Raiders' Rookie Class is Contributing

From Carr to Carrie, draft picks from 2014 have stepped into important roles -- a good sign for the franchise

All is not well with the Raiders, who are 0-3 and faced with having to win a game in England Sunday against the Dolphins.

Oakland hasn’t been winless in its first three games since 2006, when it never turned things around and finished 2-14.

But just three games into this season and one thing seems apparent: this rookie class may play a very large role in the future of this franchise.

* No. 1 pick Khalil Mack played his best game of the season Sunday in the loss to the Patriots, putting a hit on quarterback Tom Brady to force a fourth-down play and also registering seven tackles. The outside linebacker has improved steadily since Game 1 against the Jets when he was largely invisible.

* Quarterback Derek Carr, taken in the second round, is showing he has what it takes to be an NFL starter. He’s completed 63 percent of his throws for 588 yards and three TDs and three interceptions and drove the Raiders into position for a possible tying score late in Sunday’s game.

* Guard Gabe Jackson, taken in the third round, has earned his starting spot on the left side and has impressed teammates and coaches with his blocking ability, physical play and work ethic.

* Defensive linemen Shelby Harris and Justin Ellis have worked their way into the rotation, backing up LaMarr Woodley and Pat Sims.

* Cornerbacks T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill made the opening-day roster, with Carrie getting playing time in the secondary as well as contributing on special teams. Against New England in Week 3, Carrie returned four punts for 36 yards, including a long of 21.

With 13 games still play, the rookies still have plenty of time to grow and contribute even more – a good thing for a franchise that has struck out often in the draft over the past 10-12 years.

Jackson, of course, got attention – the wrong kind – for a holding call against him that wiped out a touchdown run by Darren McFadden. The TD and extra point would have tied the game (or allowed the Raiders to go for two and the win) near the end of regulation vs. the Patriots.

But head coach Dennis Allen disputed the call, saying he thought Jackson’ block was clean. So did several teammates.

Left offensive tackle Donald Penn told reporters that Jackson is talented and growing into his job a bit more every week.

“I feel bad for the kid,” Penn said after the New England game. “He is going good. He faced (Houston’s J.J.) Watt last week and then Vince Wilfork and Chandler Jones. … He’s getting tested and he’s doing great.”

So far, the same also can be said for his rookie classmates.

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