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Youngsters take advantage of opportunities, lift Raiders to second win of the season

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Could it be the Oakland Raiders’ 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals was a peek into the future?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It was another Derek Carr 4th-quarter comeback special in Arizona Sunday, but he had a lot of help. Mostly from players with three years or less experience in the NFL. Many of whom didn’t have too many opportunities to play until recently. This day the youngsters had a heavy hand in the Raiders’ big win.

It started with cornerback Gareon Conley, the 2017 1st-round pick. On the second play of the game for the Cardinals’ offense, he intercepted a Josh Rosen and returned it 28 yards to the Cardinals’ 33. That gave the Raiders outstanding field position and they cashed in on it with a 23-yard touchdown pass from QB Derek Carr to tight end Jared Cook three plays later.

Strong safety Karl Joseph, the Raiders’ 2016 1st-round pick, has had trouble getting on the field under new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But in the last two games, Joseph has seen his most snaps all year including playing more on the back-end and has stepped up. Sunday he had an interception and laid a couple big hits.

Early in the second quarter Sunday, the Cardinals were up 14-7 with a chance to take control of the game. But CB Rashaan Melvin made a good play defending a pass into his coverage and Joseph alertly intercepted the deflection. Joseph came up and brought it against the run to as he had five tackles and a pass defensed to go with his INT.

Rookie DT Maurice Hurst also had a lot to do with keeping the game close. With his explosion off the ball and relentlessness, Hurst was a force against the pass and the run. His efforts on the day netted him five tackles, one for a loss and his fourth sack of the season. Khalil Mack, the Raiders’ best pass-rusher in decades, had four sacks as a rookie in 2014—I’m just saying.

Injuries to Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant had 7th-round rookie receiver Marcell Ateman start the game. He hadn’t even been active all year long then stepped up and helped Derek Carr recapture his 4th-quarter magic. On the game-winning drive, Carr hit Ateman for a 32-yard pass-play to set the Raiders up deep in Cardinal territory.

The Raiders haven’t had much to be happy about or proud of this year. The one win they had coming into Sunday was against the Cleveland Browns and they had help from the officials there. Sunday’s game was huge not only because it was a win but because of the youngsters that had a hand in it. Outside of Hurst, who’s been there all year, they’ve emerged from the bench and done the most with their opportunities to play.

With these youngsters plus the three 1st-round picks in 2019, how bright is the Raiders’ future?