Sure, it’s just the preseason, but the Oakland offense has looked solid in the first 3 weeks. The play calling seems improved, especially in the passing game. The Raiders passing offense ranks in the top 5 of every passing category including yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, completions, first downs, and passer rating.
The majority of the players earning these stats will not be starting or even on the team when the regular season starts. There will be some tough cuts at the wide receiver position and no player has made a bigger case than Alameda native Keelan Doss. Doss leads the Raiders with 99 receiving yards on 11 catches this preseason. He is a multi-faceted pass catcher who could make the final 53 because of all the different ways he wins.
Yards after catch
Doss has accrued 40 of his 99 total receiving yards after the catch. He has shown surprising wiggle and loose hips for a bigger receiver and also some wheels to turn the corner in the open field. Doss shakes free in the clip above after running a double move to get open. When he gets the ball in his hands he makes a great move to force the defense to work at getting him down.
There was at least one example of Doss making a rookie mistake however. This play against the Cardinals, Doss sacrifices a first down opportunity by attempting to juke an oncoming defender. The positive take here is that Doss is confident in his ability to make defenders miss to even try this move. The negative is Doss needs to learn how to get north and south quicker and make the smart play.
Working the middle of the field
Of course Doss will get the shout-out for his TD catch against the Rams. The moment of coming back to his hometown in his first NFL action wasn’t too big for him and he executes a great goal-line slant for a TD. Watch how he moves the CB outside with a quick jab step before breaking inside on the slant. He also does a good job of positioning his body between the defender and the ball maximizing his catching surface and shielding the pass from a potential disruption.
Doss has made a few plays off play action to gain first downs. This beautiful catch from Mike Glennon was his best in such situations. The young receiver’s calling card so far has been his body control to haul in catches from all angles. The pass is slightly off target and it forces Doss to make an adjustment. The level of difficulty is even higher when considering the defender is able to recover and challenge the catch due to the pass being behind the receiver.
Doss did have a crucial mistake in the game against Green Bay. He starts off great on this play, displaying the chemistry he has gained from working with Peterman so much this offseason. Doss easily uncovers when he sees his QB flushed out of the pocket. The problem is the rookie feels a collision coming and flinches before the ball arrives leading to his only drop of the preseason. In a preseason full of roses, one thorn isn’t too bad, but Doss wishes he had this one back.
Working the sideline
The premier receivers in the NFL have the ability to make plays against man coverage on the perimeter. Doss might not have matched up against Patrick Peterson or Aqib Talib in these games but he flashed the potential to add an outside weapon in this offense. The clip above shows him working upfield on an outside release. His head down and acceleration get the defender to turn and run. Doss then drops his hips and keeps his footwork quick to break back towards the QB, gaining enough separation to convert the first down.
The highlight reel catch from the Green Bay game starts the exact same way as the previous route highlighted. Keeping route stems identical is how NFL receivers prevent defenders from gaining an advantage in the film room. Doss takes off up the sideline this time and looks back early for the ball. In the moments that it takes for the cornerback to get his head around Doss is able to win on this play. The back shoulder ball comes and the rookie elevates for an acrobatic toe tap sideline catch like a player with more than just 3 preseason games under his belt.
In years past, Doss would have been a no-brainer to make the Raiders final 53 man roster. This season, however, with a draft pick, (Hunter Renfrow) and so many free agent acquisitions battling to make the team, Doss may still end up a casualty on final cut down day.
Run blocking and special teams play are the way for a fringe roster wide receiver to punch his ticket. Doss looked willing as a run blocker but didn’t lay a big hit or spring a runner free so he’s nothing to write home about in that department. He also didn’t log a single special teams snap.
Gruden is on record saying “I like Doss” on numerous occasions and has pointed to his ability to play all 3 receiver positions in his offense even though Doss has almost exclusively lined up on the outside this preseason.