By Abraham Gutierrez
Just because Oakland is on a bye week doesn't mean this isn't a good time to discuss Raiders football. In fact, this is the most opportune moment to take a look at all the rising and falling players through the first quarter of the season, also known as "studs" and "duds."
Prior to getting into which players made this year's cut, it's worth noting that the Oakland Raiders went into the bye week with a record of 2-3 on the 2015 NFL season. With the (6-0) Denver Broncos continuing to find ways to win ballgames, Oaktown's mark is good enough for second place in the AFC West.
Needless to say, Raider Nation is fortunate to reside in a division with the underachieving (2-4) San Diego Chargers and the lowly (1-5) Kansas City Chiefs. Following the bye week, Jack Del Rio & Co. will take on the San Diego Chargers, followed by a trip to the Meadowlands to face the surprising (4-1) New York Jets.
Rising - Derek Carr, Quarterback: Despite his recent struggles, most NFL football fans would agree that Oakland has finally found its franchise quarterback. It's almost hard to believe that the last time the Silver and Black had a decent signal-caller dates all the way back to the Rich Gannon days.
In his second year out of Fresno State, Carr has proven to be maturing at an abnormal pace for a young slinger with his experience. Even with a lack of a consistent running game, he's completed 64 percent of his passes, going 103-for-163 for 1,171 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 93.9.
Rising - Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver: Prior to the start of the 2015 NFL season, this Raider rookie was expected to take the league by storm among first-year players. In fact, NFL oddsmakers gave him the nod as the clear frontrunner to win the 2015 NFL Rookie Of The Year Award.
A quarter into the new campaign, the 21-year-old Alabama product has not disappointed. Cooper currently leads the team in receptions (28) and receiving yards (386), and ranks second in aerial touchdowns (2), trailing only perennial Pro Bowl full back Marcel Reese (3) in that department.
Rising - Khalil Mack, Defensive End: One of the reasons why the Raiders have gone from having one of the worst run defenses in the league to being raked fourth heading into the bye is Khalil Mack. The second-year pro out of Buffalo currently leads the team in sacks (3.0) and is sixth on the roster with 19 tackles and a forced fumble.
Rising - Charles Woodson, Safety: Positively one of the greatest in NFL history at his position, Charles Woodson's star is always on the rise. It's hard to believe that at the age of 39, the former Heisman Trophy winner went into Week 6 tied for first place in the National Football League with four interceptions.
The ageless wonder is in his 18th year in the league, but one would never know it based on his numbers and the fact that he's been battling a shoulder injury since the season opener. Aside from being at the top of the NFL's list in INTs, the Michigan product is also third on the team with 26 tackles (18 total, 8 assist), and is the heart and soul of this Raiders defense.
Falling - Latavius Murray, Running Back: As the first-string running back on the roster, the Raiders' running woes fall squarely on the shoulders of Latavius Murray. Thus far, the third-year pro out of Central Florida has shown Raider fans glimpses of his potential, but has been unable to do it on a consistent basis.
In fact, some would say that Oakland's 2-game skid is a product of this team's lack of balance on offense. The amount of pressure a lack of a running game puts on a quarterback like Carr cannot be understated. Hence, the reason why Murray has to be categorized as a dud through five games, as he's recorded just one 100-yard game despite having a solid offensive line leading the charge.
Falling - Taiwan Jones, Running Back: One of the characteristics that separate good players from great ones is the ability to capitalize on opportunities when one's number is called. With Murray struggling to find his groove, Del Rio and his staff could have really benefitted from that type of effort from second-string running back Taiwan Jones.
Nevertheless, his inability to stay on the field makes him a "dud," as his production has left a lot to be desired. How bad has Jones been? Not only is he's currently fourth on the team in rushing attempts (7), but in yards (30) accumulated he's only ahead of Carr (29) by a single yard.
Abe Gutierrez's (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.
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