The Oakland Raiders have officially begun their bye week, taking some time off to rest and recuperate before returning to their Alameda, Calif., facility early next week to prepare for their Week 7 matchup with the San Diego Chargers.
As it stands now, the Silver and Black hold a record of 2-3, but it is an optimistic 2-3, as the team could easily be 4-1 if not for a few bounces of the football here and there.
The young Raiders core has received a lot of positive attention from the media, both local and national alike; so as the team heads into their bye week, let's look at five reasons why the Oakland Raiders are on the rise.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio
Since being hired in January, Head Coach Jack Del Rio has continuously stated that he's out to change the culture in Oakland.
These are no longer the "Old Raiders," as players said during the offseason program; these are Jack Del Rio's Raiders.
Head Coach Del Rio has begun to develop accountability, and respect and hired a staff that has expected the same from their players.
The Offense's Big Three
The youth movement is in full force for the Silver and Black in 2015, and that's not a bad thing.
Starting quarterback Derek Carr is 24, running back Latavius Murray is 25 and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper is just 21 years old, and in the team's Week 3 win over the Cleveland Browns, they set the NFL record for passing/rushing/receiving yards in a game by a trio age 25-or-younger.
The Silver and Black seem to have their franchise quarterback in Carr, and have now outfitted him with a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in Cooper.
Not only has the rookie flashed the type of precise route running and big-play ability for which he was heralded for at Alabama, he has proven to be quite slippery after the catch – Cooper is currently on pace to force 28 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, which would be the highest number the service has ever recorded for a wide receiver.
Add in Murray, as a bell cow-type running back, and you have a formidable trio for the Raiders offense going forward for the foreseeable future.
Defensive End Khalil Mack
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft flashed the type of potential and raw ability that made scouts and coaches salivate as a rookie, but now heading into his second year it's time for Mack to hone those skills and become even more dominant as a pass rusher.
After spending his rookie season listed as a linebacker, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff decided to officially move Mack to defensive end, a position where he'd primarily have his hand in the dirt.
As the team heads into the bye, Mack has 3 sacks which nearly matches his total from the entirety of his rookie campaign, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble, and has remained an unstoppable force against the run.
Mack has received accolades left and right through his short career, and the Buffalo-product has earned them all – he has a chance to be one of the elite defensive players in the NFL, and a legitimate defensive superstar for the team to build around.
Mack isn't the only bright spot along the defensive front for the Raiders, as he and linebacker Aldon Smith have become quite the formidable tandem on the outside, with Justin "Jelly" Ellis and Mario Williams Jr. manning the middle.
The line has consistently improved as well, as the Raiders now have 10 total sacks heading into the bye week.
Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree
You could make the argument that Crabtree was the biggest free agent acquisition for the Silver and Black this offseason.
Since joining the Raiders in April, the veteran wide receiver has not only been productive on the field, he has been the ideal teammate and leader for a predominantly young Raiders team.
To a man, the Raiders coaches and players have praised Crabtree's professionalism and unselfishness, and having another viable option out wide to pair with Amari Cooper has paid huge dividends for the team's offense.
Through fives games, Crabtree has 27 catches for 318 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Offensive Line
The big men in the trenches have quietly put together another quality campaign for the Raiders thus far.
The left side of the line with Donald Penn and Gabe Jackson could arguably be one of the best in the NFL, and free agent acquisition Rodney Hudson has begun to show why the Raiders invested so much in the center this offseason.
Even the right side, which some feared could be an area of concern after right tackle Menelik Watson was lost for the season due to injury, has performed admirably.
While Penn remains the senior member of the line, he shows no signs of slowing down, and with the relative age of the players around him, the offensive line should definitely be a strength for the Silver and Black moving forward.