Running Back Taiwan Jones
The scenarios, oh, the scenarios.
Heading into Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers there are no shortage of ways for the Oakland Raiders to secure a berth in the postseason, but the simplest one is this – if the Raiders win, they're in.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team is sitting on the precipice of making the postseason for the first time since 2002, but while there's admittedly a lot on the line Sunday afternoon in Southern California, running back Taiwan Jones says the team really is approaching it like any other game.
"It actually is just another game," said Jones. "[Head Coach] Del Rio has done an awesome job of preaching to us a certain message each week, and one thing that's been consistent is just focus on the process, take each game one game at a time, and if you treat that game as a playoff game, we'll be in this position, and it's worked. For the most part, you have to just keep doing what works."
Now in his sixth season in Silver and Black, the veteran running back has seen his fair share of highs in lows as a Raider, but even as the team wallowed in the mire of sub .500 seasons, Jones remained hopeful that one day he would have his chance to play meaningful football in December.
Well, after a lengthy wait, that chance has arrived.
"At the beginning of each year, I definitely hoped it was going to be that way, unfortunately, I haven't been able to experience it until now," Jones explained. "Right now I just feel blessed to be a part of this team, and I'm excited for us. I think we can go a long way if we just focus on the process, and each team like [Head Coach] Del Rio says."
While the Raiders will be able to clinch a playoff berth if everything goes according to plan Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium, earning a spot in the postseason tournament is just the next step for what the Silver and Black are trying to accomplish.
"Being in the playoffs was one of our goals, but we were already understood that we were a playoff team if we just handled our business, and do our job," Jones explained. "We're not okay with just accepting that we're in the playoffs. We feel like we can get further than that, and make it to the big dance, so I don't think this team can get too high just to clinch the playoffs. We just have to focus on this game. We plan to go further, but to do that, we have to take it one game at a time."
After an improved season in 2015, the Raiders took another dramatic leap this season, launching themselves into the upper echelon of teams in the league; so what has changed? What has caused the Silver and Black to go from a team middling around .500 to a team looking to make a run deep in the postseason?
Well, the development of quarterback Derek Carr has certainly helped, but Jones believes the biggest thing is that the Raiders are playing for each other in 2016.
"This is a real unselfish team," Jones explained. "This team is real unselfish across the board, from Latavius [Murray] sharing his reps with rookies, from rookies that can be starters and are willing to split reps, you see that from running backs to receivers. Look at our offensive line, it's constantly rotating [because of] injuries, with guys getting hurt, and some guys have to step up each week, and when you have that across the board, a team full of unselfish players, you can go far like we have."
Linebacker – Shilique Calhoun – Knee – Did not participate – Out
Quarterback – Derek Carr – Right finger – Full
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper – Shoulder – Limited – Questionable
Wide receiver – Michael Crabtree – Finger – Limited – Questionable
Safety – Karl Joseph – Toe – Did not participate – Out
Defensive Tackle – Darius Latham – Ankle – Limited – Questionable
Defensive Tackle – Stacy McGee – Ankle – Did not participate – Out
Guard/Tackle – Kelechi Osemele – Knee – Limited – Questionable
Linebacker – Perry Riley Jr. – Hamstring – Limited – Questionable
Linebacker – Malcolm Smith – Hamstring – Limited – Questionable
-Following the team's Fast Friday session, linebacker Shilique Calhoun, safety Karl Joseph, and defensive tackle Stacy McGee were all ruled out of Sunday's clash with the Chargers.
-Del Rio also indicated that defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. was unlikely to suit up in San Diego, and that the team was hopeful he would return Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts.
"We'll get him ready for next week," Del Rio said following practice. "There's always a chance, but in all likelihood we'll hold off. I'm giving you more than I really want to give you. The reality is he's had a good week, and I'd like him to get another good week. He's getting close."
-Since the flight to San Diego is a short one, the Raiders won't be flying out until tomorrow afternoon in advance of their Week 15 game against Philip Rivers and Co.
As well as Raider Nation travels, Taiwan Jones always looks forward to the team's annual game in San Diego:
"I've been blessed enough to be on this side of the ball where I go somewhere else and I feel like I'm at a home game. I couldn't imagine how San Diego feels, but for the most part, it's exciting for us. We play well on the road, and we have the pleasure of having our fans there as well."
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