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Raiders.com Mailbag: Discussing Jared Cook's Pro Bowl candidacy, improved play of the defense

The good vibes from Sunday afternoon are still percolating around 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, following the Silver and Black’s dramatic 24-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Oakland Raiders Week 14 outing was filled with twists and turns, and then a few more twists just for fun, but when all was said and done, and the dust finally settled at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Derek Carr and Co., had earned their third win of 2018.

Anyway, we’re on to Cincinnati and Week 15 against the Bengals, so let’s get to your questions.

Vamos!

From Duncan R: What were you thinking during those final few seconds Sunday?

EP: Truthfully, I was rewriting the game story for about the sixth time, but, man, the final three minutes of regulation seemed like they had a day’s worth of drama, didn’t it?

From Derek Carr leading the Raiders offense down the field, to Derek Carrier’s touchdown with 25 seconds left, to the Steelers attempt at a game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation, it was a wild conclusion at the OACC, no doubt about it.

What was I thinking though? Honestly, I thought, alright, Boswell has had an “eh” day so far, let’s see if the Raiders can get in his head once more, and thankfully, that – along with an unlucky slip for the Steelers – sealed a much-needed win for the Silver and Black.

From Evan C: Has Gareon Conley turned the corner?

EP: Man, it sure seems like it, doesn’t it? Don’t look now, but the Raiders defense has now effectively shut down the opposing No. 1 wide receiver in back-to-back weeks, and the play of the former Ohio State Buckeye is a big reason why.

Conley tallied two passes defensed in Sunday’s win, and played a large role in limiting Antonio Brown to five catches and 35 yards – his lowest statistical output of 2018.

I think we’ve seen the version of Conley that we expected to see when he was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and Head Coach Jon Gruden has been pleased with No. 21’s development.

“He’s a lot more confident now,” said Gruden. “He missed a lot of training camp, he was hurt. Missed most of last season. I think his preparation has been better. I think he’s been able to practice. Our secondary coach has helped him play a role in this. The guy is talented and he’s gaining confidence each week. Each week he sees himself covering the best guys in football and he’s having some success. He’s doing the little things right and he’s getting better every week.”

The Raiders have three games left on the schedule, and I’ll be keyed in on Conley to see if he can ride the momentum he’s built through the end of the regular season.

From Lorenzo C: Jared Cook was a beast again on Sunday. Do you think he’s done enough to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl?

EP: Short answer for this one, Lorenzo – yes.

Look, if Jared Cook didn’t catch another pass in 2018 – he will, don’t worry – the veteran tight end has done more than enough to earn a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.

Not only has he been the de facto No. 1 option for Derek Carr much of 2018, he has taken full advantage of his chances in the passing game, and it’s a large reason why he’s currently in the midst of a career year.

Coach Gruden has said that Jared needs to be a Pro Bowler, DC has said the same thing, and I’m echoing their sentiment as well.

That said, Pro Bowl voting ends on Thursday, so get out there and do your thing, Raider Nation.

From Gary T: We getting a weather game in Cincinnati this weekend?

EP: Well, in the spirit of full transparency, I must admit that I don’t believe the weather report more than a day out, but as of right now, the forecast calls for a high of 47 degrees and no rain Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.

We’ll see though; check back a little bit closer to the weekend.

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