Shilique Calhoun chose his words carefully.
"I wouldn't say I'm better," said Calhoun when asked Friday night if he's better today than he was a year ago. "I still think I'm the same person. I think I'm more confident. Like I said, it's a defense that fits me, fits my style of play, so it lets me be aggressive. It lets me play the style of football that I grew up, going through college, going through high school playing."
In the Oakland Raiders 13-6 win over the Green Bay Packers Friday night – the third game in succession Calhoun delivered a quality outing – Paul Guenther's defense, in addition to surrendering just three points after halftime, made life miserable for the Green Bay quarterbacks, tallying five sacks on the evening.
And Calhoun, who has been a pleasant surprise defensively this preseason, added one of his own, his second in the past three weeks.
"From my first day of learning the defense, you really understand this is an attack defense," Calhoun explained. "We're not going to sit back on our heels. We're going to be the aggressor. We're going to come out and play punch-you-in-the-mouth-type football. Like I said, I've really enjoyed it. I really feel like it fits me as a player, so I look forward to playing in the next game."
It's been a productive few weeks for the former Michigan State Spartan; not only does he lead the Raiders with two sacks, but he's been a constant presence around the quarterback every time he sees the field.
So, now about to embark on his third season as a Raider, is this the best stretch of football that Calhoun has put together since he was selected in third round of the 2016 draft?
"I would say that it's probably been one of the best," Calhoun said. "Still a lot of work to do, obviously, I missed a sack at the end of the game to end the game, but, yeah, it's definitely been a work in progress, and it's definitely been my best since I've been here in Oakland."
It's been an interesting road for the New Jersey-native.
After being drafted by the Raiders, he appeared in 10 games as a rookie, before being waived a year ago, ending up back on the practice squad in Oakland, before eventually appearing in nine games on the active roster in 2017.
Now with one preseason left to go before roster reductions arrive, Calhoun has no doubt given the coaches something to think about, and put together a convincing bid to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
"I feel like I'm more productive, more confident, and feeling like this defense really fits me as a player," Cahoun said. "So I really feel like it's been able to allow me to come up out of my shell and be as productive as I have been these past three games."
And as nice as all the tackles for loss, and sacks are, perhaps the biggest development for Cahoun over the past few months is his confidence, a confidence that he's been able to harness, and channel for positive results on game day.
"As a defensive player, it feels good when you get that first hit, you get that first sack, or you get that first QB hurry," he explained. "It gives you that confidence, and it does help you as a player. You go in being as confident as possible, but gaining that sack on 3rd and 10 or 3rd and 5, or 4th and whatever, 2nd and whatever, it really boosts your confidence, and shows you like, okay, I'm out here for a reason."
Through three preseason games, Calhoun has shown that is indeed out there for a reason, and he'll got one more chance to drive that point home Thursday night when the Raiders take on the Seattle Seahawks to conclude the preseason at CenturyLink Field.