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The Raiders show clear signs of progress after a strong start to the season

The Raiders are 3-2 at the bye. Turn on wood if you expected everything after silver and black went through.

We should be able to hear the refrigerator hum. Even wide-eyed optimists may not be stretching for pine after the Raiders lost Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Gabe Jackson and Johnathan Abram, and after dressing in Minnesota to start a seasonally determined four-match road trip.

These Raiders continued through all of this and managed to beat Indianapolis and Chicago away from Oakland – in subsequent weeks.

Go ahead and upload the AFC playoffs. Yep. The Raiders are right in it, as a wild-card team. It doesn't matter much considering there are 11 matches to go and a tough opposition that runs counter to the schedule, but it was never even a pipe dream last season. The fact that it is, even at this premature stage, is a sign of progress.

The Raiders have been tough, transitioning to a first starting team to focus on offensive line strengths, tight ends and running backs. They use extra defensive backs to account for the lack of line back depth and have continued to perform well and remain tough even before the setback.

Head coach Jon Gruden had plenty of reason to put his shoulders back, take a deep breath and smile at his press conference Tuesday bye. The work done by his team and his coaching staff to this point is impressive.

He didn't take that beat.

“We are building our team. That's all I have to say, Gruden said. “We make no other statements than that. We like progress. We like the development of some young guys. I think our veteran leadership has been excellent.

"… I can't say enough about the camera we have in the team and the guys who have stepped up. It's fun to be around. "

This team has come close and is tied over the entire off-season in the early season. Confidence comes from the ability to overcome it.

It was clear after beating the Bears in London, a victory that was established with a 97-yard run in the waning moments.

"It was nice to see the fruits of our labor," The tight end said Foster Moreau. "We really come together and you can see how well we worked as a unit. It's the kind of unity, the kind of profit that you can really hang on to your hat.

"I think this team is going to be really tough. You need good chemistry to win tough games, and we have that. "

And they have some new talent. The Raiders are far from a complete product, with sharp shortcomings in several places, but there are stronger areas that carry the team through. Overcoming these problems is proof of coaching, from game planning to player development to chemistry built over training camps and a one week discovery in London.

It has been very important considering all the setbacks. Younger or unclassified players have filled in well and played critical roles in this quality start.

"Well, we've got a lot of players playing critical roles that we might not think would play such a significant role anytime soon," said Gruden. “I'm really proud of the development of some young players. Really happy with our coaching staff, the job they have done.

"But I'm proud of our team. We have a lot of respect for how far we have to go, but we are making some progress. "

[RELATED: Why Gruden credits Carr for helping the Raiders thrive the game]

There's no telling how the rest of this season will go. They have two more legs left on this crazy five-game stretch played at home, against Green Bay and Houston. Detroit visits the Oakland Coliseum after that, with several other top teams remaining. But the schedule facilitates a bit as a whole along the route.

We have no idea if the Raiders will remain competitive beyond this point, or if more setbacks push the team over the edge.

We know that the group is better built to handle what comes next.

"We are a better football team this year than we were last year. Coach Gruden built a solid foundation, ”said quarterback Derek Carr. “I just want to win. But the cool thing about it now is that I could see this last year. We will be fantastic; I know that. I know we can play in big games and beat people. That said, no one else believed him except the people in our building, and that's all that matters. I think it's been over since last year. I think it will continue to grow. "

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