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Doss Continues To Shine Throughout Raiders’ Preseason

(Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

DAVIS, Calif. – There’s at least one wide receiver in Oakland Raiders camp who seems to have a helmet that fits just fine.

And after former UC Davis All-American Keelan Doss turned in another superlative performance in Thursday’s 22-21 preseason victory over Green Bay, he is doing everything he can to keep that helmet.

Undrafted, but signed by his boyhood idols, Doss has 11 catches for 99 yards in three Raider victories. Both statistics lead a crowded house of Oakland wideouts. Meanwhile, the Aug. 31 cut-down from 90 players to the 53-man rosters fast approaches. The Silver and Black have 11 wide receivers in camp; the rumor is that only six will make the team.

Despite the pressure, Doss literally is keeping his eye on the ball.

His brilliant twisting, toe-tapping 18-yard sideline catch against the Packers was vintage Doss. It wasn’t so much that the 6-3, 215-pound Raider evaded cornerback Nydair Rose — Rose stayed close — the eye-popping aspect came when Doss soared high in the air, went 360 to pull in Nathan Peterman’s back-shoulder lob, then found the ground just inside the chalk before being pushed out of bounds.

Doss downplayed the special moment. Just doing his job, he told the assembled media afterward:

“I’m just playing my game. For me, it’s just going out there and executing. I just try to play at my highest level and let the rest take care of itself.”

In Doss’ record-breaking stay at UC Davis, “the rest” took care of itself — and how!  He left town with school standards for receptions (321), receiving yards (4,069), 100-yard games (19), and ended his college career with other UC Davis Big Sky-era program records like receiving touchdowns (28), total touchdowns (29) and all-purpose yards (4,218).

In Thursday’s four-catch, 52-yard showing in Winnipeg (more about the venue in a moment), Doss evaded coverage from the slot for an 18-yard gain on a crossing pattern. On the same touchdown drive, Doss shook open on a deep sideline route, only to draw a Green Bay interference call for a 27-yard gain. Of the 65 yards covered, credit the former Aggie with 45 of them.

Doss is special. Oakland coach Jon Gruden knew that in January when Doss played for him in the Senior Bowl in Alabama. Impressing his future mentor with four catches for 55 yards, Gruden kept slapping Raiders stickers on Doss’ Aggie helmet; it was a harbinger of things to come.

Pundits from USA Today to SBNation to silverandblack.com have expressed surprise that Doss wasn’t drafted. “Experts” had the guy going anywhere from the third round on. Doss told me he was “disappointed” about watching three days of peers go here and there without his name reaching the Big Board.

But Doss didn’t have time for self-pity. Within a few minutes after the final selection on that Saturday in June, Gruden called.

“Doss is one of my favorite guys. I get all fired up talking about this guy,” the coach said at the beginning of summer workouts. “He can play all three positions (flanker, slot or split end). For us, he’s going to contribute on special teams. He might be as smart as any young receiver I’ve been around.”

There’s that UC Davis education again …

“Can he make plays? Can he get away from guys like (Raider defender) Gareon Conley? Can he get away from our corners and our top-flight guys? We’ll see. He’s going to get a lot of playing time in the preseason.”

Gruden has been true to his word. Most of Doss’ on-field work has come with Peterman calling the signals. “He’s my guy,” says Doss, adding: “He’s awesome. He’s a great quarterback. I can’t say enough nice things about him. He exudes confidence.”

Especially when throwing to Doss.

But a Raider career remains uncertain. Future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown is in town. Emerging free-agent signee Tyrell Williams is on the roster. Special-teams standouts Dwayne Harris and De’Morney Pierson-El have joined Doss, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Hunter Renfrow, Marcell Ateman, Rico Gafford and Keon Hatcher in the scramble. So deep are the Raiders at receiver, it’s been suggested that Gruden could keep seven wideouts.

While I’m sure the numbers weight heavy on Doss, he’s not letting the drama affect him:

“A lot of dudes start thinking about where they’re going to fit in,” he says. “For me, it’s just going out there and executing, doing my best. I don’t think anything is too big for me.”

Oh, and about playing in Winnipeg, Canada …

In trying to adapt cozy Investors Group Field to NFL dimensions, the grounds crew of the CFL Blue Bombers moved the goal posts back — leaving an indentation in the end zone that both clubs deemed dangerous.

The fix? Heck, it’s preseason so it wasn’t a big deal shortening the playing field to 80 yards.

“As soon as you crossed the 50, it felt like you were in the red zone,” Doss told reporters. “It was a little bit of a challenge, but you respond to it. Whatever the conditions are, you go out there and play football. Kinda reminds me of  backyard football.”

Speaking of backyard football, the Alameda High graduate grew up about 10 minutes from Oakland Coliseum. Wouldn’t that be something if he continued playing backyard football, at least for this last year that the Raiders are in California?