When Pro Bowl offensive lineman Donald Penn signed with Oakland in 2014, he remembers what the Raiders told him. He remembers what general manager Reggie McKenzie told him.

“They told me they were going to draft a young defensive guy and then try to get a quarterback in the second round,” Penn told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Luckily, Derek Carr dropped down to the second round. We got a gem in him and Khalil Mack. And then this last year with (Amari) Cooper, Reggie’s been doing a great job in the draft.”

The Raiders went 3-13 in 2014 but finished 7-9 last season.

Need context for that? The Raiders won just seven games combined in 2013-14.

That’s why Oakland, which hasn’t made the playoffs since advancing to the Super Bowl in 2002, believes it can win the AFC West this year.

“Oh, with everything going on, we’re definitely in the mix,” Penn said. “I think the division is up for grabs right now. We know Denver is still going to have a strong defense, but we’re going to do things to get our offense going and get our defense going. I know Reggie has a plan. The coaching staff has a god plan. We’re going to be a tough team to mess with next year.”

Denver may have a strong defense, but the Raiders have a strong quarterback. Carr completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 3,987 yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this past season.

Penn, 32, has enjoyed blocking for the soon-to-be 25-year-old.

“The first day he came in there, he commanded the huddle,” Penn said. “He led us and he’s been leading us. The best thing for him, I think, was the first year starting when we lost – because he was always positive and upbeat. When you see that from your quarterback, even when you’re down, it made you want to play harder. This kid brings a lot of passion to the sport and to our team. It’s spreading around for everybody.”


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