ALAMEDA -- It took four organizations, three trips to the waiver wire and a four-game suspension, but perseverance paid off for Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes.
A 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving included a seven-catch, 136-yard explosion from Holmes, who in a single afternoon surpassed his career numbers coming into the game (five receptions, 76 yards).
"It's taken me three years to be able to do it, and I think it's just been a matter of development and figuring out the skills I need when I'm out on the field," Holmes said Monday. "The ball was coming to me, and I was able to make plays on it."
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Holmes gives the Raiders the kind of physical target they've lacked. Even if Denarius Moore returns to claim his starting position when the Raiders visit the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Holmes' playmaking ability and rapport with quarterback Matt McGloin will get him plenty of snaps.
"I just think when the ball went to him, he went up and made the plays," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "He's a big target and can really stretch the field vertically."
Despite Holmes' size, his ability to jump and catch has been an evolving process. McGloin is fond of throwing "50-50" balls where he counts on his receiver to win the one-on-one battle with the defensive back.
"When I was a rookie, I wasn't really doing it -- it was more like a 20-80 ball," Holmes said.
Holmes, like teammates McGloin, Rod Streater and Marcel Reece, was not drafted out of college. He originally was signed as an undrafted free agent by Minnesota, then played parts of two seasons with Dallas before signing with New England and getting waived.
Also a basketball player and triple jumper at Conant High in the Chicago area, Holmes toyed with the idea of giving up football to play soccer, only to be talked out of it by football coach Dick Modelski.
"We told him, 'We have a plan for you. Stick with it.' Thank God he did," Modelski told ESPNChicago. "By his senior year he blossomed into a very good wide receiver, and you could tell he wasn't done growing. He was going to keep developing."
With no Division I scholarship opportunities, Holmes went to Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, where a teammate was Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer.
As a sophomore, Holmes remembers filling out a questionnaire on short-term and long-term goals and being too embarrassed to list the NFL as a possibility. It was then, Holmes said, that assistant coach Barry Fagan told him what he needed to improve upon to have a chance.
"He was the first one who told me I had a shot," Holmes said.
Holmes caught 144 passes over his junior and senior seasons at Hillsdale for more than 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"You have a player like that, especially in Division II, it sticks out big time," Veldheer said. "There were a lot of big plays that went to 'Dre, and it was fun playing with him Thursday and having him do the same thing."
After missing the first four games of the season under suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Holmes is just now hitting his stride.
"Andre has been doing this since camp. I think the four-game suspension kind of threw him off, but you see he goes out there and makes plays," Streater said. "He might not be the fastest, but you put the ball in his area, and he's going to come down with it."
Raiders (4-8) at N.Y. Jets (5-7), 10 a.m. CBS