Four games down and 12 remaining for the Oakland Raiders. Look at the good and bad from the Silver and Black’s 2016 season, with a quarter completed.
MVP: Derek Carr
Nine touchdowns and one interception. Don’t forget the game winning drives in the fourth quarter versus the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback Derek Carr has lead the team to their best start since 2002, the same year quarterback Rich Gannon won league MVP.
It is no coincidence. He earned his ranking as the top-rated quarterback according to Pro Football Focus. Further, Carr is taking that next step as he is finishing drives in the endzone and he has become reliable in the clutch.
As long as the Raiders have Carr, they can finally compete with the best teams in the league. He is a natural athlete and leader, which make this MVP campaign real.
Comeback Player: D.J. Hayden
It is not often that a player who started the year before wins comeback player of the year. Considering he ended last season in the coaches’ and fans’ doghouse, corner D.J. Hayden deserves whatever extra credit he can win.
Yes, he has gotten beat. Yes, he has not been perfect. However, he has made plays that he did not in prior years. Hayden has shown ability as a pure tackler in the slot. He even broke up some passes last week.
Head coach Jack Del Rio has complimented his play multiple times in the season. David Amerson has said the sky is the limit for the young player. Hayden himself expects to continue building on the first quarter via CSN Bay Area. Look for Hayden to keep getting better with the entire team. The 2013 first round pick already climbed into the top 50 corners via PFF.
Best Newcomer: Cory James
The Raiders are relying on lots of newcomers this season. We will limit it to rookies considering the high-profile free agents signed by Oakland.
Rookie runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have both sparked the ground game. Vandal Alexander has filled in nicely at tackle. Korey Joseph has made plays in the secondary.
Nonetheless, linebacker Cory James wins the award after coming out of nowhere. Dude was selected as a glorified special teams player but has made two starts, recorded 23 tackles and a forced fumble. He’s been all over the field and has helped the team communicate.
James is far from perfect, but he is playing better than Ben Heeney. Even his defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said the team would be better if they had a bunch of players like him. Imagine where Oakland would be without him.
Best Playmaker: Michael Crabtree
Receiver Michael Crabtree has four touchdown receptions. He put the team on his back last week with three touchdowns. The receiver is on pace for 1236 yards and sixteen touchdowns. Crabtree also caught the game-winning, two-point conversion in Week 1.
Consistently, Carr looks for Crabtree in clutch third downs and in the redzone. The two players have developed chemistry in their second year. Yes, Amari Cooper is the x-factor thanks to his big plays. However, Crabtree is the player we need to keep drives alive.
Added, Bruce Irvin could claim this award. He has two strip sacks that changed the momentum versus the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, we can’t reward a player that on one of the league’s worst defenses.
Biggest Bust: Dan Williams
Speaking of the defense, it gave up historically bad numbers in the first two weeks. Some may say it was because Dan Williams did not play. He only played 24 percent of last week’s snaps too.
Remember, Williams came into training camp out of shape. Last season, he was one of the better players on defense. Still, the team has not stopped the run and that starts at the nose tackle position. Their 5.1 yards per carry is the worst in the league, and their 134.5 yards per game is the second worst. Even with Williams on the field, the team is not playing much better. Nor has he earned more time thanks to his pass rushing ability.
It pains me to say it because Williams’ story about joining the Raiders is one of my favorite. Either way, he can and needs to play better.
All of these awards could easily change, because there are a ton of games remaining. Keep watching to see how the Raiders do.