Well football fans it's the end of the first quarter of the season. So far the season has been full of 20+ point lead letdowns, emerging stars and emerging teams, surprising teams struggling out of the gate, and lots of empty hype.
However, let's first focus specifically on the Oakland Raiders and who the MVP's of their season's first quarter have been. There's some we knew would be dominating and others who have come from out of nowhere onto the scene. Some players are further establishing dominance, while others are starting to lose their underrated monikers in favor of being called a consistent player.
Without further ado, your first quarter Oakland Raiders MVP's:
Darren McFadden- RB
With 468 yards rushing, a 6.2 YPC average, and three touchdown rushes, Darren McFadden has solidified himself as a top-tier NFL running back. Only four weeks in, and he's already about halfway towards surpassing his regular season marks of last year. He's not just using his speed for big gamebreaking rushes, McFadden has really become a physical animal in between the tackles. I've often criticized him on this, but Darren has finally made me eat my words. His ability to use his speed to crash into defenders has made him one of the NFL's toughest running backs.
It doesn't hurt to add 15 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown to the resume. He's also been solid staying in to pass protect. McFadden is dominating despite a less than impressive performance from the O-Line in terms of run blocking, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Jason Campbell- QB
928 yards passing, a 65.3% completion percentage, 4 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and two rushing touchdowns aren't impressive numbers. However, Campbell doesn't need them to be. Other than a bad performance against New England, Jason Campbell has been playing exactly the kind of football the Raiders need. He gets the ball to the playmakers and lets them do their thing. If he can pick up those 3rd and 5's and keep defenses honest, then the rushing game can definitely do the rest.
With a positive PFF grade and 2-2 record through a surprisingly tough first quarter to the year (could have very easily been 1-3), Campbell is a game manager in every sense of the word. And for this team, that's all they need to win.
After looking to be well on his way out the door with the drafting of Stephen Wisniewski, Samson Satele made a surprise return and has been surprisingly good. Satele is a player I've long praised and believed in, and I still do. Amazingly, Satele is Oakland's best graded O-Linemen by PFF, and their only one with a positive overall rating. Satele threw key blocks on the Denarius Moore WR reverse touchdown against the Jets, and again for the long Darren McFadden run in the same game.
Aside from those key blocks, Satele has been getting the job done both in run support and pass protection. He's a huge reason why this Raiders line has only allowed 2 sacks and is a huge part of the success of Darren McFadden and others. Samson Satele is an integral component of the Raiders offense, and is flourishing in the power blocking scheme.
Denarius Moore- WR
The man I regarded as Oakland's best draft pick has yet to let me down. As a rookie, Moore has established himself as a dynamic and reliable playmaker and even earned himself a starting role. However as the Oakland receiving corps gets healthier, his usage will most likely (and unfortunately) be reduced. With 12 grabs for 199 yards and two touchdowns (plus two rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown, both runs being over twenty yards), Moore is the receiver Raiders fans have long been craving.
It'll be interesting to see if he keeps up this level of play and earns more reps, but Moore is well on his way to making a name for himself in the NFL. Also, he's well on his way to being the Raiders first positively graded receiver for PFF ever.
Jarvis Moss- DE
Jarvis Moss just knows how to get to the QB. No two ways about it. Miscast in Denver, Moss is reviving his career in silver and black. Moss has three sacks and plenty of pressures as a situational pass rusher and has really brought a ton of energy off the bench. Don't look for much for him in run support, but when you need a sack, Moss can definitely get it for you.
Oakland may be struggling to defend the run, but don't look at these two as the ones to blame. Both Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour are well in the positive area of PFF's rush defense and have made running up the middle a nightmare for teams. Some would rather there be a stout block eating NT, but Oakland's twin UT 4-3 defense is working very well with these two disruptors manning the middle.
Oh and that's without mentioning their biggest strength. Two of PFF's best pass rushing DT's, they've combined for 5 sacks (three for Seymour, two for Kelly) and plenty of pressures. Both players look like Pro Bowlers, Seymour just needs to watch those penalties.
Two record breaking legs, these two are the best set of special team kickers in the league. Seabass can score from pretty much anywhere, and Lechler could punt a football through a basketball hoop at 65 yards. These two are pretty much eternal MVP's these last couple years (Lechler has been his whole career)
It'll be interesting to see if these MVP's keep their spots on the list come the season's halftime, or will they lose their spots? Maybe some new names will sneak in as well. All I know is we're in for one heck of a fun season, and hopefully one with plenty of wins for the young, energetic Raiders team.
NFL First Quarter Observations:
-I'm not on the Houston Texans train quite yet. At 3-1, the Texans are more than likely on their way to winning the division (depends on if Tennessee turns out to be for real at 3-1 as well), but I won't consider them a true title contender at this rate. Their defense looks much improved, and their offense as amazing as ever, but their wins are less than impressive. A lucky win over a struggling Steelers team and others over weakling Miami and Indy (never thought I'd say that) just doesn't erase the loss to a legit title contender in New Orleans. The Texans really need a statement win to win me over.
-Looks like contract holdouts are not paying off early on. DeSean Jackson has only one touchdown grab and Chris Johnson is averaging only 3 YPC.
-My top three NFL running backs might get some flak thrown my way but in order it's Adrian Peterson, Fred Jackson, and Darren McFadden. All three aren't running behind great, or even good O-Lines, and all three are vastly overshadowed by Arian Foster. Foster is great, but these three are men amongst boys. Peterson is the most complete back in the league, Jackson averages more yards after contact than most backs do PER CARRY, and McFadden is a guy who brings new meaning to the term speed back. Stick any of these three on the Texans and watch them make what CJ2K did look like child's play.
-The Bengals might be the best "bad" team in the NFL. Everyone looks at Andy Dalton and assumes the team is terrible. W-L is everything and this is a 2-2 team. However, look deeper and you see they have the best defense in the NFL (both through PFF and official stats), Dalton is actually doing better than most think, and the team is full of young talent and rising stars. Most notably Andrew Whitworth who is arguably the best OT in football. Also, their D-Line is almost as good as Oakland's own D-Line. This team is just a couple pieces from being great.
-Gerald McCoy will forever be underrated and unknown for the simple reason that he wasn't drafted before Ndamukong Suh. However, he's just as good as Suh. McCoy is one of the best there is at pressuring up the middle, and is a real disruptor in the run game. Suh and McCoy are both dominant forces at DT in the NFL, but it seems McCoy is always destined to not be the household name Suh is.
-I had the Dolphins in my running for Andrew Luck before the season started, however I always thought they had a very good chance of proving me wrong and being a pretty good team. And why not? Daniel Thomas was a back I was fond of, Reggie Bush gave them a playmaking threat they lacked, Fasano is a top-5 complete TE, Cameron Wake is the next DeMarcus Ware, and Vontae Davis is a playmaker in a pretty darn good secondary. QB play kills, but then why is Washington a 3 win team?
The Redskins' good players come through in crunch time. The Fins can play for about 50 minutes, but those last 10 seem to be when they come up just short. Meanwhile the Redskins seem to be just good enough and lucky enough to make plays to get a lead, then really step up late to keep that lead or take it back. Players like Santana Moss, Brian Orakpo, Tim Hightower, Ryan Torrain, Ryan Kerrigan, etc. just have the "it" factor and the clutch ability that the Dolphins lack. In the end it doesn't matter if you have Drew Brees or Rex Grossman at QB, you gotta have clutch players who turn it on and step up when it really counts.
-How long before Ben Roethlisberger goes down for the year? Who knows, but you can't survive on guts and escapability forever. That O-Line is ridiculously bad.
-Speaking of Pittsburgh's O-Line, Maurkice Poucey is sooooo overrated. He was negatively graded as a center last year and is doing nothing to look any better this year. I guess being a Pro Bowler consists of having commentators talk about you non-stop and you being on a winning team. A couple good plays here and there, but you never see him called out for the insane amounts of inside pressure he gives up and how much guard help he needs.
-Speaking of overrated pro bowlers, DeAngelo Hall is the most undeserving of a Pro Bowl big ever. He was flat-out terrible last year, and he's just as bad this year. One good game against the Bears and Jay Cutler last year gets you considered one of the top corners in the game? Really? I'm so tired of watching him give up 80 or so % of his targets and then hear he's a great corner.
By the way, the PFF I keep mentioning is ProFootballFocus. If you haven't checked them out, I highly recommend doing so. There's nobody better at keeping track of players, stats, etc. They're funny guys and are amazing at what they do. I wish I had the dedication and time to watch every single player, on every single play, of every single game week in and week out. They're phenomenal.