We've reached the quarter mark of the season. The Raiders are 1-3 so far and the one win was nothing special, but amidst it all, there have been some solid performers to emerge.
The team's leading receiver on the season, he has put together three really good games and just one off game. That is much better than many of us began to suspect we would get from him. The Raiders have just four touchdowns through the air on the season and he has two of them. One of them came again Denver in which he caught the ball 20 yards out and ran the final 53 yards for the score. Week four against the Redskins, he showed the kind of impressive receiving skills we had come to know he possessed.
The Raiders signed Pashos off waivers from the Redskins before the season started. He was the top rated tackle in the preseason by Pro Football Focus and a valuable addition to a group weakened by injuries. He suddenly found himself as the starter at right tackle and was lights out over the first three games, allowing just one pressure and no sacks on the season. He regressed a bit with Matt Flynn starting but preparing for a new QB who is very different from the regular starter can cause such issues. Otherwise, he has been more than just a surprise, he has been arguably the Raiders' best offensive lineman.
He began the season running for 112 yards on the ground. Then in week two with the Jaguars focusing on his run threat, Darren McFadden was freed up to run for 129 yards. He showed much improved passing and pocket presence against the Broncos albeit after the Broncos had the game well in hand. He didn't play in week four due a concussion he suffered late in the Broncos game but without him, the Raiders offense was even more anemic, and proving that his mobility is key to the Raiders being competitive. If his passing can continue to improve, he could put together some good games this season as well as a few good wins.
He came into the season as the best player on this defense and he has not disappointed. He is the one player opposing offenses are sure to game plan for and even then, they have been unable to keep him completely under wraps. He forced the first turnover for the Raiders on the season when he put a hard sack on Peyton Manning to knock the ball loose. His 2.0 sacks and 5 QB hurries are both tied for the team lead and he leads all Raiders defensive linemen with 16 combined tackles (12 solo dolo).
The veteran leader of this club both on and off the field. He has brought a swagger to this defense it had no right to have coming into this season and the result is players playing above the level of their contracts and the league wide opinion of them as individuals and as a group. Woodson gives everything he has on every play with no worries about injury or wear and tear. The ageless wonder doesn't appear to have lost a step either. At 36 years old, he still flies all over the field in coverage and run support. It is part of the reason he leads the team in tackles from the free safety position (26).
This is more of a default naming of top rookie. He is really the only rookie to have stepped up for the Raiders. Others have starts under their belts - Sio Moore and D.J. Hayden - but have not stood out. Rivera began the season behind starter Jeron Mastrud and as of last week, took over as the primary tight end for the team. While Rivera saw 61% of the snaps last week, fellow rookie tight end, Nick Kasa, saw just one snap and Mastrud was on the field for 50% of the snaps. Rivera is now third on the team in receiving with 9 catches for 123 yards. He also has one of the four receiving touchdowns for the team which he scored last week. He looks to be shaking out as the answer to replace David Ausberry who was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. So expect more from Rivera as the season goes along.
Out of nowhere, the Raiders seem to have found a very good pass rusher in Sanford. The third year defensive end was picked up off the waiver wire before the season started and as of last week, started his first NFL game. He replaced the injured Jason Hunter and had four combined tackles including a tackle for loss. He had had some nice games earlier in the season as well in spot duties. His six combined tackles (4 solo) are more than Vance Walker, Christo Bilukidi, and Stacy McGee, all of whom have seen more snaps than he has. Most impressive is he leads the team in tackles for loss (3). And he's done this while being inactive for the first game of the season and seeing the field on just 28% of the snaps in the other three games.