It's officially midseason for the Raiders which means it's time to take a look back at the first eight games and hand out some awards. Unlike previous years, the decisions were difficult because in many cases there were a few good options. But choices must be made so here are those awards.
Offensive MVP: Derek Carr
A no-brainer here. After showing improvement early in the season has been nothing short of brilliant the past few weeks. The second-year signal caller is third in the NFL in touchdowns (19) behind only Tom Brady (22) and Carson Palmer (20) with only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers having a better TD/INT ratio.
Other candidates: Gabe Jackson, Latavius Murray, Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
Defensive MVP: Charles Woodson
He leads the NFL in interceptions (5). Several times this season, he has saved the Raiders bacon with a timely interception. He sealed the win over the Browns in week 3, and kept the Raiders in games against the Bears and Broncos. He has been doing it all with a bum shoulder he dislocated at the end of the season opener.
Other candidates: Khalil Mack, Malcolm Smith, TJ Carrie, Aldon Smith
Top Rookie: Amari Cooper
This was not a difficult choice. As of last week, he set a new rookie record for most catches by a wide receiver in franchise history, surpassing Tim Brown's previous rookie record (43) which stood for 27 years. And we are just halfway through the season. He will have another 8 games to build upon that record. He leads all rookie wide receivers in catches (45), receiving yards (653) and touchdowns (4). The closest receiver to his yards total is Stefon Diggs who has nearly 200 fewer yards (461), half as many touchdowns (2), and nearly half as many catches (28).
Other candidates: Mario Edwards Jr, Clive Walford, Neiron Ball
Top Newcomer: Michael Crabtree
This was a tough choice as there are several deserving players for this award. I chose Crabtree because his chemistry with Derek Carr has been invaluable to the success of the offense. He is a highly dependable receiver and continues to put up career numbers in this offense. He leads the team in receptions (47) and touchdowns (5). Rodney Hudson is a very close second.
Other candidates: Rodney Hudson, Malcolm Smith, Aldon Smith, Dan Williams
Most disappointing Addition: Curtis Lofton
Some people may have expected Lofton would be bad based stats such as his league-leading 22 missed tackles last season. His performance on the Saints defense got his cut this offseason and the Raiders, desperate for a presence at middle linebacker, signed the veteran. I lauded the move and thought even with mediocre performance, merely his presence as an experienced true MIKE would be valuable. That has not been the case. He is a liability whenever he steps on the field, mostly against the pass, but also often against the run. The team has handed the play calling duties over to Malcolm Smith and when rookie Neiron Ball is healthy, he starts instead of Lofton.
Other candidates: Roy Helu Jr
Surprise Player: J'Marcus Webb
Webb was an afterthought when he was signed this offseason. A failed tackle who was expected to fight to cling to the roster as a backup swing tackle. When he arrived, the right guard spot looked to be between Khalif Barnes and rookie Jon Feliciano. Then suddenly Webb was put in there and never left. He struggled early on and still isn't a fantastic guard, but he is serviceable and has gotten better as the season has gone along. Quite a find by this staff.
Other candidates: Malcolm Smith, Charles Woodson, Austin Howard, Denico Autry
Top Assistant Coach: Mike Tice
This offensive line has outplayed anyone's expectations. The aforementioned addition and position switch of Webb chief among them. But also moving Austin Howard back to right tackle and seeing his progress replacing injured Menelik Watson. We expected good things from the left side and newly acquired center Rodney Hudson, but the right side has been a pleasant surprise. Derek Carr deserves some credit for his lack of sacks, but mostly this offensive line which has opened holes that have made Latavius Murray the AFC's leading rusher along with their pass protection has been the foundation of the success of this offensive unit.