We wrap up the 2015 season performances with a bow today with the 2015 season Ballers & Busters. This is where the player performances are tallied up to decide who was Balling and who was Busting over the course of the season.
A lot can change since the midseason Ballers & Busters. After all, as they say ‘it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters'. In this case, the Raiders started 4-4 and finished 3-5 for a final record of 7-9. With that, there were some steady performers, some who came on strong late, and some whose play took a tumble.
I can honestly say there has never been a time in the eight years I've been writing this series that the Top Baller was more obvious than Mack was this year. Finishing the season as the first ever to be named first team All Pro at two different positions and the Ballers bore this out.
He was named a Baller 10 times this season, and three times named Top Baller. One of those was a game for the ages. Week 13 in a win over the Broncos, Mack sacked Brock Osweiler 5.0 times. That's tied a franchise record set by Howie Long back in 1986.
Over the entire season, he finished second in the NFL behind only JJ Watt in sacks (15.0) and tackles for loss (23). When you are neck and neck with the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the year, you are doing something right.
What a find Amerson was. He was released in Washington after week two and the Raiders claimed him off waivers. The former second round pick was a Baller in just his second game with the team and only got better as the season went along, finishing with six Baller nods and one Top Baller.
He had a two-game stretch in which he had ten passes defended and an interception. The second of those games came in a week 12 win over the Titans in which he had six passes defended and an intereption. This a week after shutting down Lions All Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.
Amerson finished second on the team with 4 interceptions and second in the NFL in passes defended (25) just one behind league leader, Marcus Peters.
Speaking of finds, the Raiders uncovered this guy as an undrafted free agent last year. And after a season on the practice squad and the first half of this season playing sparingly, he was a force down the stretch. In total, he was named a Baller five times and Top Baller once. Not bad for a guy who only started half the season.
Even before he was starting on the defensive line, he was making his mark on special teams. As a result he led the NFL with three blocked kicks. Only three players in the league had more than one blocked kick. That's remarkable. Autry added three tipped passes at the line as well which ties him for fifth in the NFL among defensive ends when combined with blocks.
His first time being named a Baller came in a win over the Jets in week 8 when he had a season best 5 tackles and a sack. Autry finished the season strong, being named a Baller in weeks 14, 15, and 16. He was named Top Baller in week 16 in a win over the Chargers in large part for his sack on Philip Rivers which resulted in a safety.
After being a regular Baller in the first half of the season, Hudson didn't make an appearance over the second half either as a Baller or a Buster. In total he was a Baller five times this season. Much of the reason for his dropoff in play over the second half was a sprained ankle he suffered just before midseason that had him miss three games, and hobbled him in several others.
When healthy, he was the best offensive lineman on the team this season.
Heading into the final game of the season, the Raiders were allowing fewer than 100 yards per game rushing. Williams had a great deal to do with that. He was named a Baller six times during the season at a position that doesn't always stand out for its efforts on the field. His 48 combined tackles led all Raiders defensive lineman and was good for third in the NFL among nose tackles.
Drops were a big issue with Cooper this season. Even with the drops, he was a Baller six times and twice named Top Baller. His performances this season, even while fighting through an injury late in the season, pushed him to 1070 yards on the season. He set a new franchise record for rookie receiving yards and became the Raiders' first 1000-yard receiver in a decade.
Cooper went over 100 yards receiving three times this season. In week 7 and 15 he was Top Baller. Week 7 he had 133 yards receiving and a touchdown in a win over the Chargers. Week 15 against the Packers he had his only multiple TD game of the season (2) on six catches for 120 yards. That game came in the midst of his struggles with an ankle injury late in the season.
Punters are that one position teams would rather not need. The better the Raiders play, the less you should see of King. But as they say ‘better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it'. And the Raiders definitely have one in King.
A Baller four times, he was real weapon this season. His best game this season came in the win over the Broncos in week 14 that might have netted him Top Baller had Khalil Mack not had 5.0 sacks in one half. In that same second half, King was also instrumental in shutting out the Broncos and allowing the team to get back in the game.
He placed five punts inside the 14-yard-line in that game. He also had a 52-yard punt, and a 55-yard punt that was muffed at the 11-yard-line and the Raiders scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown off of it. One of his punts put the Broncos at the 2-yard-line and Mack's strip sack in the end zone led to a safety. The Raiders scored 15 points that day and King played a major role in 9 of those points.
King led the league in downed punts (21), finished second in the NFL in punts inside the 20-yard-line (40) and was top ten in nearly every category including net average (40.7), longest punt (70), and fewest touchbacks (4).
The first free agent the Raiders signed this offseason, he followed Ken Norton Jr to the Raiders and became one of the key additions to this team. His 123 combined tackles led the team by a wide margin and his 4.0 sacks were second on the team.
Smith played inside and outside linebacker for the team and by midseason had essentially taken over as the team's middle linebacker from Curtis Lofton. In the process, Smith was named a Baller six times.
His best games were the Raiders' two wins over the Chargers. The first game in week 7, he had 11 solo tackles, sack, and an interception. Their second match-up he had 14 combined tackles (11 solo).
The second half of the season for Carr was not a good one. He was a Baller just once over the final eight games, while being named a Buster four times, including the final three games. The question is if how he finished the season cancels out what he did in the first half. I'm gonna say no.
Over the first eight games, he was also a Baller four times. But three of those times, he was Top Baller. His tremendous improvement from his rookie season was obvious. He was leading his receivers on deep balls and going through his reads - both things he didn't do much of as a rookie.
Even with his second half problems, he still came within an eyelash of 4000 yards passing and threw the second most TD's in a season in franchise history.
If the progress Carr had last offseason is any indication - and I believe it is - there's every reason to think he will take another step forward heading into his third season.
Woodson made most of his Pro Bowl buzz in the first half of the season and it carried him through the rest of the season and had him named to his 9th Pro Bowl. He was also named second team All Pro. He was named a Baller three times early in the season and his two interception performance against Peyton Manning in week 5 earned him Top Baller.
His 5 interceptions and 7 takeaways led the NFL at one time. Even without an interception over the final nine games, he still finished 6th in picks in the league.
He was named a Baller 6 times in the first 8 games and 7 times overall. He, like much of the offense, fell off in the second half of the season. But over the first half of the season, he was an incredibly dependable receiver, and ended up leading the team with 9 touchdowns and was second with 922 receiving yards - the second highest total of his career. He earned a contract extension with the team because of it.
Mario Edwards Jr - This second round rookie came on strong at midseason and was named a Baller four times in six games before being lost for the season with a neck injury. If he recovers fully from his injury, the future is very bright.
Ken Norton Jr - He and his defense were much maligned through most of the season. But over the final quarter of the season, the defense was suddenly winning games for the Raiders and looked to have turned the corner.
It's strange what seems to have happened with Jackson this season. Early on, he was as dominant a run blocker as we expected him to be. He was a Baller five times in the early part of the season, including weeks 8 and 9 just prior to midseason. After that, he wasn't a Baller again and instead was a Buster four times.
Perhaps a product of the late season downturn of the offensive line, Murray's production also fell off in the second half of the season. He still went over 1000 yards on the season (1066), he didn't run for over 100 yards once in the second half of the season after doing in twice in the first eight games. He also had four games in the early part of the season in which he averaged over 5 yards per carry - something he didn't do once in the final eight games along with averaging less than 3 yards per carry four times.