Technically it’s not the midseason as the Raiders are nine games in, not eight. But since it’s the bye week, and since we can’t just wipe last week’s game from our memories (nor would we want to), now is a good time to hand out some midseason awards.
Offensive Rookie of the Midseason
He is averaging an astounding 6.9 yards per carry on 43 carries for 279 yards along with 18 catches for 123 yards (402 yards from scrimmage) and a touchdown. This mighty mite scat back not only went undrafted, but he came to Oakland for rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He stuck around and has outperformed his drafted counterpart, DeAndre Washington (5th round). Richard has also become the team’s primary return specialist on kicks and punts and been outstanding in that role.
Defensive Rookie of the Midseason
The Raiders top pick in the draft (14 overall), Joseph got off to a slow start, but has consistently improved as the secondary has jelled and as he has eased his way back after having not played live football for ten months following his ACL tear during his senior season at West Virginia. He is currently third on the team with 43 tackles (31 solo) and has 1 interception, 6 passes defended, and a fumble recovery.
The Raiders broke the bank ($11 million per season) to bring in this mauling guard/tackle. He was inserted as the starting left guard and has been the team’s best offensive lineman all season. He is performing just as the Raiders had hoped. Offensive linemen are sometimes hard for your average football fan to differentiate as they don’t have official stats. In that regard, getting a contract that pays him around 3 million more than any other guard in the league should open some eyes around the league to his immense talents. That should help gain some attention for Pro Bowl consideration.
This former sixth round pick has hung around the Raiders roster bubble for four seasons. Early this season, with the Raiders interior defensive line struggling, McGee emerged as their top pass rushing defensive tackle. He has been injured of late and in his absence, undrafted rookie Darius Latham has shown some promise. McGee is set to return after the bye week, which will help a great deal.
Most Disappointing Addition
Normally this category would at least go to a player that made the team and simply hasn’t lived up to expectations. But with no notable duds among the newly added players on the team, Moore is the only one who came to the team with any kind of hopes and failed to live up to them. The former third round pick signed in the offseason, basically given one more chance to prove he was worth all the hype he had coming out of Texas A&M in 2013. He wasn’t standing out and then in training camp practice the 6-5, 250-pound defensive end went after 5-8, 200-pound running back Jalen Richard in which the two were rolling around on the ground. Jack Del Rio had already made it clear that fights would not be tolerated and he made an example of Moore; cutting him the next day.
Perry Riley Jr
The experiment with second year man Ben Heeney as the team’s new middle linebacker didn’t work out and he was replaced by rookie Cory James after two weeks. James played better, but the defense was still struggling without an experienced pure middle linebacker in place. The former starter Riley was signed and immediately made the starter. The difference has been noticeable. Not only is Riley a very good tackler, but he is a true quarterback of the defense which is what this team needed. Man, the Raiders have done well with picking up these Washington castoffs (David Amerson last season).
Best Position Group
Mike Tice is a genius. That is not breaking news. Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio have made the offensive line a focal point and have put together an impressive unit to be certain. Four of the five players are free agent additions, with left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson joining the team as the highest paid player at their respective positions. Right guard Gabe Jackson is the only drafted member of the group. Left tackle Donald Penn still hasn’t missed a game in like 17 years and continues to do well to protect Derek Carr’s blind side. Even with the issues at right tackle with Menelik Watson’s inability to stay healthy, and Austin Howard struggling with his own injuries causing the team to dig way down into the depth chart. Rookie seventh round pick Vadal Alexander has filled in at the right tackle spot admirably, and undrafted rookie Denver Kirkland has stepped into the blocking tight end/jump package tackle role with Lee Smith out. A well-scouted, well-coached and outstanding unit overall.
30-20 win over Denver Broncos in week 9
In the ‘what have you done for me lately’ department, the Raiders now have two weeks to savor easily their biggest and most impressive win of the season. Other games were more exciting from a back-and-forth perspective, but if you’re a Raiders fan, it doesn’t get better than this game. If only for the sheer importance of the game. Both teams at 6-2, tied for the AFC West lead, with the rest of the football world hesitant to view these Raiders as ‘for real’ until they beat a team of the caliber of the Broncos. They beat them alright. Like a drum. Leading from start to finish and dominating the run game and time of possession. A statement game if there ever was one.
Special Teams Player of the Midseason
The one Raiders player who was named to the first team on PFF’s Midseason All Pro team. His performance and his celebrations on Sunday night has launched him onto the national stage. It’s a good time for him to get some notoriety too. He is the only punter in the league to be in the top five in average, downed punts, and punts inside the 20 (21). And then there was his 27-yard run off an errant snap that showed off his tremendous athletic abilities. The Raiders picked up a big time first down off that run in which they would then drive for a touchdown. Had that botched snap gotten by King and been returned for a Jaguars score, they would have pulled to within three points of the Raiders. Instead the Raiders were able put the Jaguars away by going up 17.
Defensive Player of the Midseason
Last season’s historic dual position All Pro got off to a slow start with just one sack in the first five games. But he has blown up with six sacks in the past four weeks, including two in each of the last two weeks to put him at 7.0 sacks and ahead of his total after 9 games last season in which he finished with 15.0 sacks. If he stays on the pace over these past four games, he will finish with 18.5 sacks which is one more sack than JJ Watt had last season when he won his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award. And that’s not even to speak of the pressures he gets on about the third of his pass rushing plays along with his run stopping prowess. The sacks just put a shiny finish on his overall dominance as a defender.
Offensive Player of the Midseason
The league’s fifth leading passer in both yards (2505), touchdown passes (17), and passer rating (99.1). And despite attempting the most passes (354) in the NFL over the first nine weeks, he has thrown the fewest interceptions (3) of any quarterback with over 300 attempts. He crowning statistical achievement came in week 8 in which he threw for a franchise record 513 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions – one of three NFL quarterbacks all time to do that. He has thrust himself into the MVP conversation.