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Justin Ellis is quietly putting up career best numbers for Raiders in a contract year

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now, but Justin Ellis is a lean, mean tackling machine. Yeah, it’s strange referring to Ellis as “lean”, but compared to 2016, the man nicknamed “Jelly” isn’t so much of that these days and it’s resulting in the best numbers of his career.

He is a nose tackle, there’s no question about that. At 6-2 and over 330 pounds, there’s no other way to describe him. Last season he weighed in at 338 pounds. This season he showed up for camp having dropped about ten pounds. That may not seem like much for a guy his size, but take it from someone who has seen him out of his pads — the difference is noticeable.

When I guy like Ellis loses ten pounds, he doesn’t just cut ten pounds of fat. He actually probably cuts about three times that and replaces much of it with muscle.

The result?

Through nine games, Ellis has put up 32 tackles (18 solo) which is the 7th most in the league among defensive tackles. Those are good numbers over a full season for most nose tackles. And they are well above anything Ellis has put up in any single season in his career.

Prior to this season, Ellis’s career best season in combined tackles was 22. He’s already ten tackles over that with nearly a half season still remaining. Should Ellis somehow match his tackle total over the first nine games over the final seven, he will match his tackles totals over his first three seasons combined.

Only Khalil Mack has more tackles (46) among Raiders defensive linemen this season than Ellis. And Mack leads the NFL in tackles among defensive linemen.

It’s a damn good time for Ellis to be doing this too. He is in a contract year.

That 2014 draft, I tell ya. First it was 2nd round pick Derek Carr who got his big extension this offseason, then third round pick Gabe Jackson. This offseason top pick Khalil Mack will get his as well. We’ve discussed 7th rounder TJ Carrie being, as Reggie McKenzie put it, ‘the glue’ of this secondary this season. Then add fourth round pick Justin Ellis to that being that he’s playing out of his mind.

There is always that worry about guys who suddenly play their best football in a contract year. The worry is about where it had been before this and if it will continue once the team gives them a new deal.

Someone is going to be giving Ellis a new deal this offseason, whether it’s the Raiders or someone else. Though I would expect some protections in that deal to ensure he will do everything he can to duplicate the impressive production he’s had this season.