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Raiders 2018 Season Ballers & Busters

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Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The season for the Raiders is just over a week behind us. Now it’s time we look back at the compilation of Ballers & Busters for that 4-12 campaign. As there often is, even in a season that had a lot of ugliness, there were some who offered hope. But, of course, in a lost season, there is also plenty of blame to go around.

As we typically do — mainly because the name suggests a specific order — we will start with those who offered hope. Before we move on to pointing fingers.

Ballers

Rodney Hudson

Mr dependable was the best player on the field for the Raiders much of the season. Though because he plays probably the least glamorous position, you may not have noticed. That’s because, unlike a lot of positions, when he’s at his best, you likely won’t hear his name. Hudson was six times a Baller, which is a lot for an offensive lineman who typically will have no stats to his name. Also impressive was not being named a Buster once, despite being in a position that can very easily get the blame if something goes wrong. A lot went wrong with the Raiders offensive line too, including injuries and starting rookie tackles. Hudson was invaluable which is also why he was named my team MVP.

Doug Martin, Marshawn Lynch

Like two runners in a relay race, Marshawn got the ball first and was named a Baller four times and Top Baller once in just six games. After week six he was lost to a groin injury and handed the baton to Martin. Over the final ten games, Martin was a Baller five times including finishing strong, being named Top Baller each of the final two weeks of the season. Both backs were running on pace for 1000-yard seasons over a full 16 games.

Jared Cook

It was a career year for Cook as he was the Raiders leading receiver (896 yards) and Derek Carr’s top target most of the season (101 targets). He was named a Baller six times and Top Baller twice. Unlike last season, he didn’t disappear from the offense in the second half of the season. Though that play in the finale in Kansas City that resulted in a pick six was not how he wanted to end his season.

Jordy Nelson

You want to talk about finishing strong. Nelson had a couple good games early in the season, but by week 10, he was looking like he was done. There were even rumors he was seriously contemplating retirement. He was hobbled by an injury, missed a game because of it, and was clearly not 100% when he returned the following week. Then miraculously, he exploded. Out of nowhere, he would earn Top Baller in week 13 with 10 catches for 97 yards and was a Baller each of the final five weeks, putting up 386 of his 739 yards on the season over those five games. That earned him his 2019 roster bonus early, which all but guarantees he will be back to play the second year of his 2-year contract with the Raiders. Quite a turnaround.

Gareon Conley

Another strong finishe was Gareon Conley. Over the first half of the season, he looked like a rookie struggling to catch up to the speed of the NFL. Mainly because he kinda was a rookie being that he missed all but a game and a half of his actual rookie season and then missed most of this year’s training camp as well. After the bye week, he looked like he had finally turned the corner. Week 11 he was named a Baller for the first time on the season. And he rattled off three straight. Then he was the best defender on the field for the Raiders in the season finale in Kansas City. While Pat Mahomes was picking on the other Raiders corners, he mostly stayed away from Conley. And Conley still picked him off for his team-leading third interception of the season.

Seth Roberts

There was a time last offseason when reports of trade talks were heating up surrounding Seth Roberts. They ended up keeping him around, possibly because his salary and dead money made him more valuable on the team than off it. And like he has done time after time, he proved to be a valuable asset. With Amari Cooper traded, Martavis Bryant suspended, and Brandon LaFell on injured reserve, Roberts saved the Raiders bacon. He would be named a Baller four times over the final seven games and Top Baller once. Not just for what he does as a receiver — catching 45 passes for 494 yards and two touchdowns — but for his willingness and ability to do the dirty work. He is a surprisingly great blocker despite his slight frame. Those duties go unnoticed by a lot of people who only pay attention to receivers when they catch the ball. But they don’t go unnoticed by his coaches and teammates and they don’t go unnoticed by me.

Daniel Carlson

The uncovered gem of the season for the Raiders. Picked up midseason as an injury replacement, he proved the…um…fifth time was the charm for the Raiders who went from Giorgio Tavecchio (cut) to Eddy Pineiro (IR) to Mike Nugent (IR) to Matt McCrane (cut) to finally finding their guy in Carlson. The rookie fifth round pick by the Vikings was signed in week 8, missed a field goal in week 9, and then didn’t miss again. He hit 15 straight field goals and went 16 of 17 overall with three field goals from 50 yards out as well as being perfect on extra points. He was named a Baller three times.

Dwayne Harris

Harris didn’t even show up on the radar over the first half of the season. But in week 13, he made a play that was so savvy, it confused the TV announcers and most of the viewing audience by intentionally stepping out of bounds as he fielded a punt at the one-yard-line which got it placed at the 40-yard-line. That was the first of three Baller nods for Harris. The other two were the final two games of the season, the first of which he had a 99-yard punt return touchdown. The Broncos thought they had saved a touchback only to give up a touchdown. It was the first score in the Raiders best game of the season in what may have been the last game in Oakland Coliseum.

Honorable Mention

Erik Harris – Harris proved he can do more than just play special teams, earning himself a Baller label three times, one time even landing Top Baller. He may be a contender for a starting safety spot next season.

Gabe Jackson – Despite again struggling with injuries, Jackson was thrice named a Baller and once a Top Baller. He and Hudson were lone bright spots on that offensive line.

Johnathan Hankins – Hankins was a good find this season. He was signed after week one and was a key part of the Raiders rotation at nose tackle especially with Justin Ellis out most of the season with injury. Hankins was three times a Baller, twice Top Baller.

Maurice Hurst – Late injury issues shortened his season, but he showed great promise, three times named a Baller. He led the team with 4.0 sacks from the interior defensive line spot. Get him some help outside, and he could make some noise.

Karl Joseph – Joseph was a late bloomer on this defense. By season’s end he was showing up with some big hits and coverage to be named a Baller twice.

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