I don’t think this is where most people thought the Oakland Raiders would be coming off their bye week. A 4-5 record is as mediocre as it gets. They’re still in contention for a playoff spot in the AFC, though their schedule down the stretch will be tough to overcome.
In spite of the underwhelming expectations, the Raiders have had plenty of bright spots throughout 2017 thus far. Some have shined brighter than others, but they’re all worth discussing. In lieu of the usual standout performances post this week, here’s how the season’s top performers have turned out through week 10, organized in a points-based system based off where a player ended up in that week’s top 5 standouts.
#1 spot = 5 points, #2 spot = 4 points, #3 spot = 3 points, #4 spot = 2 points, #5 spot = 1 point
24. Gareon Conley, CB: 1 point (1 appearance)
Conley made the list in his lone game of extended action this season. The Raiders first-round pick hasn’t been able to get onto the field since then due to a nagging shin injury. He could end up on injured reserve soon. Conley’s one performance was solid, however, which is something the Raiders secondary sorely needs right now.
23. DeAndre Washington, RB: 1 point (1 appearance)
Washington’s single appearance on the list came during a game in which he turned the ball over on a fumble return touchdown. That Buffalo Bills game was not a good one for Oakland. Washington has flashed here and there, but it’s clear that he’s just a complementary running back at best.
22. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: 1 point (1 appearance)
Patterson has been hit or miss whenever he’s touched the ball. His two TDs have come on the ground, however, which shows his limitations as a receiver, though that’s partly because he and Seth Roberts are splitting snaps as the #3 wideout. Still, he remains one of the better kick returners in the NFL.
21. James Cowser, DE/OLB: 2 points (1 appearance)
Cowser was able to make this list one week by recovering two fumbles. That’s it. He’s been okay as a rotational player on defense and has arguably been their best special teams defender.
20. Jalen Richard, RB: 2 points (1 appearance)
Like Washington, Richard has had a number of bright spots in his limited time on the field. Early on, he was a threat to score whenever he touched the ball. When the Raiders started struggling offensively, he followed suit. His punt return numbers are fairly benign as well.
19. Marquel Lee, MLB: 2 points (1 appearance)
Lee began the season as the starter in the middle. He showed a lot of promise as a consistent force against the run, but his coverage skills were lacking. Then he hurt his ankle, which was enough for the Raiders to go out and acquire…
18. NaVorro Bowman, LB: 2 points (1 appearance)
Since arriving in Oakland, Bowman’s has been a tackling machine; through his three games with the Raiders, he’s already racked up 31 total stops. However, like Lee, his play in coverage is not very good, and a lot of his tackles have come after allowing a completed pass. In any case, his veteran leadership seems to have been helpful as a whole for the team.
17. Shalom Luani, S: 3 points (1 appearance)
Normally a backup, Luani did well enough to make the list during a relief start against the Bills. He’s also been decent on special teams.
16. Marshawn Lynch, RB: 3 points (1 appearance)
The fact that Lynch has only popped up on this list (last week in fact) once says a lot about the season he’s having. Part of his struggles have been due to the poor play of the offense overall during the four-game losing streak, but Lynch hasn’t continually showcased the mix of power and agility that carried him through his prime years. Hopefully, last week’s solid performance can be built upon.
15. Justin Ellis, DT: 3 points (1 appearance)
While Ellis ranks fairly low on this list, he’s actually been strong against the run for most of the season. He offers next to nothing as a pass rusher, but that’s not his department anyway. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal, so an impressive finish to 2017 could help him earn a better contract, be it with the Raiders or another squad.
14. Reggie Nelson, S: 4 points (1 appearance)
Nelson’s lone appearance on this list two weeks ago was by far his best outing this year. Before that, however, he was playing below average football at safety, a far cry from his Pro Bowl appearance last season. With rookie Obi Melifonwu now back to action, Nelson could see his snaps decrease.
13. EJ Manuel, QB: 4 points (2 appearances)
It’s a good thing if your backup quarterback can play well enough to make this list in both of his appearances. Manuel had to take a one-year, non-guaranteed deal just to have the chance to make the roster during the preseason. He quickly passed Connor Cook for the main backup role and performed admirably in relief, though the Raiders lost both those games. His career looked dead before coming here, however, so Manuel should feel good about how things have gone for him this year.
12. Bruce Irvin, OLB: 4 points (2 appearances)
Irvin has been maddeningly inconsistent in 2017, with most of that stemming from his mediocre pass rush (he’s been solid against the run). With extra attention being paid to his counterpart at the other pass rusher spot, Irvin should be doing better, even if he’s normally battling the other team’s left tackle. There’s room to bounce back, but the Raiders defense will remain decrepit if he doesn’t jumpstart his game soon.
11. Giorgio Tavecchio, K: 5 points (1 appearance)
Hey, when the kicker earns the top standout performer honor one week, it’s worth celebrating. Tavecchio had a tough task to begin the season, coming in a day before the week 1 contest to replace longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski. He’s met the challenge head-on, missing just three kicks through nine games, and only one can be solely pinned on him (one was blocked, and the other was the result of a bad snap). Jano might be healthy enough to return from IR soon, but as of now, the Raiders don’t need him to. Tavecchio’s been that good.
10. Marquette King, P: 5 points (2 appearances)
The punter made the top ten. Does that reflect badly on the rest of the team? Not really, especially since King‘s arguably been the best punter in the league this year (behind Brett Kern of the Tennessee Titans). He’s 2nd in both punt and net average and ranks in the top 10 for punts inside the 20 as well. His Twitter account is also one of the best in existence.
9. Mario Edwards Jr., DE: 5 points (2 appearances)
Like Irvin, Edwards Jr. has been up-and-down all year, doing well against the run and playing poorly when it comes to the pass rush. He is second on the team in sacks, however. MEJ is young enough to get better as the season goes on, but time is running out.
8. Amari Cooper, WR: 7 points (2 appearances)
Cooper might be the most frustrating player on the team right now. His monstrous outing against the Kansas City Chiefs a few weeks ago shows that he can be an unstoppable force at the wideout position when his head is right. His league-leading drop numbers show that his head isn’t always right. Cooper has the talent to be an elite receiver for this team; all he needs to do now is consistently perform like one.
7. T.J. Carrie, CB: 9 points (2 appearances)
In a season where the Raiders secondary has been continually picked apart by opposing offenses, Carrie has kept the unit together and played like a true shutdown corner. Most of the time. He’s tied for the team lead in pass breakups and has been instrumental against the run as well. The thing Carrie needs is help from his fellow defensive backs.
6. Jared Cook, TE: 9 points (3 appearances)
Cook began the year slowly but has really come on as of late, culminating in his great game against the Dolphins last Sunday Night. He’s had a few drops here and lost a crucial fumble in the game against the Baltimore Ravens. Still, he’s a reliable target in the passing game and can be counted on in clutch situations.
5. Karl Joseph, S: 11 points (3 appearances)
Joseph has been the opposite of Cook. He began the year red-hot at safety, playing like the team’s best defender through the first month. He’s come back down to Earth since then, partly due to a groin injury. He’s in just his second season though, so he’ll have plenty of time to correct his mistakes.
4. Cory James, LB: 12 points (3 appearances)
James may have the most potential out of anyone on defense. He’s an excellent tackler and probably the team’s best run defender. However, his pass coverage has been iffy at best, and he’s had to play with injuries for the past month. With Bowman in the fold, James won’t have to be relied on as much for the rest of the year, but the talent is there for him to contribute in a meaningful way.
3. Khalil Mack, DE/OLB: 12 points (4 appearances)
Of course, Mack’s been their best defensive player, even in a slightly down season for him. He has just 4.5 sacks thus far but he ranks among the league leaders in pressures and has been excellent against the run as well, mostly with extra blockers going against him. Mack could stand to convert those pressures into sacks, but he certainly hasn’t been responsible for the team’s struggles on defense.
2. Derek Carr, QB: 13 points (4 appearances)
Simply put, when Carr plays well, the team will win. All four of his appearances on this list have come during victories. The offensive playcalling has improved somewhat since he returned from injury, but Carr’s accuracy and decision making aren’t perfect yet. He also seems a bit trigger happy when pressure is on him. Still, his bright spots have been terrific when they appear. Much of the Raiders potential success will be on his shoulders.
1. Michael Crabtree, WR: 20 points (6 appearances)
What else can I say about Crabtree? He’s been the team’s rock through thick and thin this year. Even when the rest of the team is playing horribly, he’s still producing. If nothing else, the team needs to keep grinding so that they can get Crabtree to the playoffs. The NFL would be a lot more fun to watch if there were more players like him.