Following the Oakland Raiders 12-4 season, Raiders.com writers Eddie Paskal and Kyle Martin sat down to review the 2016 campaign. They broke down some of the highlights from the season, as well as some players that stood out to them. Here's a look at the 2016 Year in Review:
Your 2016 MVP is…
KM:This one goes without saying, but I will reemphasize that the Oakland Raiders MVP of the 2016 season is the team's signal-caller Derek Carr. In his third year under center, the Silver and Black's quarterback led the team to seven fourth quarter comebacks, second to only Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's eight.
The Fresno State-product threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and kept his interceptions to a career-low six. Sure, there are other quarterbacks in the league with standout performances as well, but Carr's impact on the offense is undeniable. His leadership, smart decision-making, and clutch playmaking ability have kept him in the league MVP-race all season long. It's been exciting to watch his development, and he's determined to continue his growth in 2017 and beyond.
EP:I have to agree with Kyle on this one; I really don't see how it can be anyone besides Derek Carr. As strong of a supporting cast as General Manager Reggie McKenzie built for Carr, it became abundantly clear over the final two games, that in 2016, the Raiders went as Carr did. Not only was the third-year quarterback the emotional leader of the Silver and Black, but he was statistically putting together an MVP-type season before his season ended prematurely because of a broken fibula. Even though Carr's 2016 season dramatically ended Dec. 24, No. 4 still threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns, compared to just six interceptions. What's even more impressive is how Carrr won many of those games, as his seven fourth quarter comebacks ranked second in the league behind just Matthew Stafford. To put it bluntly, Carr was not only the best player this season on the Raiders, but he was also the heartbeat that made the team go. He's your 2016 MVP.
Highlight of the 2016 Season
KM:Carr's two-point conversion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints set the tone for the season. In a matter of seconds, Head Coach Jack Del Rio conveyed his confidence in the team, No. 4 completed his first game-winning drive of the season, and the Raiders as a whole proved their resiliency as a team.
There are several notable plays this season that are worthy of earning the honor of "Highlight of the 2016 Season," but in my eyes, the play in New Orleans was a defining moment that let the league know the Raiders were going to be a force to be reckoned with.
EP:For me, the highlight of the season would have to be the win Week 15 against the San Diego Chargers. With the 19-16 win, not only did the Raiders improve their record to an impressive 11-3, but the victory also clinched the team's first postseason berth since 2002. While the effort on the field was certainly a memorable one, what really makes this game stick out to me is the fact that Raider Nation took over Qualcomm Stadium; I mean, *completely *took over. Over the years, playing in San Diego turned into a de facto home game for the Silver and Black, but what Raider Nation did in mid-December was next level. The Raiders won the game, which admittedly was huge for the organization, but it was awesome to see the throngs of Silver and Black completely take over the lower bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. The continuous RAI-DERS chants both pregame, and through the course of the Week 15 game were pretty cool too.
**Rookie of the Year
KM:Jalen Richard, a.k.a. Rocket Richard, started emerging as a promising talent all the way back in training camp, and quickly became an important cog in the Raiders rushing attack. The rookie running back out of Southern Mississippi State flashed his quick feet out of the backfield, on kick returns, and punt returns, resulting in several big plays that set the offense up in solid field position. His longest returns on special teams both went for over 35 yards, and he finished the season with 491 yards on only 83 carries. Nifty, agile, and elusive, are all adjectives that can be used to describe the playing style of the rookie, as his presence in the backfield gave a different pace to the offense. Richard went from being an undrafted player to one of many well-rounded offensive weapons in the Raiders offensive scheme.
EP:I too am going to have to go with Mr. Jalen Richard, because, man, what a year it's been for the former Southern Miss Golden Eagle. After going unselected in the 2016 NFL Draft, Richard had just one tryout offer to attend a rookie minicamp, and it was from the Oakland Raiders. The stocky running back impressed during his first minicamp, and was rewarded with a contract when the three-day camp concluded. From there, it was just impressive play after impressive play for Richard, and by the end of the season, he had engrained himself as an important fiber in the makeup of the Silver and Black. Not only did No. 30 finish his rookie campaign second on the Raiders with 491 rushing yards, but he also handled a majority of the return duties as well, returning 34 punts for 306 yards, and 17 kickoffs for 402 yards. While the Raiders did get a good amount of production from their draft class, I don't think any rookie had more of an impact on the field than Richard.
Which under-the-radar player had the biggest impact?
KM:Wide receiver Andre Holmes has probably flown under-the-radar for far too long and deserves a lot of recognition. Even with players like Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the roster, Holmes has risen to the occasion whenever his number has been called. Whether it's pinning a punt within the five-yard line, or making a one-handed catch for a first down, No. 18 is a reliable player day-in and day-out. If you used the "eye test" you'd probably never know Holmes went undrafted by the way he plays. At 6'4", Holmes offers a unique combination of size and speed that allows him to create separation from defenders and makes for a great target in the red zone.
EP:This selection might be a little bit out of the box, but I'm going to go with wide receiver Andre Holmes. Holmes headed into the season as the No. 4 wideout on the depth chart, with the thought being he'd primarily make his hay in the red zone, utilizing every inch of his 6'4" frame when things got a little congested closer to the end zone. No. 18 played in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2016, finishing his third season in Oakland with 14 receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns. While Holmes' stats might not be overly impressive, the rangy wide receiver was also a huge asset on the Raiders coverage units, as he finished the season ranked third on the team with seven special teams tackles, and seemed to down a punt inside the five-yard line each week. Every team needs a player or two that does the dirty work, and Holmes was no doubt that guy for the Raiders in 2016.
What's the biggest takeaway from this season?
KM:When you hear the "Return to Greatness" mantra Head Coach Jack Del Rio has instilled this past season, you can't help but feel excited about the future of this team. After finishing the season 12-4 and contending for the AFC West title, the Silver and Black are well on their way toward contending for a Super Bowl. Had the team not been decimated with injuries the final two weeks of the regular season, the Raiders could very well still be playing in the postseason. My biggest takeaway is that this is a young team, with a lot of talent, and time to continue its development, which is obviously exciting. General Manager Reggie McKenzie is the architect of this whole thing, and has built a team that will hopefully last for years to come.
EP:The Raiders are well on their way to being a major contender in the AFC. While the Silver and Black's season came to a close last weekend in Houston, several weeks before many folks had hoped that it would, Jack Del Rio's Raiders unquestionably made some noise in 2016, finishing the regular season with a 12-4 record, as well as earning their first playoff berth since 2002. Prior to Derek Carr's injury, the Silver and Black looked almost unstoppable at times on offense, and looked like they would be major players in the AFC playoffs. Well, over the final two weeks of the season, the Raiders were bit by the injury bug, and while they did eventually fall to the Houston Texans, it become abundantly clear that the Raiders are back, and with a young nucleus of players, they'll be a major player in the AFC West going forward.
What number stood out the most to you in 2016?
KM:72; the percent of the team's sacks that came from the Slash Brothers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. The Oakland Raiders tallied a total of 25.0 sacks during the 2016 campaign with 18.0 coming from defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin. The Slash Brothers' cumulative 18 sacks just goes to show how effective Mack and Irvin can be when they get rolling. There's no denying the Silver and Black need to gain a bigger presence on the interior this season, but Irvin and Mack continued to give opposing quarterbacks fits all year long. It's safe to say when No. 51 and No. 52 line up together, they're one of the more prominent pass rushing tandems in the league.
EP:Ten, which is the number of games the Raiders were able to eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground in 2016. In those ten games, the Silver and Black were unsurprisingly 8-2, just further demonstrating the point that the Raiders was at their best when the offense was balanced. The Raiders trio of running backs finished the season with 1,746 rushing yards, and the fact that the team was so successful when the ground game got rolling is really telling.