This season, the Oakland Raiders have watched several players on the roster either return to MVP form – I'm looking at you, Derek Carr – or rise to their potential and establish themselves as bonafide playmakers in the NFL.
Now fully immersed in the second half of the 2019 campaign, we've approached the first wave of Pro Bowl votes.
Yes, it's that time of year again, time to support some of your favorite members of the Silver and Black, and help them earn the recognition they deserve.
There's no shortage of talent on the roster this year and plenty of players are more than worthy of receiving the Pro Bowl nod; let's break down a few reasons why.
The Offensive Line
From left tackle to right tackle and everything in between, the Raiders offensive line features five of the most dominant players in football (Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown).
We all know Rodney Hudson is tough as nails and arguably the best center in football, but it's the guys around him that may have impressed some people this season.
Second-year tackle Kolton Miller struggled like any rookie his first season, but the former UCLA Bruin has bodied some of the best defensive ends in the league this season and made mincemeat out of them. On the opposite side of him, Trent Brown has been the biggest addition – literally – to the Raiders roster, and when healthy he's looked every bit the part of a superstar right tackle.
With Miller and Brown fortifying the outside, Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson have anchored the middle, and they've done a superb job. During the Raiders-Chargers Thursday Night Football match, NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman dubbed Incognito the league's best left guard of the season. Jackson started the season with an injury, but since returning he's been an impenetrable force at right guard. Jackson has been snubbed from the Pro Bowl several times; let's make sure he gets what he deserves this year.
Through 10 weeks of the NFL regular season, the Raiders defense has battled through its fair share of injuries and adversity.
The linebackers have been on the receiving end of most of it, as Vontaze Burfict was handed a nonsensical suspension forcing his season to prematurely come to an end, and Marquel Lee was placed on the Injured Reserve list early in the year. Despite all the hurdles, Tahir Whitehead has continued to serve as one of the leading members of the defense. The former Temple Owl leads all Raiders in tackles with 71, but more importantly he's getting everyone in position every play to do their job. In the season-and-a-half he's been with the team, Whitehead has truly been one of the Raiders foundation players.
The struggles of the Raiders defensive line from a season ago have been well-documented and don't need rehashing, especially because the unit is performing admirably in 2019. Benson Mayowa has been one of the biggest surprises and most-underrated additions to the defensive line this year. In eight games, Mayowa has set career highs in forced fumbles (3) and sacks (7). Among all pass rushers in the league, Mayowa is tied for 11th in sacks and he still has seven games to go. Head Coach Jon Gruden likes to joke that people judge players by their sack totals too much, and while Mayowa is feasting he does far more than just get after the quarterback.
Through nine games, the Raiders' 2019 Rookie Class has turned heads across the league.
Josh Jacobs, selected with the No. 24 overall pick, has been among the league's top producer at the running back position. The former Alabama product ranks seventh in rushing yards with 811 and sixth in rushing touchdowns with seven. He's also averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which is more than Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, Marlon Mack, and Aaron Jones. You could even make the argument that Jacobs has been the best back in the AFC this year.
While Jacobs' talent is off the charts, he relies a lot on the blocking of fullback Alec Ingold, who Jacobs recently dubbed the best fullback in the NFL – because why wouldn't he? On every carry this season, Ingold has picked positive yards, but more importantly, he's paving the way for Head Coach Jon Gruden's signature style of smash-mouth football. On top of his blocking, Ingold recently found the end zone after hauling in a pass from Carr against the Chargers.
Foster Moreau might've been drafted in the fourth round, but he's playing like a Day One pick. Even with Darren Waller – who's one of the best tight ends in the league, but we'll get to that momentarily – in the mix, Moreau has found the end zone three times and become a reliable target for Derek Carr.
The Skill Guys
There hasn't been a better story in football this season than Darren Waller.
The breakout star has gone from hard times to one of the best tight ends in football, and there's no doubt he should be in the Pro Bowl. Waller currently ranks third in receptions (51) and receiving yards (588), trailing Travis Kelce and Austin Hooper. There are few players at the producing at his level right now and is a top tight end in the league.
Despite missing a few games with plantar fasciitis, Tyrell Williams has been a monster for the Raiders this year. In the first five games, Williams suited up he found the end zone and has become a reliable target for Derek Carr in the red zone.
The Franchise QB
As I mentioned earlier, Derek Carr has returned to his MVP form from three years ago.
During his 2016 campaign, it felt like No. 4 was pulling off a fourth-quarter come back every week, and in 2019 he's up to his old tricks. Carr's efficiency and ability to take care of the football have translated to big things for the team, and he currently has the team positioned at 5-4 to make a playoff run. In the second year of Coach Gruden's system, Carr appears to be putting all the pieces together.
Now that we've gone over just a few of the reasons your beloved members of the Silver and Black belong in the Pro Bowl, here's how you vote:
Starting November 28, you'll be able to vote for your favorite players on Twitter by tweeting their name, along with the hashtag #ProBowlVote.