Six Pro Bowlers in 2016 was good – in fact, it was the most for the Oakland Raiders since 1994 – but if six was good last year, seven is even better.
Such is the fortune for the 2016 Raiders, who just days after clinching their first playoff berth since 2002, have now had seven players – the most in the NFL – named to the 2017 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Headlined by quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack, wide receiver Amari Cooper, center Rodney Hudson, safety Reggie Nelson, guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, and Donald Penn will also be headed to Florida for the Pro Bowl festivities.
Granted of course that the Silver and Black aren't prepping for Super Bowl LI in Houston.
"Obviously we're trying to focus on winning a Super Bowl, so hopefully we're not playing in this game, but I mean, just the fact that you have seven guys on the same team, that just kind of shows you the work that we've put in from OTAs [Organized Team Activities] on forward," said Osemele. "It's been awesome."
For Carr, Cooper, and Mack, they'll be headed back to their second straight Pro Bowl after making their debuts in the game last season, as will Reggie Nelson who went as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
An exclusive look at the 2017 Pro Bowl selections for your Oakland Raiders.
Joining them will be three members of the Raiders offensive line, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele – who are both making their first trips – and Donald Penn, who is receiving Pro Bowl recognition for the second time in his 10-year career.
Heading into 2016, one of the perceived strengths of the Raiders was the offensive line that General Manager Reggie McKenzie has meticulously built and invested in, and in 2016 his investment has paid huge dividends, as the group has been arguably the most consistent unit on the team, serving as the engine that makes the Silver and Black's offense go.
Now, three of the team's starting offensive linemen are headed to the Pro Bowl, with guard Gabe Jackson serving as an alternate.
"Guys put in a lot of work," Hudson said. "A lot of work, stay together, stay focused on week to week, day to day, and just lean on each other. Not only us, but the team. It takes a whole group to put together good performances, so we just stayed focused day to day, and worked hard, and leaned on each other."
Of the seven Raiders currently headed to Orlando, just two – Hudson and Osemele – will be making their first trips to the Pro Bowl, and for each, it's just another feather in the cap of what's already been an impressive 2016.
"It means a lot," Hudson said of the Pro Bowl accolade. "It's a great honor to be recognized for what you do. It's very humbling, very great, I give a lot of thanks to our teammates because you can't do any of it by yourself. I thank all my teammates for being there with us, and ultimately helping us have success."
"It's an honor and a privilege," added Osemele. "I know that's something that as an offensive lineman, you're trying to make it every year. I know personally, I had a chip on my shoulder to try to get in there. To have guys like Latavius [Murray] on your team and pretty much a supporting cast like we do, it makes it a lot easier because everybody just works so hard. It's just great. It's a great honor."
As it stands, the Silver and Black have seven players slated to strap on the pads Jan. 29 in Orlando, but there is a chance that there could be even more Raiders appearing in the game, as seven more players have been named as alternates.
Those players are the following:
Fullback Jamize Olawale
Punter Marquette King
Guard Gabe Jackson
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski
Running back Jalen Richard (return specialist)
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree
Running back Latavius Murray