The lineups for the 2016 Pro Bowl were announced Tuesday evening, with the Oakland Raiders earning three selections, their most since 2011.
Safety Charles Woodson, fullback Marcel Reece and defensive end Khalil Mack will be representing the Raiders January 31 in Honolulu, Hawaii at Aloha Stadium, but perhaps even more telling for the future of the Silver and Black are the three alternates named from the Raiders – quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Latavius Murray.
Heading into the 2015 season, if you were to take an educated guess on who the Raiders Pro Bowl representatives would be at season's end, you likely would have heard the names Woodson, Reece and Mack mentioned in earnest.
And that's no slight to the three Pro Bowlers, as each delivered a season clearly worthy of the Pro Bowl designation.
Woodson, the ageless wonder, has recorded five interceptions and was named the AFC Player of the Month in October, Mack currently leads the NFL with 15 sacks, and Reece has continued to show off his versatility operating from the fullback position.
"We're proud of our guys that earned it," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "Obviously Khalil [Mack] his first, 'Wood' [Charles Woodson] and Marcel [Reece] have been before, but for Khalil it was excellent for him. He had a great year."
That being said, the Raiders three Pro Bowl alternates offer almost an even more intriguing storyline.
As the team prepared to begin the 2015 campaign, there was little question that the Raiders were going to be an improved unit compared to the year previous.
First and foremost, they had a new head coach, Jack Del Rio, and Derek Carr, the team's quarterback of the future, was another year older and more seasoned after traversing the highs and lows of his rookie campaign.
What may have come as a surprise though, is how much better the team has been – particularly on the offensive side of the ball – and a lot of that is because of the production from Carr, Cooper and Murray.
Nicknamed the "Triplets," early in the season, Carr, Cooper and Murray have revamped a Raiders offense that struggled mightily at times in 2014, and showed that when they're clicking, they can be one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
The Raiders won't be headed to the postseason this year, a Week 15 loss to the Green Bay Packers officially eliminated them, but they will no doubt be well-represented in Hawaii, something that has not been the case in the recent past.
Just like the team as a whole, the three Pro Bowl alternates have gone through the ups and downs that any season presents, but at the end of the day they are what their designation deems them – Pro Bowl-calibers players.
The future is bright for the Silver and Black, evidenced not only by their three Pro Bowl selections, but also, and maybe more appropriately, their three alternates.
"We feel like we've identified a few guys and a few guys are developing here," Head Coach Del Rio said. "There is a nucleus of really good players that we can go forward with."