In a Raiders season that has already felt like an eternity, there are somehow still eight games to go.
Jon Gruden currently holds picks No. 2, 10 and 21 or later in the first round (Bears are currently slated to make the playoffs) next year, and that’s about the only reason for optimism in an otherwise wasted season.
Let’s hand out some midseason superlatives.
Most Valuable Player: Rodney Hudson, center
Hudson hasn’t surrendered a quarterback pressure in seven of eight games, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranks Hudson as the best pass-blocking center in the league. While that’s great and all for Hudson, having a center as your best player is an indication things aren’t going so well.
Honorable mention: Jared Cook, Maurice Hurst.
Least Valuable Player: Tahir Whitehead, LV
Whitehead has been targeted 26 times in the air and allowed 23 receptions for 405 yards and seven touchdowns, according to PFF, which points out there have been over 600 instances since 2006 when an off-ball linebacker has been targeted more than 20 times in the season’s first nine weeks. In 2018 Whitehead, although sturdy against the run, is the only one of those over 600 instances to allow a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He’s also played 513-of-516 defensive snaps.
Honorable mention: Reggie Nelson, Amari Cooper.
Biggest surprise: Daryl Worley, CB
Worley missed the first four games due to suspension, but in the four games since he’s established himself as the No. 1 cornerback as Rashaan Melvin and Gareon Conley have digressed.
Honorable mention: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin.
Biggest disappointment: Bruce Irvin, DE
He was supposed to be the Raiders’ No. 1 pass rusher after Khalil Mack departed, but it became obvious in short time that wasn’t a realistic expectation. Irvin didn’t record a single stat in his last two games and played a mere nine defensive snaps last Thursday against the 49ers. As a result of his diminishing role and the near $4 million the Raiders still owed him, Gruden pulled the trigger and released one of his defensive captains.
Honorable mention: Rashaan Melvin, Martavis Bryant.
Best play: Gareon Conley pick-six vs. Browns
Defensive highlights have come few and far between for the Raiders this season, but Conley’s 36-yard interception return for a touchdown five minutes into an eventual Week 4 win against the Browns stands atop the short list.
Honorable mention: Maurice Hurst strip-sack vs. Browns, Jordy Nelson two-point conversion vs. Browns.
Worst play: Raheem Mostert 52-yard TD run
Mostert went untouched 52 yards to paydirt in a 34-3 win last Thursday, making Whitehead, Emmanuel Lamur and Marcus Gilchrist look like they didn’t care much to stop him. The run put San Francisco up 31-3 in the third quarter, and served as a microcosm for what has thus far been a miserable defensive season against the run for the Raiders.
Honorable mention: Derek Carr end-zone INT vs. Chargers, Carr end-zone INT vs. Dolphins.