While the NFL playoffs carry on, the Raiders’ 2015 season is a week into the rearview. They finished 7-9, three wins outside the playoff picture. It was far better than the year before, with several standout performances and memorable games.
The Raiders had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. They had players among the league leaders in sacks and interceptions. Stats are important, but a MVP is about more than that. Value and leadership come into play as well. That should create some healthy debate but, in the end, CSN California awards MVPs to young players already leading the way, with some veterans in support worthy of honorable mention.
QB Derek Carr
The Raiders quarterback made great strides in his second professional season and his first in Bill Musgrave’s scheme. Carr was lights out to start the year, and despite increased sacks and interceptions at season’s end, finished with a statistically strong campaign and was chiefly responsible for a few wins. Carr finished with 3,987 yards, 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 91.1 passer rating.
His yardage total ranks second in franchise history. His touchdowns are second best. Carr wasn’t perfect but, as head coach Jack Del Rio said, it’s part of “a great start to his career.” Carr’s leadership is respected in the locker room, and he’s the type of player the Raiders want in a face of the franchise. He’ll continue to improve, and the Raiders are confident he can take them to the next level.
Honorable mention: WR Michael Crabtree – The veteran receiver was a steadying presence on an offense full of young players, providing sure hands and a security blanket for Carr. Rookie Amari Cooper had more yards and changed the way the Raiders were defended, but Crabtree proved to be a good leader and came through in the clutch time and again.
OLB/DE Khalil Mack
Mack was the team’s truly indispensable player. His on-field contributions are unquestioned. Mack finished with 77 tackles, 15 sacks, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed and 66 other quarterback pressures. He was a first-team All-Pro at two different positions, a truly dominant force against the run and pass. He seemed to get better as the season wore on after he lost Justin Tuck to injury and Aldon Smith to suspension. Nose tackle Dan Williams said at season’s end that the Raiders probably wouldn’t have as many wins without him. That’s on the field, but Mack took on a greater role as a leader by example, one step toward him becoming a true team captain.
Honorable mention: S Charles Woodson
The 39-year old remained productive and available despite an early-season shoulder injury, finishing his final NFL campaign with a Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro honor. Woodson was a true team leader, as a traditional motivator and someone who showed up every day, playing and practicing through pain. He had 74 tackles, five interceptions and a forced fumble during an impressive swan song to a Hall-of-Fame career.
P Marquette King The Raiders fared well in the field-position battle due in large part to unreturnable punts. King did that while avoiding touchbacks. He pinned opponents within their own 20-yard line a franchise-record 40 times, with just four touchbacks. He has the power to boom it high and deep, but thrived as a directional punter. He’s an unrestricted free agent but should return and continue his evolution as a top-flight punter.
Honorable mention: Denico Autry
The long defensive lineman became adept at blocking extra points and field goals, doing that very thing three times this season. Those efforts take points off the board, and were a real highlight to a special teams unit that doesn’t typically have that specific talent. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was uneven and while coverage units lead by Lorenzo Alexander, Andre Holmes and Keith McGill were solid, Autry's impact was unmistakable.