Tag Archives: Khalil Mack

Loss of Derek Carr cripples Oakland’s Super Bowl dreams

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A sight no one in Black and Silver wanted to see, their quarterback limping off the field on Christmas Eve. Source: Houston Chronicle

The NFL giveth and the NFL taketh away. After breaking their 14-year playoff drought last week and looking like potential Super Bowl contenders for the first time since that loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, star quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula on Christmas Eve.

Surrounded by his entire team on the field and many players covering the view as he was treated on the sidelines, it was clear by the mood that it was serious. On the floor and on the verge of tears, you could see number three mouth the words “it’s broken” and every Black Hole fan’s worst nightmare came true.

Now their players might be telling you through the media and social networks that this team isn’t done, that they can make an impact in the post-season, but they are wrong. This entire team swings on the quarterback and without Carr for the foreseeable future, the Raiders are cooked.

Before going down against the Indianapolis Colts, Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate. Let’s start with that offence and its leader, MVP candidate Derek Carr. The former second-round pick had been outstanding, throwing for 3,933 yards which included 28 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

Combine that with a 63.7% completion rating and a 96.7 passer rating, it’s not hard to see why he was the lifeblood of this team. Carr finally gave them hope where they previously had none and with his drive to pull his team out of the mire, he could have been the x-factor once the post-season rolled around.

When you also look at those stats and the surging runs he led in close gains, then add the fact that the Raiders have led the league in dropped passes with 26, you can see why they were so devastated to lose him. No offence meant to Matt McGloin, but he has enormous shoes to fill.

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Mack has been a machine but it may be in vain. Source: Bleacher Report

That will likely mean the team leans on a strong run game, which is currently sixth in yards per game in the NFL. That efficiency on the ground helped open the space up for Carr and if they can continue to pound the football, it may at least alleviate some pressure from McGloin when he does throw the ball.

The issue will be whether they can lean on their defence, which should be the case when you have a destroyer like Khalil Mack on your side. With 11 sacks on the season, yet none in the last two weeks, combined with five forced fumbles and an interception, he is a difference maker on that side of the ball.

He’s even great in the run game, registering six stuffs and forcing teams like the Chargers to force their run game away from him. Mack has become a monster and combined with Bruce Irvin on the other side, who has seven sacks of his own, it has created a beast that strikes fear into every offensive lineman.

However, the worry is the secondary. They rank 30th in yards per game and 21st in points, highlighted by a ball-hawking secondary that maybe takes a couple too many chances and could get burnt by better quality quarterbacks in the playoffs.

That being said, their turnover differential is excellent. In fact, the Raiders lead the league in turnover differential with plus 15 and that is a big driving force in how they have succeeded this season. Simply put, they have given themselves more opportunities per game and restricted their opponents.

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Del Rio has changed the culture in Oakland and should have a shot at stardom for years to come. Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Add to that a good kicking game from Sebastian Janikowski and a solid punting game from dancing extraordinaire Marquette King, they have the start of a quality team. The coaching from Jack Del Rio and his win-or-die attitude has been really infectious as Oakland caught fire from an early aggressive call against the New Orleans Saints.

General manager Reggie McKenzie deserves a lot of credit too for building a solid unit mainly through the draft as well. Regardless of how this season now finishes, he’s given them a foundation for them to compete for years to come.

I had written a piece ready to go last week before Christmas got in the way, saying that if the defence could show something against the Colts, they had a real chance. They did, until Carr went down, now everything is in doubt.

A divisional match-up against a raging Denver Broncos who have nothing to lose could have disastrous consequences. A loss leaves the door open for the Kansas City Chiefs to steal the division from under their noses and could put the Raiders in the playoffs earlier than initially expected.

In fact, it’s hard to see them win a playoff game now. It’s clear from how they’ve won games this season how much Carr means to them and with him gone, so too go their playoff ambitions.

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NFL teams who won and lost in the first week of free agency

This past week in the NFL has been the classic case of hype and hope. Players are signed on big deals, some rightfully so and some not so deservingly, but we gift big awards on the hope that teams have done something right. However, at least on paper, here are the real winners and losers of free agency.

 

WINNERS

New York Giants

Vernon could be a difference maker.  Source: Fox Sports

Vernon could be a difference maker. Source: Fox Sports

The Giants defence was the definition of a mess last season. Bad at rushing the passer consistently, poor against the run and embarrassing against the pass so with a new look coaching team comes a new look defence to go with it.

They spent big on Olivier Vernon, who has 25.5 sacks in his past three years and should offer pressure opposite the resigned Jason Pierre Paul, who could either be great or absent. Damon Harrison was a solid pick-up from the team across town and Snacks should help shore up their porous run defence.

They also did well to pick up Janoris Jenkins from the LA Rams but there will still be a need to add a lot more to the secondary, which is where they may go in the draft. They spent high but brought in young guys that could hit their prime soon, which they are absolutely banking on.

 

Oakland Raiders

Irvin opposite Mack is a scary prospect.  Source: Bleacher Report

Irvin opposite Mack is a scary prospect. Source: Bleacher Report

With a young core, Oakland would have wanted to fill some holes with experienced veterans before looking ahead to the draft again. What the Black Hole will love is that is exactly what they have tried to do.

Bruce Irvin hasn’t set the world alight with 11.5 sacks in his past two years but adds a solid threat opposite the freakish athlete in Khalil Mack. Grabbing Sean Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs not only gives them a solid corner with playmaking ability, it weakens a divisional opponent.

Getting a great guard in Kelechi Osemele will help both the run and the pass game, especially if he’s not kicked out to tackle and while possibly being overpaid, he could be a foundation for their offensive line. There’s a lot to like despite a few risks, they could be a contender in a very interesting AFC West.

 

San Diego Chargers

Some even said Hayward was the Packers' best corner last year, could be a real steal.  Source: jsonline.com

Some even said Hayward was the Packers’ best corner last year, could be a real steal. Source: jsonline.com

This may be a little biased and ideally I would like to keep it quiet but it’s difficult to ignore that the Chargers made some really solid moves without an enormous amount of outlay or risk than others have.

With Malcolm Floyd retiring, Travis Benjamin looks like a solid replacement as a genuine deep threat to add to the likes of Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, especially off an almost 1,000 yard season with a 14.1 yard average. Casey Hayward has been good as a slot corner for the Green Bay Packers and will be valuable either there or opposite Jason Verrett for San Diego.

Signing former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane finally fixes a problem position for years and he could be a real force in the run game. If they can shore up their line a little or find another playmaker in the secondary, Mike McCoy’s men could be a real bounceback candidate.

 

LOSERS

Cleveland Browns

Getting rid of Manziel hid a lot of bad moves for Cleveland.  Source: CBS

Getting rid of Manziel hid a lot of bad moves for Cleveland. Source: CBS

It looks like a complete rebuild job in Cleveland for Hue Jackson as he has almost zero talent left on an already thin squad of players.

Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz and Travis Benjamin all left town on reasonable deals and with the Browns not shifting on their original offers, it seems like such a strange move. All might have been part of their 3-13 team last season but they were all solid pickups for those that did want them in their talent pool for the 2016 season.

There wasn’t much coming through the door either, other than the speculation that they are in the hunt for Colin Kaepernick. When your biggest news in the month of March is that you cut a player that couldn’t win games and couldn’t stop drinking, you know you’re in a big hole.

 

Denver Broncos

Osweiler must have felt shaded by the team, hence his departure.  Source: CBS

Osweiler must have felt shaded by the team, hence his departure. Source: CBS

The reigning Super Bowl champions were keen for a Hall of Fame quarterback to retire so they could usher in a new era, only for the incumbent player to jump ship for a team he feels give him a better chance to succeed.

Brock Osweiler was supposed to take the keys from Peyton Manning but after they didn’t want to risk too much on an iffy seven-game vet, they let someone else do it. It’s not that decision that’s bad, it’s the fact that they now have Mark Sanchez as their number one quarterback heading into the season.

Malik Jackson was paid heavily to leave, which isn’t too much of a blow but the market for decent-to-good pass rushers should worry them. It’s good DeMarcus Ware cut his base salary but Von Miller is going to be very expensive (yet worth it) and it’s hard to see the defence completely carrying the team next season.

 

Miami Dolphins

I just can't get excited about Miami signing Mario Williams.  Source: CBS

I just can’t get excited about Miami signing Mario Williams. Source: CBS

A team that always like to get involved in American Football’s version of March Madness, the Dolphins brought in plenty only to seem stagnant and older where it mattered.

They allowed Oliver Vernon to walk, signing 31-year-old Mario Williams who has never looked like the superstar he was briefly with the Houston Texans. Then they trade for the Philadelphia Eagles’ bust candidates in Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso in the hope they can rediscover their form, a risk move indeed.

Lamar Miller moved on, giving the team no run game and they didn’t sign any of the capable offensive lineman to shore up a pretty poor unit. They simply only filled holes they had created for themselves, fixing none of their real needs and some would even say downgrading for not much of a discount.

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Who should win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year?

Watt deserved it last year, who's getting it this year?  Source: Houston Chronicle

Watt deserved it last year, who’s getting it this year? Source: Houston Chronicle

In one of the more difficult to predict awards that will take place just before the Super Bowl, usually the Defensive Player of the Year is more obvious by now. Realistically, there are at least five players that could arguably win the accolade so here’s a look at the contenders.

Special mentions to two players that would have been close, Charles Woodson has had a fantastic year but hasn’t maintained the success and Josh Norman might have courted too much controversy to be chosen.

 

JJ Watt

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season?  Source: NFL

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season? Source: NFL

Last year’s winner is unsurprisingly a front-runner again, as he was before the season even started. A real once-in-a-generation kind of player, JJ Watt is someone you have to gameplan for and then gameplan again when he ruins it.

This year, he has 66 tackles, 13.5 sacks, five pass defences and a forced fumble, which is a little down from last year. They are still pretty damn good numbers but the knock will be that it’s not Watt numbers, maybe we expect a little too much from the genetic freak.

The face of the franchise, the spiritual leader of the team and the fans, Watt is an example every young player should follow. Dedicated, humble and someone who puts everything into every game, it’s very hard not to admire his ability on the field.

Even a cast can’t stop this monster, who will finally help his side potentially sneak into the playoffs. If he does, it will be difficult not to back him again this season.

 

Aaron Donald

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams.  Source: helmet2helmet.com

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams. Source: helmet2helmet.com

After winning the Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, everyone would take notice of Aaron Donald in his second year. A defensive tackle that can cut right through offensive linemen, he’s a dangerous man indeed.

The St Louis Ram has 64 tackles this season, 11 sacks and a fumble recovery. His numbers don’t really jump off the page like some others, but when you watch him play, it’s easy to see just how big of an impact he has on the game.

In the first game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, he wrecked their running game. He had nine tackles, two sacks and two stuffs and essentially won the game when he denied Marshawn Lynch stone dead on fourth down in mid-field.

Donald has established himself as a big name and someone we will need to keep an eye on in the future. In a Rams unit that looks likely to be a potential juggernaut, he is the real centrepiece.

 

Khalil Mack

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years.  Source: sportsworldreport.com

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years. Source: sportsworldreport.com

What a breakout year for Khalil Mack, who was pretty damn good already, now he’s beginning to look special. The Oakland Raiders needed some new names and they certainly have one in the linebacker.

Mack has 60 combined tackles, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles, really impressive numbers as he has taken to Jack Del Rio’s schemes like a duck to water. A nightmare for any tackle, the youngster has been a real difference maker on a team that could barely create any pressure two years ago.

Against the Denver Broncos, Mack took over and dominated unlike anyone else has this season. Seven tackles, five sacks, a stuff and a forced fumble in a game where he created pressure on every play, it was a game that should be watched over and over again.

The fact that Oakland will miss out on the post-season might just hurt him a little, like it will others, but he is just as deserving as the others. The Black Hole will be a team to watch next season and Mack will be the one for teams to fear next year.

 

Tyrann Mathieu

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs.  Source: azcental.com

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs. Source: azcental.com

A real beast in the secondary and a nightmare for every quarterback in the league, the versatile Tyrann Mathieu has been spectacular on a great defence

In 14 games, he has made 89 tackles, 16 pass defences, five interceptions with one returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble. He has been used in the slot, he has covered tight ends, he has a sack because he can blitz, he’s a real all-rounder.

He’s a key cog in a really impressive secondary with Patrick Paterson, Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson. Mathieu helps glue it all together, he is able to play anywhere they need him and he can really wreck offensive gameplans.

A torn MCL knocks Mathieu out of the rest of the season and the post-season, which is a real shame. That may hurt not just his chances of DPOTY but also the Cardinals’ Super Bowl aspirations.

 

Luke Kuechly

Kuechly is a tackling machine.  Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly is a tackling machine. Source: Bleacher Report

Not many would deny that Luke Kuechly is the finest inside linebacker of this generation and yet again, the 2014 DPOTY should be under consideration again.

On Sunday, the Carolina Panther recorded 15 tackles, with 10 being individual efforts and it was the fourth time he crossed double digits this season. Kuechly has 101 tackles in 11 games, with him missing some of the early part of the season due to injury.

Because of that, his numbers are down with just one sack but surprisingly, his four interceptions is a joint-career high with two games to go, he’s scored his first touchdown on a return and has forced two fumbles, a career high.

He just keeps getting better and better and is a leader on what can be a very good defence. If he was showing this form without missing any games, he might be ahead of the entire pack.

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