Raiders' Mack named 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year

Raiders' Mack named 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year

Khalil Mack was excellent against the run and pass this season. The Raiders edge rusher generated more heat than any other in 2016, creating quarterback pressure on 95 occasions.

Mack made quarterbacks flinch despite significant attention, and was a true force on defense.

Those efforts were rewarded on Saturday night, when he was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.

Mack is the first Raider to win the award since Lester Hayes in 1980. 

The honor supported two other awards, and confirms he’s a national superstar worthy of the No. 5 overall draft pick. 

Mack was not in Houston at the NFL Honors awards show, to accept the award. That fits Mack’s persona, who prefers to play well without recognition.

He demands attention on the field, with an astonishing stat line.

Mack finished the 2016 season with 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception. He had 16 tackles for a loss, one off the NFL lead. According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, Mack led all edge rushers with 96 total quarterback pressures.

His best game came against Tampa Bay, when he had two sacks, two quarterback hits and seven quarterback pressures.

Mack received the most attention for a victory over Carolina, where he did almost everything. He returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half, and strip sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and recovered his own forced fumble to seal that game. Then he did something similar the next week against Buffalo, affirming he ranked among the league’s most disruptive.

Mack was a true team leader in 2016, vital factor in the team’s 12-4 record. The Raiders will sign him to a contract extension when the time is right, knowing full well that he makes their defense better.

He wasn't available for comment, but posted a response on Instagram. 

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.