Khalil Mack's strong case for AP Defensive Player of the Year

Khalil Mack's strong case for AP Defensive Player of the Year

Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack has played three seasons now, each one better than the last. His third campaign was a dominant showcase for his playmaking ability, one many consider the NFL’s best.

His stats are strong. His play was clutch. His value was unmistakable. Without him, the Raiders defense would’ve been a mess.

The Pro Football Writers of America and Sporting News acknowledged those facts with a defensive player of the year award.

The big one, however, comes on Saturday at the NFL Honors awards show. The Associated Press awards are considered the highest honor, coming from a 50-member voting panel of writers and broadcasters across the country.

Mack is certainly a favorite to be the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the first Raider to win the award since 1980. He has competition from Denver’s Von Miller, Atlanta’s Vic Beasley, New York Giants safety Landon Collins, Kansas City’s Eric Berry or maybe L.A.'s Aaron Donald.

Unlike awards in other leagues, there is no ranking talent with second or third place tallies. Voters pick one guy. That’s it.

A case could be made for any of the aforementioned. There’s a strong case for a few.

Mack is certainly there at or near the top. He didn’t lead the league in any official stat —Beasley and Miller had more sacks – but his line was incredibly diverse.

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, 17 more than Miller and 51 more than Beasley.

Mack was excellent against the run and pass despite significant attention directed his way. He would take over games, and was virtually unstoppable during an eight-game stretch with at least one sack.

He played well in nationally televised games, with a sack against Houston a Monday night and had two sacks and a forced fumble in a victory over Denver on Sunday Night Football.

Against Carolina, Mack showed incredible value. He had an interception returned for a touchdown at the end of the second quarter, and sealed victory late in the fourth quarter with a strip sack of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Then he recovered his own fumble. That wasn’t a one-time thing. He did virtually the same thing the following week against Buffalo.

Mack might get penalized because his defense wasn’t dominant, but it aided the team’s 12-4 record and was paced by a star rushing off the edge.

Report: Jon Gruden causing divide in Raiders front office

Report: Jon Gruden causing divide in Raiders front office

Life is not peachy in Raider Nation right now.

All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack is gone. The team is 0-2, and now, there is reportedly a divide in the front office.

That divide is being caused by none other than head coach Jon Gruden himself, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Here's how Rapoport explains it:

"The way that Jon Gruden handles personnel has caused a divide in that building. Here's why: Gruden has what has amounted to his own personnel staff, he has people like Dave Rozzano, who is Head of Football Research, who came to prominence on Twitter with several wild takes, including Jake Locker should be the #1 pick. He has essentially become Gruden's right-hand man. Gruden also has his own draft board, his own personnel board, his own people that help him make cut-ups. And then on the other side, there are the respected scouts from [General Manager] Reggie McKenzie who helped build this team from basically nothing into a playoff team and so some of those people feel Gruden has simply not listened to them. It is clear that he is listen to those in his inner circle to do a lot of things, including sign veterans and trade Khalil Mack."

Oh boy. Sounds like things could get worse in Oakland before they start to get better.

Gruden and the Raiders are in Miami to take on the Dolphins. Will he be celebrating his first win since returning to the Raiders? Or will he be walking off the field 0-3 and into a postgame press conference full of questions about this story?

NFL picks: Raiders vs. Dolphins Week 3 score predictions

NFL picks: Raiders vs. Dolphins Week 3 score predictions

The Raiders (0-2) make the long trip to South Beach to take on the Dolphins (2-0) in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season.

Oakland had a chance to pick up its first win last week, but it squandered a fourth-quarter lead and lost on Denver kicker Brandon McManus' late field goal. Raiders coach Jon Gruden is looking for more out of his pass rush and hoping linebacker Bruce Irvin can step up.

The Dolphins are coming off a 20-12 win over the Jets in New York last weekend. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes while running back Kenyan Drake ran for 53 yards and one touchdown.

Here's how some national pundits picked the Raiders-Dolphins game,

Paul Gutierrez, Raiders 24, Dolphins 23

Cameron Wolfe, Dolphins 26, Raiders 20

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Dolphins 23, Raiders 16

Elliot Harrison, Dolphins 26, Raiders 20

Brad Weiss, Just Blog Baby: Dolphins 28, Raiders 24

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Dolphins 24, Raiders 20