With the departure of Khalil Mack before the 2018 season, the Oakland Raiders lost their only perennial all-pro talent. The team wasn’t even initially able to get a player into the pro bowl. However, 2019 is looking much more positive in Oakland. The Raiders added proven all-pro talents like Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict in the offseason. At least in Brown’s case, it’s expected that he’ll find himself as an all-pro once again come season’s end, but are there any players that could take the next step and become one of the top players at their position? Below we’re going to go through some of the players that could make that step for the Raiders.
The Raiders’ biggest prize of free agency was the massive offensive tackle from Bastrop, Texas. Trent Brown hasn’t ever made a pro bowl or an all-pro team, but the Raiders decided to make him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history after a dominant showing in the playoffs while with the New England Patriots. Brown hasn’t had the regular season success that would indicate that he’s ready to ascend to an all-pro level player. Pro Football Focus ranked him as just the 32nd best offensive tackle in 2018. That being said, PFF ranked him as the best offensive tackle in the entire postseason in 2018. If he can continue that dominance, he’ll be well on his way to his first all-pro team.
Also, Brown’s taking this offseason to better himself. He’s been seen at Von Miller’s pass rushing summit and he’s been working with coach Duke Manyweather of OL Masterminds to sure up his game. Manyweather has worked with some of the game’s top offensive lineman, so it’s encouraging that Brown is spending much of his offseason working with the coach. The AFC West houses some of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If Brown is successful in slowing them down, quarterback Derek Carr could be in for a big season. Brown seems determined to live up to his massive contract. He wasn’t bad before, but he could really take things to the next level in 2019.
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The fact the center Rodney Hudson has never made an all-pro team will come as a surprise to many and it should because he’s been dominant in the passing game. Hudson has made the all-pro team for Pro Football Focus as recently as this past season, but he’s never made it to the AP all-pro team. Hudson didn’t give up a single sack of Derek Carr during the entire year. Carr was sacked 51 times in 2018 and not one of them came because of Hudson. Hudson has only allowed Carr to get sacked three times in three seasons. Point is, he is absurdly good at pass protection. Hudson will only be 30 when the season starts and is entering a contract year. He hasn’t shown any indication that he’s gotten worse. The Raiders offensive line should be greatly improved in 2019, so that should work in Hudson’s favor when voting for the all-pro team comes around. It seems the only reason he hasn’t gotten recognition as an AP all-pro is just bad luck. He should be able to shed that bad luck in 2019.
It might be premature to say Derek Carr is going to go from being potentially on the trade block to one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL, but hey, he almost did it just three seasons ago. Carr has made it to three pro bowls and has only had the same offensive coordinator for more than one consecutive season in his career. That year, he almost won the MVP before getting hurt. Carr will be entering his second year in Jon Gruden’s offense and his supporting cast is much better than it’s probably ever been. New general manager Mike Mayock beefed up the offensive line for Carr, added superstar receiver Antonio Brown and gave him a first-round pick at running back in Josh Jacobs. That’s not to mention additions like Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow.
There’s no doubt that Carr has put up a couple of down years in a row. It’s entirely possible he continues the downward trend, but it seems improbable due to the influx of talent around him. Rumors were aplenty that Gruden was ready to move on from Carr after the 2018 season. The rumors were unfounded, but Gruden’s patience won’t go into the 2020 season. Carr has everything going for him to put up huge numbers in 2019. Look for him to prove the doubters wrong and ascend to an all-pro level player.