Even in a down year for the Silver and Black, the Oakland Raiders did send five of its players in 2017 to the 2018 Pro Bowl. Offensive linemen Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn, as well as defensive end Khalil Mack were named to the AFC roster initially. Penn would not be able to play due to injury. Quarterback Derek Carr would replace Tom Brady after the New England Patriots won the AFC to reach Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Though it will be cool to see these guys play down in Orlando this weekend, none of them will be making their first trip to the Pro Bowl this season. All five of them have garnered Pro Bowl honors with the Raiders for the second straight season.
What having five Pro Bowlers on a team that went 6-10 last season tells you is that there is too much talent on this Raiders roster that was just sadly undercoached in 2017. There is a great chance that Jon Gruden and his staff will maximize what is already in place in Oakland. Maybe a few more guys take their game to the next level to garner Pro Bowl nods?
Every year, somebody new across the league will make their first trip to the Pro Bowl. Here are five likely candidates to do just that for the 2018 Raiders. Could any of these five emerge as a perennial Pro Bowler like the five that got their nods again in 2017?
Tight end Jared Cook is an impressive receiving talent for the Raiders. When he’s on, Cook can play like one of the five best tight ends in football. He has the ability to take over games when he has a favorable mismatch against lumbering linebackers in coverage. However, we have never seen Cook really take his game to a Pro Bowl level before.
Though he has carved out a solid nine-year NFL career out of South Carolina, Cook has bounced around on four different rosters due in large part to his inconsistencies as a pass catcher. He’s not the most precise route runner, nor is he much of a factor in pass protection. Speed and sure-handedness are his two best attributes.
That being said, Cook is coming off one of his best seasons as a professional with the 2017 Raiders. In his first year with the Silver and Black, Cook had 54 catches for 688 yards and two touchdowns. He looked dominant in a handful of games, but largely disappeared in Todd Downing’s lackluster 2017 Raiders offense.
The reason Cook could garner a Pro Bowl nod is that Gruden’s offense will be passing-heavy in the West Coast system. Gruden will want Carr to target Cook more in the short to intermediate receiving game. Add in that Cook’s former offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett is now on the Raiders staff as a receivers coach and that should help Gruden get the most out of his veteran tight end.