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Raiders 2023 season awards: Rookie of the Year, MVP, Breakout Player, more

It’s the week for All Pro teams. But while those teams compare players across the league to each other, around these parts we tend to focus on just the Raiders. Which brings us to our 2023 Raiders season awards.

Rookie of the Year: QB Aidan O’Connell

Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/las-vegas/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Las Vegas Raiders;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Las Vegas Raiders</a> quarterback Aidan O’Connell (4) throws a pass during the first half against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/kansas-city/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kansas City Chiefs;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kansas City Chiefs</a> at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn’t a lot of competition for this award if we’re being honest. But a fifth round rookie starting ten games, going 5-5, while throwing 12 TD vs 7 INT is decent all things considered. While it may not be enough for him to keep the job next season, it was an admirable job just the same.

Co-Top Newcomers: WR Jakobi Meyers, LB Robert Spillane

Oct 15, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) scores a touchdown in the second quarter against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/new-england/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:New England Patriots;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">New England Patriots</a> at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

We have a tie. And it was great news for the Raiders considering how disappointing their free agent classes have been in recent years. Meyers was as advertised as a starting outside receiver. That includes his hands as a pass catcher and his blocking prowess. Meanwhile Spillane was a vicious tackler, racking up 148 tackles which was tenth in the league.

Comeback Player of the Year: CB Nate Hobbs

Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs (39) celebrates during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs (39) celebrates during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2021, Hobbs had a rough second season. First he was moved to the outside because he was the best cornerback the Raiders had. Then he got injured. This season the team wisely moved him back into the slot where he does his best work and he returned to form, putting up career highs in pass breakups (7) and tackles (86).

Breakout Player: DE Malcolm Koonce

November 5, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; New York Giants quarterback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/31838" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Daniel Jones;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Daniel Jones</a> (8) falls to the ground against Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce (51) during the second quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Koonce had the looks of someone who was barely hanging onto his roster spot as a rookie in 2021, not seeing a single snap until Week 12 and then only appearing in four games. In his second season, despite appearing in all 17 games, he only saw more than ten snaps on defense twice and 13 times saw fewer than five snaps. The result was him not recording a sack or QB hit all season. Even through the first eight games of this season, he still had not recorded a sack. Then over the final nine games of the season, he blew up to the tune of eight sacks, 14 QB hits and seven tackles for loss. Koonce has arrived.

Most Disappointing Addition: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Las Vegas Raiders speaks with Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the game against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/pittsburgh/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Pittsburgh Steelers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Pittsburgh Steelers</a> during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Garoppolo was the big news signing of the offseason for the Raiders. ‘Superman’ was swooping in to run Josh McDaniels’s offense and take the Raiders to new heights. It didn’t happen that way. In six starts, he threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (7). The offense was anemic and defenses didn’t respect the deep ball (because he doesn’t have one), so they just loaded up to stop the run. The offense didn’t break 20 points once with Garoppolo at quarterback.

Best Position Group: Edge rushers

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 12: Defensive ends <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/31938" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Maxx Crosby;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Maxx Crosby</a> #98 and Malcolm Koonce #51 of the Las Vegas Raiders celebrate Koonce’s strip sack against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/ny-jets/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:New York Jets;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">New York Jets</a> in the third quarter of their game at Allegiant Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

If I had told you at the beginning of the season that this would be the best position group, you all would have been amazing at how great Tyree Wilson was as a rookie. Maxx Crosby is going to be Maxx Crosby, but it was Malcolm Koonce to stepped up and created a force on the outside that had quarterbacks running for their lives.

A Raiders pass rush that often finishes near the bottom of the league, came in at 13th in the league with 46 sacks. And Wilson contributed 3.5 of those sacks which had 27 sacks come from the edge rushers, with several others caused by pressure from the outside.  

Best Game: Week 15 vs Chargers

Dec 14, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/40065" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Michael Mayer;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Michael Mayer</a> (87) celebrates after scoring a touchdown with running back <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/34078" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Zamir White;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Zamir White</a> (35) in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

A record breaking game against a division opponent. The Raiders put one on the Chargers, blowing them out 63-21, and it wasn’t even that close. The Chargers didn’t score their first point until the third quarter and it was 63-7 in the fourth quarter.

Eight different Raiders players scored touchdowns in the game… including two on defense! That’s two rushing touchdowns from Zamir White and Brandon Bolden, Aidan O’Connell throwing five touchdowns – one to Jakobi Meyers, Michael Mayer, and Davante Adams, and two to Tre Tucker – a fumble recovery for a touchdown by John Jenkins and a pick six by Jack Jones. Absolute massacre.

Worst Game: Week 7 vs Bears

Oct 22, 2023; <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/chicago/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chicago;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chicago</a>, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/40504" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Tyson Bagent;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Tyson Bagent</a> (17) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

This game was likely the one that got Josh McDaniels fired. The Raiders went into Chicago to face the Bears who were fielding undrafted Tyson Bagent in his first career start and they got destroyed. Jimmy Garoppolo was injured and McDaniels went with Brian Hoyer as the starter. He would throw as many interceptions (two) as the team converted on third down (two). The score was 30-6 with just over a minute left in the game. McDaniels got one more week and was fired.

Special Teams POY: P AJ Cole

Sep 11, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Las Vegas Raiders punter AJ Cole (6) punts the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Las Vegas Raiders punter AJ Cole (6) punts the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cole has been named to the AP All Pro First team for the second time in his career. And for good reason. The key statistic was leading the league in net punting average (45.1). But no other punter with at least 55 punts had a better overall average (50.3) either. He’s just a weapon. Continuing the Raiders’ tradition of elite punters.

Defensive MVP: DE Maxx Crosby

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19: Maxx Crosby #98 of the Las Vegas Raiders and teammates wait to enter the field prior to the preseason game against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/la-rams/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Los Angeles Rams;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Los Angeles Rams</a> at SoFi Stadium on August 19, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

As always, he was the Raiders leader on and off the field. He is the heart and soul of this team. He also just happens to be the best all-around edge rusher in the league. As evidenced by his 14.5 sacks, league-leading 23 tackles for loss, and EDGE leading 90 tackles. Oh, and he led the league in snaps among edge rushers while seeing 100% of the snaps ten times. The ultimate every-down player.

Offensive MVP: WR Davante Adams

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – DECEMBER 31: Davante Adams #17 of the Las Vegas Raiders reacts to a touchdown during the third quarter against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/indianapolis/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Indianapolis Colts;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Indianapolis Colts</a> at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Even in what was a down season for Adams, he still had over 100 catches (103), over 1100 yards receiving (1144), and tied for the team lead in touchdowns (8). And keep in mind, he did this with considerable turmoil on offense, especially at quarterback. Even while Davante is not seeing the ball, he is dragging defenders his way, opening up things for other receivers.

Story originally appeared on Raiders Wire