ALAMEDA, Calif. — Led by quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack, the Raiders saw seven players earn Pro Bowl selections when the teams were announced Tuesday evening.
The Raiders also had a trio of offensive linemen — left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson — along wide receiver Amari Cooper and free safety Reggie Nelson earn a trip to the Jan. 29 game in Orlando, Fla. All of them, of course, would prefer to avoid playing by advancing to the Super Bowl.
The seven selections are the Raiders’ most since 1991. They had five players play in the game last year, although three were replacements for either injured players or players who reached the Super Bowl.
All three offensive linemen were named starters, along with Cooper and Mack. Carr and Nelson are both backups.
Mack and Nelson were both elected for the second straight year. Carr and Cooper were both alternate selections last year before earning their way on the initial ballot this season.
This year’s Pro Bowl will be played in Orlando, moving away from the customary trip to Hawaii, where it’s been played nearly every year since 1979. (In 2009 and 2014, it was played at the same site as the Super Bowl). It’s also returned to the traditional AFC-NFC format after a three-year experiment of eliminate the conference affiliations and setting up a fantasy style draft.
Penn is in the Pro Bowl for the first time since making it with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. It’s the first career selections for Osemele and Hudson.
Mack is fifth in the NFL with 11 sacks and recently had a streak of eight straight games with at least one sack. He’s tied for second in the league with five forced fumbles, his 65 tackles are fourth among defensive linemen.
Carr, who has fallen a bit in the MVP race, still is having a terrific season and returns to the Pro Bowl roster on his own terms after making it as an injury replacement last year. He’s ninth in the league with 3,705 yards and well on target for his first 4,000-yard passing season. He has 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions, owns a 95.2 passer rating and has been sacked only 15 times.
That sack total is a large reason the Raiders offensive line is so well-represented with three selections. The 15 sacks are the fewest in the NFL and the Raiders have improved significantly on the ground, where they own the sixth-ranked rushing attack in the league at 118.2 yards per game.
Cooper has slid a little in the second half, going the past six games without reaching 60 yards receiving. But he has posted his second straight 1,000-yard season and is third in the AFC with 1,038 yards.
Nelson, who made it last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, is tied for fourth in the AFC with four interceptions, which also leads the conference among free safeties.
Seven other players were named as Pro Bowl alternates: wide receiver Michael Crabtree, right guard Gabe Jackson, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, punter Marquette King, running back Latavius Murray, fullback Jamize Olawale and return specialist Jalen Richard.
©2016 East Bay Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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