Most fan bases in the NFL wouldn’t be happy with a .500 record after eight games but all Raiders fans should be.
In Jon Gruden’s short stint, the Raiders have seen a ton of changes. Last season, the organization traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. This year there was the drama surrounding Antonio Bryant that eventually led to his release. Then there was the NFL who put a wicked schedule together for the Raiders. A five week jaunt that saw the silver and black go to Minnesota to Indianapolis to London (for a home game no less) to Green Bay to Houston before returning back to Oakland.
When you take everything into consideration, a 4-4 record should have everyone darn right ecstatic. Heck, if it wasn’t for a heroic effort by Deshaun Watson, the Raiders are staring at a 5-3 record.
There’s also the rebirth of Derek Carr. It’s no secret that Carr was struggling coming into this season. There were whispers that this could be a do-or-die season for the veteran. Carr has responded with defiance towards his critics. He has thrown 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions. The 71.2% completion percentage could be attributed to a more controlled passing game that has the Raiders second in the league in sacks allowed (9). Sunday was the third game in a row that Carr had two more touchdowns couple with a 115+ passer rating.
In this year’s draft, Gruden and Mike Mayock decided to take Alabama running back, Josh Jacobs, in the first round. In an era where the running back’s value is the lowest in league history, the pick has paid of for the Raiders in the first half of the season. In three of the last four games, Jacobs has rushed for over 100 yards. The Raiders are 2-1 when he eclipses the century mark. So far this season, Jacob has 740 yards rushing.
Defensively, the Raiders are still a work in progress. They are 25th in sacks and 24th in passes defensed and interceptions. Gruden still hasn’t found a suitable replacement for Mack and the secondary has yet to come together.
The defense is the next problem that Gruden will need to address. This is something he should’ve expected when he made it a point to jettison most of the players drafted by Reggie McKenzie.
Up next, the Raiders have the Los Angeles Chargers on a short week. It is the second of three straight home games after a brutal five week stretch. Following Thursday night’s game, there are a manageable two games at home against Cincinnati and on the road at the New York Jets. Currently the Raiders sit second in the AFC West, a game and a half behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the meantime, whether Gruden admits it or not, he’s on his predetermined schedule of remaking this team in his image with the move to Las Vegas over the horizon.