The Oakland Raiders have reached the halfway point of their 2019 season.
There has been good (the emergence of Josh Jacobs as a legitimate Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate), and some not so good (chunk plays, particularly on third down, have still been problematic), but following a dramatic 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions, the Silver and Black are sitting at .500 with a 4-4 record.
And while the difference between 3-5 and 4-4 is just a single tally in the win column, for a team that is trying to put the disappointment of a 4-12 campaign in 2018 firmly behind them, the difference is tangible.
“There’s a great belief, because when you think about this team, we only won four games last year,” said Lamarcus Joyner postgame. “And at the halfway mark [this year], we’re 4-4, and from here on – when you look at the games that we won, and the games that we lost, they were all close games, except for Green Bay. By winning, for the morale of the team, it just helps us build that confidence that we really can win any given Sunday.”
As Joyner said, excluding the Silver and Black’s trip to Wisconsin, the team has been in every game they’ve played, and although the Raiders are still second in the AFC West behind the Kansas City Chiefs, belief is strong within Head Coach Jon Gruden’s group.
“We feel like we can matchup, we can play with anybody, man,” DeAndré Washington said. “I think the games that we have lost, it’s just a play here or a play there. We feel like we can play with anybody. We’re coming down this back stretch, and we looking to take advantage of every game we can.”
Sunday’s win at the OACC was an important one for myriad reasons; not only did it return the Silver and Black’s record to .500 for the first time since Week 7, but it also set the tone for the team’s three-game homestand - a trio of games whose opponents are all collectively under .500.
“We’re not satisfied, Washington said. “We’re not satisfied at all. It’s been up and down, to say the least, but like I said, we have a great group of guys, and we’re looking forward to finishing this back half of the season. I think it’s set up nice for us to go on a nice, little run.”
And while Jon Gruden was visibly excited about his team’s big W, his remarks postgame were a little more toned down than No. 33’s.
“We’re building our team,” Gruden said. “I’m just going to continue to hit that chord. We want to win every week. We’d like to go to the Super Bowl and win it for our fans, and our players, and everybody included. We’re building a team, and I like some of the blocks we have in place. I’m going to leave it at that. We have a heck of a challenge on a short week.”
Next up for Gruden and his group is a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, and with Philip Rivers and the Bolts coming off an impressive win in their own right, the start to Week 10 will unquestionably be a tightly contested contest.
“You have to fight,” Joyner said. “When you’re winning, you have to take it one play at a time. When you’re losing, you have to take it one play at a time. You have to understand that nowadays, in today’s game, it’s going to be a fight for four quarters.”
And while the true story of the 2019 Oakland Raiders will unfold over the next eight weeks, sitting at .500 – and having already matched the team’s win total from a year ago – sitting at the halfway mark, there’s a feeling that this is the beginning, not the end for this year’s iteration of the men who call the OACC home.