Since Jack Del Rio became head coach of the Oakland Raiders, his goal each season has been to win the AFC West, and while the Silver and Black weren't able to accomplish that goal In 2015, they are just a win away from being able to do just that this season.
"From day one, when we first met, I don't remember exactly what date it was, the first day we met, he [Head Coach Del Rio] got up there, and he said the mission was to win the division," said tackle Donald Penn. "We're going in this weekend with a chance to do that, so our plan is going. We hit a couple bumps, but it's going."
Obviously that plan changed course last weekend after Derek Carr broke his fibula in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win, but with a dominant offensive line, a strong run game, and a defense that has improved dramatically over the course of the season, the hope is that Matt McGloin is entering an advantageous situation when he makes his first start of the season Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Defensive tackle Stacy McGee – who returned to practice Wednesday – hasn't suited up since Week 12, but while he was sidelined recovering from injury, he had a unique view of the Raiders defense, and what they've done to improve over the course of the season.
"I feel like overall, everybody is just figuring out their identity, and going out there and making plays," McGee explained. "Just believing in each other and getting it done."
"You just know that if you do things right, you practice a certain way and you have a certain amount of players and the guys come in with the right work ethic, you know what the result's going to be, because you've done it many times," added defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. "There's a certain formula, there's a certain process that you must stick to through adversity times, through the good times. You have to stick to the process and you'll get your result."
That result Sunday afternoon will hopefully be an AFC West title, which would be quite the feather in the hat for a group that just two seasons ago started the season 0-10.
McGee is now in his fourth season as a Raider, but even through the seasons where the team had a hard time stacking wins, the athletic interior lineman was always confident in the group that the Silver and Black had assembled.
"Nobody wants to lose," McGee said. "You come into every team, and every year, you're expecting to win as many games as possible. Hopefully we'll be 13-3, and that'll be real great, but like I said, I've always expected the best out of every year we've been here. I'm just glad we're finally getting it together."
So after all those lean years, how rewarding would it be to claim the AFC West title, on the road, against a division rival?
"It would be great," McGee said. "It would be exciting. We just have to take it a game at a time, just keep grinding, keep working to stack up the wins."
Quarterback – Derek Carr – Ankle – Did not participate
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper – Shoulder – Limited
Wide receiver – Michael Crabtree – Ankle – Limited
Wide receiver – Andre Holmes – Shoulder – Limited
Safety – Karl Joseph – Toe – Limited
Defensive tackle – Stacy McGee – Groin – Limited
Guard/tackle – Kelechi Osemele – Ankle – Did not participate
Running back Jalen Richard – Shoulder – Limited
Linebacker – Perry Riley Jr. – Hamstring – Limited
Linebacker – Malcolm Smith – Hamstring – Limited
-After doing some side work with the Raiders training staff Wednesday afternoon, rookie safety Karl Joseph returned to practice in a limited capacity Thursday. Joseph hasn't appeared in a game since Week 13, and his availability for Sunday's regular season finale is still up in the air.
-While Joseph was able to get back on the field, the same could not be said for Kelechi Osemele, who remained sidelined for the second day in a row dealing with an ankle injury.
-Prior to Thursday's practice, it was announced that Donald Penn was the 2016 recipient of The Oakland Raiders Craig Long Award, which is given to the player who best exemplifies professionalism and collaboration with the media.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave shared his analysis of quarterback Matt McGloin:
"Similar attributes; fiery, passionate, competitive, can really throw. Sees things before they happen. Great instincts – he's played a lot of football. He belongs here. We're glad he's part of our team for sure."
Tweets Of The Day: