Raiders

Raiders

The Raiders have been hard to watch this season. They have only one win -- an overtime squeaker over the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. That was a high-water mark, the lone highlight as we cross the season’s halfway point.

It has been all downhill from there. The Raiders have lost the four games since by at least 14 points, the longest streak in franchise history. Two more duds, and the Raiders will match an NFL record.

Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper jerseys have been rendered useless after coach Jon Gruden traded those players away for draft picks. Veterans are leaving this team en masse, with Bruce Irvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Derrick Johnson all departing the roster.

That roster still remains filled with veterans on short-term contracts who aren’t expected back. Precious few Raiders beyond most of the rookie class guaranteed to return next season.

Focus already is on the offseason, when the Raiders have three first-round draft picks and serious salary-cap space available.

That begs one important question: Why stay tuned to the season’s second half?

The Raiders stink, are being embarrassed regularly and have a brutal schedule ahead. Gruden’s staff still is trying to win individual Sundays, but victories ultimately would hurt their draft slot.

Gruden still has some goals in mind beyond the final results.

“I just want to see some improvement,” Gruden said. “I want guys to continue to work hard and develop. I’d like some guys to get healthy so we can be all we can be.”

 

Gruden has demanded more from his rookie class, which includes several players who are part of the team’s long-term plans.

It’ll also be important to watch Derek Carr navigate the season, especially when the offensive line gets healthy again. He has been solid executing Gruden’s system when protected. Carr still is playing a prove-it season, with the prospect that Gruden could use one of his high picks on a quarterback. The Raiders can move on without him for just a $7.5 million in dead money, a sum that decreases by one-third every season.

While fans might have to nitpick to find information in the season’s second half applicable to future seasons, players on the current roster still are pushing for victories each week despite such an awful start.

“Any team can go any way. Did we expect coming out of training camp that the start of the season would go like this? No,” defensive end Frostee Rucker said. “I do know guys work their tail off and are passionate about their job, we can string some wins together. That didn’t happen tonight.

"We aren’t packing it in. It’s not about next year or anything like that. We’re trying to win. We’re just not doing that right now.”

[RELATED: Raiders' pass rush feels loss of Irvin]

Coaches will continue to evaluate this roster for players who can contribute in future seasons. It’s highly unlikely that high-ranking members of Gruden’s staff are going anywhere, so they will push this group hard over the final eight games.

“There are a lot of tough decisions that we have had to make in the first couple of months on the job here. One of the decisions that we have made is we’re going to continue to coach hard,” Gruden said. “We’re going to be enthusiastic and upbeat. We’re going to develop these young guys.

"We’re going to call on our veteran leaders to lead. If there’s a better player out there, someone that we think can come in and help us this year and for the future, we’ll look hard at doing that. Making roster changes during the season are very difficult to do. We’re going to keep coaching hard and raise the standards on the practice field and hopefully get results on game day.”