Breaking Down the Jets vs the Raiders
After a relative laugher against the overmatched Jaguars the Jets head out west to the Black Hole where they match up against the improving Raiders in Oakland’s home opener.
Jets Offense vs Raiders Defense
The start of the season has been atrocious for the Raiders defensively, specifically their inability to protect an 18 point lead last week in Buffalo. The secondary has been damaged by the loss of CB Nnamdi Asomugha. They have given up 304 and 264 yards respectively and 3 receivers to go over 80 yards. CB Chris Johnson has had a nightmare start and was constantly picked on by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the loss to the Bills. CB Stanford Routt is the most overpaid corner in the NFL and will never win a matchup unless he can physically outmuscle his assignment at the line. S Michael Huff has always been more of an athlete than a player and has been unable to provide much support over the top. Much like the Jets there are coverage issues among the linebackers which can often leave big gaps between a defender and a running back or a tight end. They do not have 1 LB that would be considered above average in coverage. What the Raiders can do well is rush the passer. DT Richard Seymour is still an excellent player and had two sacks in the first game of the year. He can play both inside and outside to create matchup problems. LB Kamerion Wimbley is a proven force from the outside and has great speed around the edge. DT Tommy Kelley is a load in the middle and has good burst to the QB and into the backfield. DE’s Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy are both somewhat underrated and have good size. There are questions about the teams run defense. They were gashed by the Bills last week, but did a good job against the Broncos, but the Broncos are considered one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL. They struggle when they overpursue up front leaving their secondary and linebackers to have to change direction and attack the runner.
The Jets offense is still a work in progress that may have been dealt a major blow when they lost C Nick Mangold to a high ankle sprain in the Jaguars game. Replacement C Colin Baxter had a hard time and looked unprepared for the prime time spotlight, snapping the ball both too early and too late at times during the game. From 2008 thru part of 2010 the Jets success was built strictly on the teams offensive line and in particular their ability to run block. The grouping of Mangold, Alan Faneca, Brandon Moore, and Damien Woody was excellent. Last year Faneca was replaced by Matt Slauson which saw the run game suffer a bit and then Woody was injured and replaced by Wayne Hunter which saw the run game stagnate. Moore will be the only one of the original 4 to line up on Sunday and it shows just how fast things change in the NFL. Once the unquestioned strength of the team it has now become somewhat of a weakness that needs to be upgraded next year. Because of the issues on the offensive line it is hard to really evaluate the play of RB Shonn Greene. Greene has yet to live up to the flashes of potential shown in the 2009 postseason and is not a player that can create on his own but he is not even getting a chance to find a hole to run through. He is still the best option as the older legs of RB LaDainian Tomlinson show in the running game where a Tomlinson stuff is usually a two yard gain for Greene. Tomlinson has been very good as a 3rd down receiver and should continue to play that role.
QB Mark Sanchez continues to be erratic and a somewhat polarizing figure among Jets fans. The poor decisions he made last week would have probably cost the Jets the game against a good opponent and just remind people of how rookie like he can be at times. But Sanchez also makes some terrific throws and has the playoff wins to fall back on to show that the high level pedigree exists. WR Plaxico Burress was held without a reception last week and the Jets have made it a point to say how the Jaguars rolled all the coverage towards him last week. Whether that is true or not one can only tell from watching the coaches film, but at his age it is probably realistic for Burress to be very up and down over the course of the season. WR Santonio Holmes is off to a good start while TE Dustin Keller is looking like an elite level player at his position.
Much like last week this seems to be a game that the Jets should try to win through the air and then close it out with the run. Oakland’s secondary is so bad and the tackling so awful that the Jets have to find a way to get the ball into the hands of the receivers. The Jets should go back and look at the gameplan they used against Pittsburgh last December to neutralize the blitz by going to 3 step drop timing patterns early in the game. The Jets can burn the Raiders by passing short and not allowing the pass rush to get to Sanchez. With the way the offensive line is currently playing the Raiders will pressure Sanchez if he holds the ball too long. The inside pressure Oakland can bring is going to mean no help for Hunter leaving a number of chances for Wimbley or Houston to pressure the QB. Keller has to be a primary focus along with Holmes and Tomlinson. The Jets should be able to sneak their other tight ends, Jeff Cumberland and Matthew Mulligan, into the pass attack as well. Burress will get his receptions this week but the Jets can not overdo it early. Sanchez already as a bad habit of locking in on guys and the Raiders do have athletes to make plays on the football if they know exactly where its going. If Sanchez struggles against Oakland it could be a very long Sunday for the Jets.
Jets Defense vs Oakland Offense
One of the many QB surprised this season has been the play of Raider starter Jason Campbell. Campbell has always been an efficient player that seemed to struggle with injuries and could never play well enough to make up for the fact that he never really showed an ability to be the difference maker in NFL games. This year he has played much better, finding his targets and showing off more of an arm than he has in the past. He has been more comfortable in the pocket and the Raiders offensive line has done a good job keeping him upright. Even in a loss to Buffalo, Campbell came across looking like a real good starter. Oakland’s line has really improved with the acquisition of C Samson Satele two years ago. He is a hard worker and that seems to rub off on the team. There are questions at both tackle positions where the play can be very inconsistent, but thus far they have both done their job. The most explosive player on the Oakland offense is RB Darren McFadden who is a threat everytime he touches the football. The light went on for McFadden last season and he has been great this year. He will take the ball whenever asked and do whatever he can with it. In his last 17 games he had 7 games with 100 yards or more on the ground and 12 games with a combined 100 or more yards through the run and pass. The Raider WR’s are among the worst in the NFL. WR Darius Heyward-Bey will always be one of the stranger draft picks even by Raider standards. He was a big reach at the time and has done nothing to change that perception in his two years in the NFL. This is a make or break season for him but he will likely miss his second game in a row with injury. Rookie Denarius Moore came out of nowhere to burn the Bills for 146 yards last week, but will have to prove to be more than a one week wonder before anyone takes him serious. TE Kevin Boss will make his first appearance of the year and could be a factor for his new team. The rest of the receivers are players just hoping to find a team that will put them on roster.
One week after getting beaten up by the Dallas Cowboys the Jets defense came back and looked like a world beater. Granted it was against Luke McCown and the Jaguars, but the Jets played a near flawless game. CB Antonio Cromartie came away with two interceptions while LB Calvin Pace had a monstrous game constantly pressuring the QB and being disruptive at the line of scrimmage. Both are two of the more dynamic players the defense has but can also be two of the most inconsistent players, Pace in particular. If the defense gets this effort from these two players for the next 14 games the defense will be back to its 2009 level, where it was far and away the best defense in the NFL. Some of the younger players also contributed to the victory with DE Muhammad Wilkerson recording his first sack as a pro and CB Kyle Wilson making a few positive plays. Both players are rotational guys at this point but will earn more playing time if they continue to be a positive, in particular Wilkerson who has a spot waiting for him.
When the Jets played the Raiders in 2009 it was a complete laugher, much like last weeks game against Jacksonville. This Raider team, however, is much improved. That game was one of the final games that QB Jamarcus Russell, arguably the worst draft pick of all time, played in and Campbell is certainly a far superior QB. McFadden is far better than anyone on that Raider team. If the Jets are travelling to Oakland thinking that this will be the same team they will allow the Raiders to jump out to a very fast lead. There are many similarities between the strengths of the Raiders and the Jaguars and what they may try to do. The big difference of course is the QB position and why one team had no chance while the Raiders certainly can convert on defensive mistakes. Campbell has always been a big user of the Tight End and Boss has the capability to get open down the field. McFadden is going to attack the edges and try to get the Jets Linebackers solo in coverage. Though the Jets corners will not need help in coverage it could be very difficult to cover Boss and McFadden with the LB’s and safeties. All it takes is 2 or 3 blown plays to completely change a game. The Jets may experiment with a number of different coverage options on those two players to try to confuse the Raiders and not allow them to find a matchup that they keep going back to over and over.
Oakland pays a lot of money for the kicker and punter, but both are among the best in the NFL. P Shane Lechler has a big leg and is difficult to return on, though the Raiders did give up a huge punt return against the Broncos. K Sebastian Janikowski has a huge leg and can hit field goals from outside of 60 yards. He is not the most reliable kicker in the NFL, but with the new kickoff rules the Jets will likely not even return a kick on Sunday. The Raiders return game is a non-factor.
K Nick Folk has had a great start to the season and has definitely quieted the critics and doubters. His kickoff distance is still somewhat troubling, but the Jets coverage units have played well making that less of an issue. P TJ Conley has yet to really show anything special punting the football. His average is close to the bottom of the league, though he does get enough air under the ball to force a large number of fair catches. If he has a slip up at any point his job will be on thin ice. I would not expect the Jets return game to do much, but if Antonio Cromartie is able to get his hands on something he will likely return it. If the Raiders are caught off guard by that it could be a big play.
Hue Jackson is the latest in a long line of Raiders head coaches. Much like Rex Ryan, Jackson is very outspoken and demonstrative. He makes proclamations and wants his team to play with an edge. Its that attitude that likely helped him get the job with the Raiders. Jackson is an offensive mind that helped transform the Raiders offense from a laughingstock into one of the higher scoring offenses in the NFL in 2010. He is already facing his first mini-crisis as he takes over one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL. The collapse last week in Buffalo has left players pointing fingers and questioning the commitment of their teammates. Jackson has to keep his unit from falling apart and to make sure they get off to a good start this week. You can bet that he is using the tapes of the 2009 game, in particular the Mark Sanchez hot dog incident as fuel the way Ryan used the tape of the game against the Jaguars as a way to amp his team up for the game.
Ryan’s big job this week is to prepare the team for a cross country trip and keep the team focused on this game rather than looking ahead to a rematch against Baltimore next week and the Patriots the following week. Because of the Raiders reputation they are an easy team to overlook even though they are a much better team than the old reputation. These west coast trips are never easy, but Ryan has a good track record with 3-0 record over the last two seasons. Ryan was unfairly criticized for leaving Sanchez in the game last week, but should be criticized for trying to force the ball to Plaxico. While it is understandable that he wants all his players to feel involved it is that attitude that rubs off on a young QB and makes him focus too much on certain targets rather than just taking what is there.
One of the difficult aspects of this game will be the fact that this is the Raiders home opener. The Raiders fanbase is one that is very vocal when things are going well and at 1-1 you have to expect a raucous crowd for the game. It is very different than the experience of playing the Raiders in the middle of the year when they are usually out of the race and the fans stop supporting the team. Opening weeks for home teams usually lead to a quick explosion on offense and the Jets have to be prepared for that extra push from Oakland.
For Oakland and their head coach this is a measuring stick game. They know the Jets have a big reputation on defense and overall are considered one of the three best teams in the AFC. You put your name on the map by upsetting the Jets. Jackson also knows the pleasure his boss gets from seeing the Jets lose to the Raiders. Though the Jets are not a divisional opponent like the Broncos the owner dislikes the Jets nearly as much as his divisional rivals. You can guarantee that the Jets will get a far harder hitting opponent than they got last week or the last time they were in Oakland.
This is a very easy game for the Jets to overlook, but with the schedule so difficult after this game it is one the Jets need to win. Going into the Baltimore and New England stretch at 3-0 leaves much more margin for error than at 2-1. With the Patriots clicking on all cylinders and Ryan admitting that they cant beat the Patriots out for the division unless they get some help, they Jets can not afford to give a game away to a team they are favored to beat.
This is a big game for the offense and Sanchez. The players are all well aware of the talk about the offense not being ready for prime time and with the Raiders defensive struggles it is a perfect opponent to quiet the critics. A quick score or two will not only quiet the crowd but it will increase the dissension within the Raider defense. If they force the issue and Sanchez forces the football to specific targets and implodes it is going to be a very difficult week for the young QB. You get the feeling that the first major slip up is going to lead to a barrage of negative talk on the radio and in the papers.
As long as the Jets do not allow McFadden to dominate the football game they should win. He is the only player on the Raiders that can change the outcome of the game. If they contain McFadden the only way the Jets should lose is if they beat themselves with turnovers and just hand the game to Oakland. There just are not enough weapons on either side of the ball for Oakland to win a relatively mistake free game played by the Jets.
Jets 27 Raiders 13