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Middle LB Rolando McClain was flying around the field for the Silver and Black in Buffalo last Sunday. Oakland’s interior duo of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelley have three sacks combined already after two games. With three time all Pro C Nick Mangold likely out when the Jets travel out West for Sunday’s matchup with old AFL rivals the Raiders, backup C Colin Baxter will need help in keeping things status quo. That help must be provided in part by second year FB John Conner.
Conner has to do a solid job of picking up blitzes and cleaning up any mistakes the inexperienced Baxter may make in trying to assess stunts and other balls of confusion that the Raiders will undoubtedly throw his way. The Jets passing game will most likely be altered anyway, to include more quick releases in order to keep Mark Sanchez safe. In addition to Mangold’s probable absence, RT Wayne Hunter has struggled so far in 2011. Nonetheless, Conner has to be a brick wall when Sanchez drops back to throw. Especially if the amount of downfield attempts are decidedly lessened because of the major changes up front.
Conner might have an even greater positive effect for the Jets offense if he can begin to plow open some holes for the disappointing RB Shonn Greene (2.9 yards per carry). A return to a solid effective run game would do wonders in alleviating the stress caused by the high ankle sprain Mangold suffered last week at home against the Jags.
The shoes Connor has had to fill have been big ones. Former Jets FB, the longtime veteran Tony Richardson, was as dependable as they come. T-Rich is gone however. Therefore the unheralded and often thankless job of will now fall squarely on the shoulders of Connor. A player who the Jets must now lean on more heavily, if they hope to escape this tough three game road stretch with their AFC East title hopes still intact.