How Can The Jets Handle The Mighty Raiders?

I am starting to wonder if the 2-0 New York Jets should even bother making the trip out to Oakland this week. With the amount of people picking against them and all the talk of the suddenly “strong” Oakland roster, how can they even stay on the same field as them?

I must have missed the part where the Raiders are 1-1, thanks to squeaking out a 3 point win over the dreadful Denver Broncos in week one and then allowed a 38 spot to lose week 2 to the Buffalo Bills. Aren’t the Jets 2-0 and coming off a 32-3 win? Weren’t the Jets 11-5 last year and in the AFC Championship Game, while the Raiders were 8-8 thanks to 8 wins against the AFC and NFC West, the two worst divisions in football? The Jets aren’t Kansas City. The Jets aren’t Seattle.

Let’s stop the hype about the Raiders being a contender that is anywhere near the Jets level. Let’s stop the chatter about their defense, since they are fresh off allowing 38 points and Fred Jackson to rush for 115 yards on 17 carries. Nobody is worried about them being extra motivated by Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sideline the last time they played each other. Why shouldn’t have he ate a hot dog…did you see the effort Oakland put forth that day? If the Jets are beating them 38-0 again, I hope he eats another one.

Will the Jets miss Nick Mangold? Absolutely. It doesn’t mean that Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt can now cover Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burres. It also doesn’t mean that after the Jets stop the run, like they do every week that Jason Campbell will be able to throw on Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie with a pedestrian receiving core.

Every team is capable of laying an egg, including the Jets and that is what it would take for them to lose this game. Yet, with upcoming showdowns with Baltimore and New England, real AFC contenders like the Jets…I don’t see it happening.

Game Breakdown: Jets vs. Raiders

Offense: The Oakland Raiders are going to show plenty of man to man looks against the Jets defense and work to prevent them from running the football, which hasn’t been a difficult task so far against their offense. I don’t see any chance of Nick Mangold playing this week, so the Jets are going to need to protect rookie center Colin Baxter. The way to do this is to work the outside rushing attack and find ways to have the short passing game replace the running game. Instead of plunging Shonn Greene into the middle repeatedly for 1 and 2 yard gains, throw quick slants, hitches, and screens to Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. The Jets should also look to get their screen game going with LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight out of the backfield.

Their collection of tight ends should also come in valuable this week, as Dustin Keller and Jeff Cumberland are reliable weapons in the short to intermediate passing game. The Jets are going to want to avoid longer drops for Mark Sanchez with Baxter at center and Wayne Hunter struggling at right tackle. It is time to work the 3 step passing game and again let those short passes replace the running game.

We have seen limited trickery from the Jets so far on offense, with Antonio Cromartie running a reverse last week being the only sign of it. I am still waiting for them to unleash Jeremy Kerley or break out a toss pass from LaDainian Tomlinson who has history of creating big plays when given the chance to throw the ball.

Defense: Stop Darren McFadden. Oakland’s offense begins and ends with McFadden’s production. If the Jets can slow him down rushing the football and put this game in Jason Campbell’s hands, they will be in very good shape. The Jets secondary is more than equipped to slow down the Raiders receivers and tight ends. McFadden is a threat out of the backfield as a receiver and I am sure Oakland will find a way to use him in the screen game. The Jets must tackle well in space and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went with a three safety look on many downs, getting Brodney Pool on the field to replace Bryan Thomas.

If McFadden isn’t creating big plays, Oakland will struggle heavily to get receivers open down the field which will feed into a pass rush that has been better than expected this season. Calvin Pace had three sacks back in 2009 when the Jets came to Oakland and is off to a strong start this year. Let’s hope he can continue to lead the way along with Bart Scott who already has more sacks this year than he had all of last season.

Special Teams: Nick Folk hasn’t missed a field goal yet this season and TJ Conley has been surprisingly solid. I wonder if will begin to see teams start kicking away from Antonio Cromartie, although with Sebastian Janikowski at kicker, he might not get any chances this week.

The Importance Of Plaxico Getting Involved Early

Wide receiver is an isolated position on the football field. You spend the majority of the game on an island with another individual, separated from the cluster around the football. This location requires a receiver to be strong mentally and consistently focused. The film doesn’t lie, especially when you are a receiver. Every step you take can be easily analyzed and picked apart by your coaches. The mental strength is needed to stay sharp in the gaps of action when you aren’t involved in a major way during the play being run, which happens the majority of the time in a standard NFL offense.

There will be running plays where your block on the corner or safety is crucial. There will also be plenty where it isn’t. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hustle, it just means by the time you engage your block the play could already be over, especially if it is a 2-3 yard run. There is going to be pass plays where you are running a decoy route, or are the fourth or fifth option for a quarterback. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run your route hard, as any play can break down and lead to a scramble and a reception. What I am getting to is that over the course of a game, it requires mental discipline to stay entirely focused at the receiver position.

This process can be eased by an early reception to get into the flow of the game. The simple process of a short catch and being tackled, engages the receiver. Despite double teams or different types of coverage being shown by the defense, the Jets can find a way to get Plaxico Burress a catch in the first quarter. Throw him a quick hitch, a smoke screen, or a short slant. Let him get that 6 or 7 yard reception under his belt early. Burress can play the good soldier all he wants and it is a great thing that he is, but no receiver enjoys taking 40 straight snaps without receiving a look from the quarterback. It isn’t natural and he shouldn’t enjoy it. Burress is too talented of a playmaker for that scenario to ever occur any way.

Forcing Burress the ball is one thing and isn’t productive. Yet, subbing out a running play for a smoke screen to Burress on the first offensive drive is another. If you are looking for 5 yards on first down, aren’t you better off throwing it to Burress in space, letting him run 3 yards, get tackled, fall forward and finish with a 5 yard gain because of his massive height instead of handing it to Shonn Greene and his 2.9 yards per carry right up the middle behind a rookie center? It is also on Brian Schottenheimer to occasionally move Burrress out of the split end or “X” role and get him into the slot or send him in motion to free him up.

I would love to break down the film to prove this but I bet a receiver who catches a pass on the first drive is more effective as a run blocker and route runner the next 20 snaps, than a receiver who doesn’t. It is human nature. Frustration builds from not being involved and then it leads to pressing to get somebody involved late in a game, which almost got Mark Sanchez hurt last week.

It is isn’t a hard process. You have a 6 foot 5 wide receiver who is a proven playmaker. Find a simple, short route to throw him on the first drive to get him into the flow of the game and your offense.

TOJ Roundtable Week 3: Jets/Raiders Key Match-Up

What is the most crucial match-up in the Jets/Raiders game?

Joe Caporoso: I will go with the Jets defensive front seven versus Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. If the Jets can slow down Oakland’s running game, Jason Campbell doesn’t have the ability to beat them through the air, especially with their blitz in his face. Bart Scott is off to a terrific start and Muhammad Wilkerson had a big game last week, let’s hope them and the rest of the front seven can bring it again on Sunday.

Rob Celletti: Originally, I was going to say that the Jets’ offensive line versus the Raiders defensive line was the key matchup, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is Mark Sanchez versus Oakland’s secondary.  Of course, Sanchez’s success will be predicated on good pass protection, but this is a game where the Jets should be able to make a lot of things happen through the air.  It was interesting to watch Sanchez on Sunday; a lot of people are focusing on the interceptions, but he also completed 17 of 24 passes.  After harping on the guy’s completion percentage all off-season, it seems as though the third-year quarterback has begun to make some strides in terms of his accuracy and decision-making, interceptions notwithstanding.  What you’d like to see more of in this game is the pass offense picking up big chunks of yardage with completions down the field to wide receivers.  It is on Sanchez to make that happen against a suspect Oakland secondary.

TJ Rosenthal: The Jets C Colin Baxter, FB John Conner vs Raiders DT’s Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelley and MLB Rolando McClain:

Provided that Nick Mangold is out, backup center Colin Baxter will have his hands full with a sixty minute task ahead of him. Add to it, the pressure of having to keep the status quo for the injured three time All Pro center in Nick Mangold. A player who has raised the bar sky high for Jets linemen. FB John Conner will have to provide consistent protection in the passing game and start to finally plow holes for the struggling Shonn Greene in order to ease the heat off of Baxter, QB Mark Sanchez, and the entire passing game. Raiders MLB Rolando McLain was all over the field last week against Buffalo. He will often match up against emerging TE Dustin Keller on pass routes. A one on one battle that the Jets must win a few times downfield on Sunday. Seymour and Kelley have already combined for three sacks on the year. The duo could feast on any confusion Baxter and Connor undergo regarding assignments.

Chris Celletti: The most crucial matchup will be the Jets patchwork offensive line against the defensive front of the Raiders, especially in the running game. The Jets have yet to run the ball effectively, and the Raiders did not do a good job defensively against the Buffalo Bills last week. The Jets need to start getting some consistency out of their running game to open things up in the passing game and keep some sort of offensive rhythm. If the Jets can break off some big runs and have a high yards-per-carry, it will go a long way towards them going to 3-0.

Justin Fritze: There are a few things to watch for in the wasteland that is Oakland. The first being Denarius Moore, although I have a strong belief that both Cromartie and Revis will be switching up between him and the guy with three names. McFadden had fun running on the Bills, as did the jets with their 3rd string running back last year. If the Raiders think they are going to get into a ground war, this will get lopsided like it did last time. I think the raiders will get into play action, a few deep shots over the middle and ultimately dink and dunk their way to 17. Jets win by 4. And the Bills beat the Patriots by a field goal as riots begin in the Great North country.

Preliminary Thoughts: Jets vs. Raiders

The New York Jets have their first road game of the 2011 season this Sunday when they face the 1-1 Oakland Raiders. In their last trip out to Oakland in 2009, the Jets rolled to a 38-0 win, however that had a large part to do with JaMarcus Russell being under center. Oakland has since improved but is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills, where they allowed a massive second half comeback led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson.

On offense, Oakland begins and ends with Darren McFadden. Jason Campbell is a decent quarterback and rookie wide receiver Denarius Moore had an incredible game last week. Yet, a Campbell/Moore combination doesn’t do much in the face of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Rex Ryan blitzes. The Raiders best chance lies in a huge day from McFadden both running and catching the ball out of the backfield. On defense, the Jets may want to consider having a safety like Brodney Pool shadow McFadden out of the backfield, so he can avoid being matched up on a linebacker.

The Raiders are solid on defense but are clearly missing Nnamdi Asomugha, as they were carved apart by Fitzpatrick last week and couldn’t cover Stevie Johnson or David Nelson. Fred Jackson was also able to pile up well over 100 yards on their rush defense, which looked terrific the week before against Denver. But then again, doesn’t everybody look great stopping the run versus Denver? Mark Sanchez should be able to move the football, even with the absence of All-Pro center Nick Mangold.

In order to protect rookie Colin Baxter, who will be starting in Mangold’s place. The Jets must implement a high amount of quick passes to the outside. Get the ball in the hands of Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress in space, as both should have mismatches this week. Dustin Keller should also be a major factor in the short/intermediate passing game. The Jets can also help Baxter by shifting their rushing attack to the outside, which could lead to an increased use of 2nd year back Joe McKnight and hopeful Brad Smith clone, Jeremy Kerley.

Week 3 Must Win? Yes, For Jets

The term “must win” is thrown around far too often in the NFL, yet I am going to take the same liberty many others take with it and proclaim the Jets “must” win their upcoming week 3 road game against the Oakland Raiders.

We aren’t blind, the following two games are on the road against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. Nobody is more confident in this team than myself but coming off a long trip to Oakland, I think any realistic person would sign up for a split of those games. A win in Oakland would allow the Jets to come out of their most difficult three game stretch with a 4-1 record facing two home games, a bye week, and a very manageable final nine games that includes games against the Chiefs, Broncos, Giants, Dolphins, and two games against the Bills. (Yes, I am aware Buffalo is better this year but the Jets will appropriately be favorites in both of their match-ups).

Oakland is an improved football team but let’s not go crazy. They are a substantial cut below the Ravens and Patriots. They beat the Broncos in a tight game to start the season and then blew a large second half lead against Buffalo. Darren McFadden is a beast but the Jets know a thing or two about stopping the run and Jason Campbell doesn’t have the weapons in the passing game to handle Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Oakland’s defense is tough on the run but highly susceptible to the pass, as they were shredded apart by Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. If you can’t cover Stevie Johnson and David Nelson, you can’t cover Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, never mind Plaxico Burress.

If the Jets consider themselves an elite team in this league they will handle business this week. If you want to win the AFC East there is no room for losses at Oakland. It is going to take 12 or maybe even 13 wins to take the AFC East this year, which makes the margin for error razor thin. It is time for this team to win their division, get a bye and a host a playoff game. You want that to become a reality? Don’t lay an egg to the Raiders this week.