Game Balls: New York Jets – 19, Oakland Raiders – 14

Dan Marcus hands out Game Balls for the New York Jets week 1 victory over the Oakland Raiders

That’s right, it is a “Victory Monday” and your favorite post series you didn’t remember but won’t forget is back.

This game should have realistically been over in the first half but as the New York Jets often do, they made easy things look exceptionally difficult to the tune of 11 Penalties and some bone-headed mistakes. Nevertheless there was enough good that came out of yesterday to see that this team does have promise if they can clean it up. That said, the Raiders are pretty terrible so beware of “Fool’s Gold.” We’ll take the win and move on. Without further ado here are your “often imitated but never duplicated” Week 1 Game Balls…

Game Balls

Sons of Anarchy

I have a feeling this is going to be a season-long thing so I might as well just lead off with them. This unit picked up right where it left off last season and made life difficult for Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense. Although the whole unit is deserving of a Game Ball, the two that (unsurprisingly) stood out above the rest were Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, who really turned up the heat on Carr in the second half with Richardson delivering consistent pressure and Wilkerson doing his best Dikembe Mutombo impersonation. This is by far the deepest and most talented unit on this team and will be leaned on heavily as the secondary inevitably gets exposed against better teams but it is Monday and we’re thinking happy thoughts so we’ll just paint up the Game Ball and move on.

Jason Babin

Perhaps he’s showing up too high on this list but to see a guy who can come off the edge and get after the quarterback like that just does something for me that is Game Ball-worthy. At this stage of his career, Designated Third Down Pass-Rusher is a perfect role for the veteran. Babin’s ability to rush the passer from the edge will become increasingly more valuable as the season progresses and some of the league’s best passing attacks come to town. As for yesterday, in limited action Babin was able to do what he does best and got to the quarterback for his first sack and Game Ball of the season.

Antonio Allen

The lnebacker-turned safety-turned cornerback in his first start at the position played pretty well despite the fact he wasn’t really tested by the mediocre Raiders’ offense. It is great to see that the seemingly lost art of tackling isn’t lost on Allen, who made a number of impressive open-field stops. You can tell that Rex wasn’t going to throw him to the wolves right off the bat as he played a good amount of off-coverage with some safety help but considering this is his third position in four years, it makes sense to ease him in. Allen racked up five tackles and a pass defensed

Offensive Line

Although it was over-shadowed during the run up to the season, there were a few “ifs” surrounding this unit, specifically at LG and RT. Perhaps the most under-the-radar but crucial position battle in camp was at the guard spots where incumbent, Brian Winters beat out Oday Aboushi. Despite the small sample size, it looks like Winters is taking the next step in his development and in doing so, solidifying the left side of what is arguably the most important unit on the field. As for Breno Giacomini, the jury is probably still out but I don’t expect to see much of a drop-off (if at all) from Austin Howard.

In terms of yesterday’s game, the numbers bare it out, with 212 yards on the ground and a couple of big “chunk” plays culminating with Chris Ivory’s 71-yard rumble. Personally, I would like to see Marty Mornhinweg employ more conventional run sets under center instead of “options” and inside hand-offs out of the gun but I digress. Hopefully the line continues to gel and Willie Colon can figure out a way not to lead the team in penalties but one step at a time here.

Calvin Pryor

If he had hauled in that “would be” pick-six, the “Louisville Slugger’s” regular season debut would have been deserving of top billing but the Rookie played well enough to make his way on to this list. Known for his penchant for laying the proverbial wood, Pryor is highlight reel waiting to happen and will be entrusted with securing the back-end of this defense but you can be sure Rex will give him so latitude to freelance like the way the Steelers use (or used) Troy Polamalu. The owner of the best nickname on this team right next to “Boss Hogg” Richardson and “Snacks” now has a Game Ball to go with it.

*Stone Cold Steve Austin Award: Quinton Coples

Although he still only shows up in flashes, he gets this honor for the wrestling move he put on Maurice Jones-Drew that led him to bicycle kick that fumble.

Take A Lap

Greg Salas

I think Rex must have jinxed Salas with his effusive praise, as every time his name has brought up since cut-down day Ryan has justified his presence on the roster by saying “All he does is get open and catch the ball.” Well he did the first part fantastically but butchered the catching part as he dropped a sure-fire TD on a well-thrown ball from Geno Smith. If Salas hauls that ball in, the whole complexion of the game is different and I could have probably left at the end of the third quarter. I don’t know if Stephen Hill would’ve come down with that ball but those are catches you have to make if you want to sniff the field so for that TAKE A LAP!

Geno Smith

If you didn’t watch this game and just looked at the stat line you might be scratching your head as to how he can end up doing some extra running with an 82% completion percentage. Geno looked good for the most part but his bone-headed mistakes made this game way closer than it should have been. He telegraphed his interception to Charles Woodson, which turned into six points for Oakland, fumbled the ball away in the Red Zone, and took a bad sack that took the Jets out of field goal range. You can’t do that against good teams and expect to win, especially when points are at a premium. Clean it up Geno because it’s not just Matt Simms behind you these days.

Willie Colon

I have a personal issue with Willie Colon because even though he may be a competent enough player, the penalty issues are enough to make you pull your hair out. He’s usually good for a penalty a game and yesterday he was the team’s most penalized player with three flags thrown in his direction. Here’s to hoping he can figure it out…but probably not.