One of the best ways to protect a young quarterback from an attacking defense is to establish an effective run game. The Raiders have a quarterback making his first career NFL start Sunday so putting him in reasonable downs and distances will be a desired outcome. They want to keep Derek Carr out of third and longs when the Jets can draw up all kinds of exotic looks to force the youngster into a mistake.
When it comes to running the ball, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and old friend offensive line coach Tony Sparano built a game attempted to build around the idea of power up the middle last season. According to Football Outsiders, Oakland ran it up the middle on 67% of rushing plays. The league average was 54%. Only the Bills and the Steelers ran it up the gut at a higher clip.
In some of the upcoming games against spread offenses and high octane passing games, Damon Harrison will find himself spending ample time on the bench. Against a team presumably attempting to protect a rookie quarterback with a tendency to run it up the middle, Snacks might see one of his highest snap totals of the season in the opener.
The Raiders are primarily a man blocking team, which means what it sounds like. Oakland likes to block man to man. Each lineman is responsible for a defensive lineman, opposed to a zone where everybody blocks an area. This means Snacks is going to work a lot one on one against center Stefen Wisniewski.
One of the things to appreciate about Snacks is that he isn't the typical nose tackle in the run game. He doesn't just tie up blockers to leave his linebackers space to make plays.
He's capable of getting off blocks himself and making plays.
He was in the top ten in combined tackles (solo+assist) among defensive linemen last season and was in the top three among defensive tackles.
This is the kind of thing the Jets are going to need to lean on to protect the secondary. It is a lot easier to play cornerback on third and long than third and moderate. Third and longs take a lot of the playbook away from an offense. It is the opposite for an offense with a young quarterback.
Oakland actually did have a nice statistical day on the ground against the Jets last season, but that was due mainly to a 63 yard run where the Jets had issues at all three levels of the defense. To win Sunday the Jets will need to avoid mistakes like that one play, but they will also need Snacks to have a feast. This game gets a lot trickier for Oakland if they can't run it up the middle.