My, how the mighty have fallen. One week ago when I previewed a game in Orchard Park, the Jets were playing for sole possession of first place in the AFC East. One loss later, they’re 14 point underdogs, the largest spread of the season thus far.
Raiders Offseason Changes and Roster Notes
The Raiders return mostly the same team that won twelve games a season ago. As a mostly young roster, they should be in great position to maintain a similar level of success and maybe even continue progressing. Their major offseason addition was the signing of Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. He offsets the loss of Latavius Murray, who rushed for over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons in Oakland. The Raiders will also start former Giant Marshall Newhouse at right tackle, replacing former Jet Austin Howard. Many in Oakland believe that right side of the offensive line is the weak spot on offense.
The Raiders spent their first and second round selections on cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu, but both missed out on Week 1. Melifonwu remains on IR, but Conley will make his debut this week. Raiders starting cornerback Sean Smith is listed as questionable, so Conley could be thrown right into the fire with a grueling and unforgiving challenge against a high flying offense led by Josh McCown, Matt Forte, and Jeremy Kerley.
For the Jets, tight ends Jordan Leggett and Eric Tomlinson will both miss the game. That means the only tight ends available will be Will Tye and practice squad call-up Neal Sterling. Rontez Miles, Bruce Carter, Jonotthan Harrison, and Edmond Robinson are all listed as out, but the starting lineup remains mostly healthy.
26 - Amount of sacks for Khalil Mack since 2015, most in the league. Every team the Raiders play will think the same thing, but containing him will be a must if the Jets hope to do anything on offense.
Mack is the kind of player who simply dominates his 1-on-1 matchups with ease, and he does it on an otherwise lackluster defense. His importance to that unit is probably as high as any defensive player in the league.
Here’s a look at just how vital Mack is to the unit when compared to some of the league’s other most dangerous pass rushers. Even next to them, his value stands out.
0 - Amount of games Derek Carr has thrown more than one interception, since Week 16 of 2015. He’s developed into a very, very good quarterback. The Raiders didn’t throw that money at him for the exercise.
Jets Offensive Plan
As mentioned earlier, you can’t gameplan for the Raiders defense without thinking about Khalil Mack. He can line up at either side of the formation and is a huge center of attention.
OAK rookie Eddie Vanderdoes destroys RT Jack Conklin.— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 11, 2017
Titans send three blockers Khalil Mack's way
Nice play by Karl Joseph pic.twitter.com/gRJzwwK6ia
The Jets tackles will have their handful. I highlighted that right tackle Brandon Shell has had a solid start in pass protection, but Mack is another animal. He doesn’t just have elite speed - he’s smart, physically dominant and has every move in the book up his sleeve. For both Shell and Kelvin Beachum, who has had a rough start, this is going to be a mismatch. The Jets might have to send a lot of help their way to keep him contained, and this could be another super conservative showing of the West Coast offense. Maybe it will work better on the west coast.
The main hole on the Raiders defense is inside linebacker, where starters Marquel Lee and Cory James are known to struggle in coverage. The Jets could look to exploit that matchup with their tight ends, but they are down to Will Tye and Neal Sterling, and as mentioned earlier might need a lot of extra help in pass protection.
The run game might be the Jets’ best bet of moving the ball. Oakland gave up the 7th highest rushing Y/A last season and was fourth worst in Week 1 this season. It’ll be on the interior offensive line, Matt Forte, and Bilal Powell to have a much improved performance to give the Jets a shot in this one. A respectable run game would open up more room for Robby Anderson deep against a defense that allowed the most passing plays of 25 yards or more in the league last season.
Jets Defensive Gameplan
This is a dangerous offense loaded with weapons; Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook. If the Jets are going to slow the Raiders down, they’re going to have to create pressure without being overly aggressive. Kony Ealy and Josh Martin were both solid against Buffalo, and whether or not they keep that up will be a major key. Muhammad Wilkerson absolutely needs to be better as well. Plain and simple, it’s hard to imagine the Jets coming remotely close in this game without producing major pressure, and they need to do it without leaving guys like Darron Lee and Demario Davis on an island against tight ends.
Offense: Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell
Khalil Mack is the most dominant edge defender in the NFL. Can these two handle him without help? The Raiders don’t have the scariest defense outside of Mack, and could potentially be exploited by tight ends in coverage. It’ll be key for the Jets to have as many weapons to use as possible, so the better Beachum and Shell hold up one-on-one, the better for the Jets offense. Otherwise, it’ll be very hard for the Jets to do anything more aggressive than they did in Buffalo unless they want to get McCown destroyed.
Defense: Pass Rush
I’m looking at Muhammad Wilkerson, Josh Martin, and Kony Ealy in particular. I mentioned Wilkerson as the defensive X-Factor last week, but he needs to be here again. He’s playing like a backup right now. This is a guy with All-Pro talent, so his range of possibilities is as big as it can get. Wilkerson simply has to start living up to his contract or it will be a major problem. In this game particularly, the Jets could really use interior pressure without the blitz, and Wilkerson could be a major source. Ealy and Martin also showed last week they are capable of holding the edge, and will need to do it again.
The Jets are going white jerseys, green pants for the second straight week. I’ve seen a lot of ire among Jets fans thrown at the green pants, but in my opinion the white jersey/green pants combo is the team’s best. What do you think?