The New York Jets got blown out to snap a three game winning streak last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. The loss gave the Jets a 4-4 record on the season. The Jets defense was dominant as usual against the Chargers. Unfortunately, Zach Wilson and the Jets offense couldn’t get out of their own way, and the Jets’ chances of victory dissolved in a cascade of turnovers, penalties and other mistakes. Now the Jets go on the road for a game against the 4-5 Las Vegas Raiders.
Like the Jets, the Raiders have struggled all year on offense. Prior to last week the Raiders hadn’t scored more than 21 points all season. However, the Raiders fired head coach Josh McDaniels and replaced Jimmy Garoppolo with Aidan O’Connell as the Raiders starting quarterback prior to last week’s contest against the New York Giants. The changes seemed to work wonders, as the offense scored 30 points in a blowout victory over the Giants. Now the Raiders take on the Jets in a game both teams need badly for their future playoff chances.
Previewing this matchup, Matt Holder of Silver And Black Pride was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. Like the Jets, the Las Vegas Raiders have had all kinds of trouble scoring points this season. Prior to last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, the Raiders hadn’t scored more than 21 points in any game this season. Then came the 30 point explosion against a Giants defense that had been playing well going into that game. What led to the breakout offensive performance? Was it the firing of Josh McDaniels? The insertion of rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell into the lineup? Other factors? Also, how do you see the Raiders offense performing the rest of the way this season? Was last Sunday’s game a harbinger of things to come, or just an anomalous performance?
It was a combination of everything you brought up. The players clearly were done with McDaniels and they haven’t exactly been shy about that since he was fired. Plus, even going back to his playing days, Antonio Pierce is a natural leader who does a much better job of motivating and getting buy-in from the guys on the team.
O’Connell also made a major difference as he is much more decisive, aggressive and overall better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo right now. Garoppolo was a big part of the problem and, reportedly, even at least a portion of the coaching staff thought that O’Connell was better after the preseason. Also, Bo Hardegree did an excellent job of working with O’Connell’s skillset and breaking tendacies to help catch the Giants by surprise as the Raiders offense had become way too predictable with McDaniels.
As for the rest of the season, we’ll have to see how it plays out. Hardegree is about to call his second game and O’Connell is making his third start, so any prediction with that small of a sample size would just be a hot take.
2. Speaking of Aidan O’Connell, can you give Jets fans a brief scouting report on him? What does he do well, what does he need to work on, and with the caveat that we haven’t seen enough of him to draw definitive conclusions, do you think O’Connell has a decent chance to become a long term answer at quarterback for the Raiders?
O’Connell definitely has a chance to be the long-term answer for the Raiders, especially if he keeps winning and takes them out of position to draft a quarterback in the first round. As mentioned above, he’s very decisive with the ball and accuracy is his best trait. He throws to the middle of the field well and in the short to intermediate range distance-wise.
While arm strength isn’t O’Connell’s calling card, he takes measured shots where he’ll lull the defense to sleep with those short passes and then take a chance down the field a few times a game. He has to put about everything he’s got into it to throw deep, but he will connect on a few of those deep shots.
Like just about any rookie quarterback, avoiding turnovers is the big question mark with the Purdue product. That’s been the biggest difference in his two starts as he fumbled three times and threw a pick against the Chargers but was turnover-free last week.
3. Why has Josh Jacobs struggled so much this season after a dominant performance last season, and how do you see the rest of this season playing out for Jacobs and the Raiders’ running game?
I know this is going to sound like I’m putting all of the blame on McDaniels and making him the scapegoat, but he really was a big part of the problem. The Raiders offensive line is good in pass protection but they struggle to move defenders in the running game, so they’re best suited for a zone-heavy rushing attack, and Jacobs is better on zone runs as well. However, McDaniels was so stuck in his ways that he called more gap runs, and that clearly didn’t work.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hardegree had Jacobs run 17 zone runs to nine gap runs and, what do ya know, Jacobs had his most productive game of the season by far.
What’s frustrating is the evidence was already there. JJ’s second-best game this season came in Week 6 against the Patriots when McDaniels was still the coach and calling the plays. The back’s split for that game was 16 zone runs and nine on gap runs, but McDaniels reverted back to calling more gap plays the next two weeks before getting fired. There’s a reason why he earned the nickname “McDummy” within the fanbase.
4. If you were the head coach of a rival team, how would you go about attacking this Las Vegas Raiders team on offense and on defense?
Offensively, as much as I talked up O’Connell before, I’d still try and make him beat me. He’s still a rookie quarterback and the last thing you want is to do lighten the box with the reigning rushing champ in the backfield. I don’t think the Jets need to bring pressure because they have an excellent defensive line, but I’d go with a lot of single-high looks and force O’Connell to tap into that limited arm strength with throws down the field and outside the numbers.
Defensively, Las Vegas’ defenders have struggled to tackle in the open field this year. So, I’d go with a lot of quick game and screens in the passing attack to see if one of New York’s pass-catchers can make someone miss and break off a big play. Also, you don’t want to be constantly dialing up seven-step drops and giving Maxx Crosby more time to get pressure because he’s been playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate this season.
The Raiders also struggle to stop the run, especially when Jerry Tillery and Bilal Nichols are in the game at defensive tackle. So, run at those guys when you see them on the field.
5. If you were a betting man, which team would you bet on winning this game, and why?
This is a tough one but I think I’m going to be a homer and take the Raiders. I like the fire they played with last week and the Jets’ offense is a mess that think will at least keep the Raiders in the game and within striking distance for all four quarters. I think this will be a low-scoring game so my best bet is the under, even though it’s already a ridiculously low number!