Oakland Raiders

Raiders can fly over or run through Jets

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, center, walks the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

Last week against the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders played more of a perimeter game with the receivers combining for 166 yards and two touchdowns. It made sense to attack the weakness of the Titans’ defense, their cornerbacks.

The Raiders passed early and often. They loosened up the Titans’ defense and then played power football late in the game. Though the New York Jets’ corners aren’t world-beaters themselves, the Raiders have to expose the interior of the Jets’ defense by running through their front seven and attacking the Jets’ safeties.

Outside zone

I thought the Buffalo Bills were going to have a tough time transitioning to new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s outside zone running scheme, especially at the beginning of the season. Their offensive line is built to bully people rather than run horizontally. However, they were able to gash the Jets for 190 yards on the ground, mostly with their outside zone running game.

Coincidentally, the Raiders are moving to the outside zone scheme as well, but the Raiders’ line has a lot more talent than the Bills’.

With Donald Penn missing time in camp because of his holdout and a tough scheme transition, the Raiders’ offensive line still has room to improve its outside zone blocking. In the meantime, their physicality in knocking defensive players off the ball — with Marshawn Lynch breaking tackles — has masked their flaws.

The Jets have talent on their defensive line, but they didn’t play with enough effort and their pad level was much too high against the Bills’ rushing attack. If they don’t improve, they will be gashed in Oakland.

Leonard Williams is supposed to be one of the Jets’ best players. I’m sure he’s a great pass rusher and uses his athleticism to chase plays from the backside, but he spent most of last Sunday getting handled by guard Richie Incognito. He is a very good player, but Kelechi Osemele is on another level. If Williams isn’t ready, he might spend most of Sunday on the ground.

Muhammed Wilkerson is also supposed to be one of the Jets’ best players, but his effort against the run was lackluster against the Bills. On this play, he is literally running backward instead of attacking the line of scrimmage. He easily gets blocked by the tackle. With this type of effort, the cutback on the outside zone could be wide open. If Lynch is able to get that sort of opening, the Jets’ safeties will have a long day.

Cover-2 shell

Another reason why this will be more of an interior game for the Raiders is that the Jets play a lot of cover-2 in passing situations. The safeties will likely be concerned with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper on the outside, which will leave the middle of the field open for Cook.

If the hole player in the cover-2 drops too deep as shown in the clip, there will be opportunities for running backs Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington to catch passes underneath.

The Raiders could also put Cooper in the slot and get him matched up on a safety as well. They did this against Tampa Bay last year and it resulted in a long touchdown.

Red zone

Although the Jets’ young safeties — Jamal Adams and Marcus Mayes — could be good for a long time, they simply are too small to match up with Cook in the red zone. Cook is too physical and knows how to use his big body to shield off defenders.

If Mayes or Adams are asked to play Cook man-to-man in the red zone, Carr has to look his way (after a couple of run attempts for Lynch, of course).

The Jets will undoubtedly work hard on their run defense, but if the Raiders come out and play with the physicality they usually exhibit, I don’t see how the Jets could stop the run. If the Raiders are forced to pass, they also have several matchup advantages they could take care of. The Raiders can’t take the Jets lightly, but if they do what they are supposed to do, they could light up the scoreboard.

Prediction: 38-17, Raiders


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