The Raiders are facing the Jets on Sunday so I caught up with John Butchko from Jets blog Gang Green Nation. I know, it's yet another "Nation". Anyway, who better to talk with to get some insight into what's going on with the Raiders' next opponent than someone who covers them on a daily basis.
Me: How in the world does a team go from beating the Patriots and Saints to being as bad as the Jets have looked the past three weeks?
John: Despite those impressive wins, this hasn't really come out of the blue. When the Jets started 5-4, every single win was within one score. It was an undermanned team taking advantage of opportunities. When they were losing early in the year, they were getting crushed for the most part. I think the Jets were riding good fortune early, but their lack of talent is catching up.
The Jets have the number one rush defense in the league. What makes it so great?
It mainly starts with the defensive line. The Jets have three blue chippers starting. Muhammad Wilkerson is having an All Pro caliber year. He is putting up good numbers as a pass rusher, but he is also winning the vast majority of his assignments against the run. Sheldon Richardson has stepped right in as a rookie and been a rock against the run. Damon Harrison, a second year for undrafted rookie from William Penn, is dominating at nose tackle. The Jets also have subs who are playing at a high level in Leger Douzable and Kenrick Ellis when they need to rotate.
Do you think Rex Ryan will be fired after this season? Why or why not?
The Jets have a new general manager this year. One of the stipulations of him getting the job was that he had to keep Ryan for 2013, but all bets are off now. The new GM holds his cards close so nobody really knows. My money would be on Ryan getting fired, though. Usually in this situation the GM wants to bring in his own guy, and any claim Ryan had to keeping his job is fading considering how the Jets are collapsing.
Geno Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in six weeks. What are teams doing to stop him?
I'm not sure it's what defenses are doing as much as the offense playing horrible football. When the offense looks this bad, it usually means everybody is to blame. The offensive line is doing a poor job in pass protection. On many plays, there is nobody getting open. And there are also plays where Geno is missing open guys by a lot and forcing balls into closed windows. Early in the year, Geno was not playing efficient ball. He was erratic on short stuff and turnover prone, but he was hitting a lot of deep passes. Those are gone now. With these struggles, the Jets have scaled things back more and more. That has limited the offense's ability to make big plays, which is essential. With so little talent, the Jets can't string together 10 good plays in a row.
It's a catch 22. The Jets can't trust Geno if he doesn't make big plays, but he doesn't have an opportunity to make big plays if the Jets don't trust him.
What player(s) on the Jets might we not know about but should?
I think the three defensive linemen we talked about above. Wilkerson is finally starting to get some buzz this year, but they are the biggest and perhaps only strength of the team at this point. They aren't household names, though.
Hopefully we'll have a link to my answers to his questions soon which I will add here.