The Raiders are in New York ready to take on the Jets to open the 2014 season. And to get things going, I shot five good questions at John Butchko from SB Nation Jets blog, Gang Green Nation to get some answers about what to expect from the team the Raiders are about to face this Sunday. Here are his responses.
1. Is the Jets secondary as much of a concern as everyone is making it out to be?
In a word, yes.
You have to consider how shaky the original plan was. Second year cornerback Dee Milliner started camp as the number one. By many measures he was one of the least effective corners in the league last season. The Jets were counting on him to develop into a shutdown guy over the offseason.Journeyman Dimtri Patterson, on his seventh team, was supposed to start opposite Milliner. The Jets were hoping he could hold down the fort. Dexter McDougle, a third round pick who missed almost his entire last season of college, is a guy some people think was being groomed for a bigger role later in the year.
Think about that. You're counting on somebody who was an ineffective rookie, a mediocre journeyman, and a third round rookie to step up. That's shaky to begin with. Milliner has been dealing with an ankle injury for weeks. Patterson has already been cut after skipping a preseason game without permission, and McDougle tore his ACL. So now the Jets are counting on options even less appealing.
All you really need to know is they're trying to move a safety Antonio Allen to corner on the fly. Allen's only work at corner was some fairly unimpressive preseason action, and he got hurt in preseason so the Jets couldn't even dedicate as much time as they wanted to preparing him.
First round pick Calvin Pryor has flashed signs of being a difference-maker at safety. I think he's going to be an impact guy even as a rookie. Let's keep our expectations in line, though. It's a lot to ask a rookie safety to save a secondary like this.
2. Geno Smith was horrid as a rookie. Is there any indication he will come out better this season?
I think he's shown signs of improvement in the preseason. His footwork in particular, which was a major source of his problems, looks a lot better.
It's also important to remember the situation he was thrown in. The Jets had the worst collective group of pass catchers in the league last season. In 2012 the group wasn't great, but I remember watching games over how frequently Mark Sanchez was missing open targets. When I watched games back last season I frequently couldn't figure out where Geno could have gone with the ball.
While the group of targets the Jets have assembled this year isn't great, the additions of Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, and second round pick Jace Amaro should represent an upgrade. A lot of my fellow Jets fans have concluded definitively that Geno is a great quarterback held back by his receivers last year. I'm not willing to go that far. What I'll say is it is possible his receivers sunk him last year. With more competent play this year we will see more of the good flashes he showed at times as a rookie.
3. I have seen some predictions that say the Jets will be at least decent this season. What do you suppose is the are most improved?
Well despite all of their issues, the Jets did win 8 games last year so it's quite possible they will have another decent year.
I mentioned the pass catchers and the potential role of Pryor above.
I think there are also some young players who could get better. Sheldon Richardson was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he was mainly a run stuffer. His pass rushing game was raw. If he learns how to use his hands better, he has the athleticism to be an impact guy there. The Jets already have one impossible to block lineman who lines up everywhere in Muhammad Wilkerson. A second would be a nightmare for defenses.
4. We talked about the secondary being a concern. What other area do you see as being vulnerable on the Jets?
I mentioned the pass catchers above being improved. On the other side of the coin the group was so bad last season that it could improve a ton and still be below average. The Jets are sitting on over $20 million of cap space and didn't show any interest in DeSean Jackson. There were other quality options out there to start across from Decker. The Jets are going to be trotting the likes of David Nelson and Greg Salas on the outside. It's difficult to figure.
One thing nobody is really mentioning is the offensive line. Left guard is a giant question mark. Willie Colon at right guard has ended four straight seasons with a serious injury. The Jets also downgraded at right tackle from Austin Howard to Breno Giacomini. There is little in the way of proven veteran depth behind this crew. It isn't hard to picture that situation getting ugly.
5. I saw a stat that says rookies are 1-7 against Rex Ryan coached teams (Russell Wilson was the one). Why do you suppose that is? And are this year's Jets built to continue that?
I'll add that even in that game the Jets confused and frustrated Wilson a lot early. Then Sanchez melted down, and the game got away from them.
Rex Ryan's defense likes to put pressure on an offense by showing all kinds of different looks. You get different fronts, blitzers from all angles, and unique coverages. The stuff Rex puts out there is likely the kind of thing a rookie has never seen before. Rookie tend to get gunshy because they can't figure out what is coming next and are afraid of making a mistake.
While I think the personnel issues on the defense could come back to bite the Jets against Aaron Rodgers in Week 2, this might be a rough defense for Derek Carr to begin his career against. The concepts he's going to see are very advanced, and a rookie is liable to make mistakes against them.
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