It's 2014 NFL eve and the excitement is palpable. As we make our final preparations for the game, let's take a look at the important storylines heading into the game.
All eyes will be on the only rookie quarterback starting the season. His debut will be dissected for that fact and because he was the fourth quarterback taken. Those who were taken ahead of him were Blake Bortles (3 Jaguars), Johnny Manziel (22 Browns), and Teddy Bridgewater (32 Vikings). They will all roam the sidelines watching while Carr, who fell into the second round to the Raiders (36) will be thrown into the fire. The hashtag was one the Raiders have been using as voted upon by the fans. Whether it changes or not will depend largely on how he performs today.
Rex Ryan is going to be pulling out his bag of tricks to give Derek Carr all kinds of different looks and blitz packages to try and rattle him. Carr said he is going to be thinking about what the Jets do and five more things they might do. Rex is a second generation defensive mastermind. Carr has been studying NFL defenses for the past ten years since his older brother entered the NFL. Today we find out who gets the better of this battle of wits.
Running in place
An emphasis of this Raiders team as currently constructed is to emphasize the ground game. The Jets have one of the best defensive lines and run defenses in the NFL and will likely make that prospect very difficult. If the Jets win the battle in the run game, that puts even more pressure on Derek Carr and he has enough pressure as it is.
Geno in a bottle
Last season was a rough one for Jets quarterback Geno Smith. But when he met with the Raiders late last season, he broke out and the Jets had their best offensive output of the season. He has looked more confident this preseason. The Raiders defense is also retooled. However, part of the issue late last season was the predictability of Jason Tarver's defensive schemes. What was confusing opposing offensive early in the season, was fooling no one by midseason. Geno Smith had his way with the Raiders and even with the Raiders scoring on every drive in the second half of that game - including three touchdowns -- it still wasn't enough. They must bottle him up, and force him to make tough throws. Otherwise we could be looking at a repeat performance.
The Jets acquired former 2000-yard back, Chris Johnson this off-season. The 28-year-old is coming off his worst season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and his season in which he ran for 2006 yards, was five years ago. Still, in moments, he looks every bit the back he once was, with plenty of world class speed. He will also be fresh and ready to go to start the season. Along with Johnson, the Jets will deploy Chris Ivory to share the load. While he is not durable, when he's healthy, he can be a very good back with a career average of 4.9 yards per carry.
We tend to see the Raiders cornerbacks as kinda iffy right about now. But there is nothing suspect about the Jets secondary. It's arrested, and convicted for being downright horrible. Antonio Cromartie is gone, Dee Milliner is out with injury, as is Dexter McDougle. The Jets starting cornerback tandem will be Darrin Walls - who has started four games over three seasons -- and converted safety, Antonio Allen. This makes the Jets secondary ripe for the picking. I would expect the Raiders to exploit this. If Derek Carr can't take advantage of these guys, it will only get much rougher from here.
Fifth overall pick, Khalil Mack finished off the preseason with two very good performances. He will look to build upon that success against a mediocre Jets offensive front. Mack is one of the key additions to this team and the Raiders will need him to make an immediate impact. They will get to roll out their shiny new pass rusher today.