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Mailbag: Can Raiders’ offense stay hot on Sunday Night Football?

Jets defense presents a much more difficult matchup

New York Giants v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images

This week’s mailbag has a much different tune as the Las Vegas Raiders are coming off their first impressive win of the season. However, the New York Jets do pose a significant threat in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football, so let’s dive into what to expect on primetime as well as a few other topics.

Question: Considering the Jets D is good, how will our offensive game plan look? Similar to the Giants game? Also, the Jets O is pathetic really but will they be able to run on us as “you know” our run D has been suspect?

Answer: I think we’re going to see a lot more quick passes and screens from the Raiders to help mitigate the Jets’ pass rush. Their defensive line is so deep that Carl Lawson—who would start on many teams, including Las Vegas—barely sees the field. I’d expect the running game to be pretty similar with a lot of zone-based runs, the big wrinkle being a potential increase in draws to help use New York’s pass rush against them.

To be honest though, I’m not really sure what the best course of action for attacking this Jets’ defense is because they are so good on all three levels. Offensively, the Raiders have to feel things out to begin the game and see if they can find someone who is having an off night and attack that player as much as possible. Don’t expect a lot of scoring.

As far as the run defense goes, that’s the biggest key to the Raiders winning this game in my eyes. No one is worried about Zach Wilson beating them, but Breece Hall is an explosive back who is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. The good news is their offensive line is terrible, so as long as Las Vegas’ defensive tackles show up, they should be fine. That’s a big if though...

Q: In your estimation, how’s the rest of the Raiders season gonna shake out? Will there be more fun in dysfunctional or will there be fewer distractions and more football?

A: I say this with hesitation because it’s the Raiders and dysfunction is basically the organization’s shadow since it seems to follow them around everywhere. But, I think now that the players are happy and Josh McDaniels is gone, these next two months will be more about football.

For the rest of the season, there are a lot of variables that are unproven, most notably a head coach who is about to enter his second game on the job and a quarterback who is about to make his third career start. So, the spectrum of outcomes is wide and we need a bigger sample size to make a prediction that’s anything more than a hot take.

Q: For a little pre-draft talk any thoughts on T’Vondre Sweat or Jonny Newton? I think we need to get another iDL prospect in this upcoming draft.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois
Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton
Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A: I love a little draft talk any time of the year so let's dive into it!

Newton is one of my favorite players in this draft class and, right now, the only defensive tackle I think is worth a first-round pick or at least a top 15-20 selection. He doesn’t have the ideal size and lacks length, but he’s strong against the run and has a handful of pass-rush moves he can win with, both finesse and power. If the Raiders aren’t going with a quarterback in the first round, Newton would be one of my top options.

Sweat has been a big riser this year. Last season, he was pretty much just a gap-filler against the run and he put on some weight in the offseason which had me concerned heading into 2023. However, he’s actually looked quicker and more athletic despite the weight gain. Sweat has improved as a pass-rusher this season and at 360 pounds, he’s still hard to move in the ground game which will increase his draft stock. I like him as a Day 2 target.

MichaelMatto
Hey Matt,
Just asked this over on the Bo story:
If JJ had such better success with zone blocking last week, what accounts for the difference last year to this year? McD ran gap blocking last year about 2-1 vs zone, about the same as this year so far excluding last week... so what's making zone more effective this time? Can't be just VanRoten... is outside zone working against the stacked boxes JJ was seeing, or something else?

A: The stacked boxes play a big factor too as defenses were more worried about Derek Carr chucking it up to Davante Adams down the field last year than they were with Jimmy Garoppolo this season. The offensive line has also regressed as run blockers despite it being pretty much the same crew, and the difference between Greg Van Roten and Alex Bars is significant.

Van Roten is much better in pass-protection but Bars is the superior run blocker. For example, Jacobs is averaging 2.7 yards per carry when running to the right A- and B-gaps this season which is down from 4.0 ypc last season, per Pro Football Focus.

So, there are certainly more factors than just the play-calling that led to last week’s improved performance, my article was just to highlight how the shift in philosophy helped.

SacRaider
Is AOC TB Lite 2.0?

A: Tom Brady wasn’t Tom Brady three starts into his NFL career.

Exiled Raider
Matt,
I expected a win last week, but the blow-out caught me by surprise. It was almost a given in my book that the O would score more than 20, but what I didn't expect was the D playing lights out.
What surprised you the most about last week (in a good way), and what do you see as the biggest area of concern going into the rest of the season?

A: Nesta Jade Silvera stepping up as a run defender and improving his ability to take on double teams was the biggest surprise to me. That was one of his biggest weaknesses coming out of college and during the preseason, so I was happy to see him grow in that department. He was the Raiders’ second-best defensive tackle against the run behind John Jenkins last week, so I’m hoping to see the rookie get more snaps moving forward.

Cornerback is my biggest area of concern for the rest of the campaign. Marcus Peters is undoubtedly their best corner and I don’t trust him as the CB1 given his limited movement skills at 30 years old. Amik Robertson had a great game last week but is inconsistent, and Jakorian Bennett looks lost out there right now.

Desair711
Do you think Tyree Wilson can have more success as a DT than a DE given his good size and strength, but lack of quickness and bend?

A: While I do think Tyree Wilson can take more snaps at defensive tackle as a change of pace, I wouldn’t suggest making that switch full-time or every down. Wilson would need to put on 15 to 25 pounds to play defensive tackle, and he’s a little tall for the position at 6’6” as leverage is even more important on the interior.

I know a lot of people want to see immediate results from Wilson, but let’s be patient and give him a full offseason where he can train instead of rehab.

Dafe2cat
I read a post on another site that said VanRoten was the 3rd highest ranked guard in the NFL according to PFF. He had a ranking of 75.6 . What do you think of his play?

A: Van Roten is seventh among guards in PFF’s grading system, which I think is way too high. As mentioned above, I think he’s good in pass protection but doesn’t generate much movement in the running game. His 69.2 run-blocking grade is very surprising to me, but even that’s significantly lower than his mark as a pass-blocker (77.9).

At the end of the day, I think Van Roten has been solid this season but I can’t say I’d agree with PFF on how high they have him graded.


That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.