Five things to watch in Raiders home opener vs Jets
A cow dropped into a raptor cage?
Head coach Jack Del Rio started his Wednesday press conference stating the Raiders respect everyone but fear no one. Sounds like a bad team’s coming to town.
Sure enough, the New York Jets are up next on the slate.
Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where a cow gets dropped into the velociraptor cage? Fans expect that Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.
It might not be quite so one-sided, but the vast talent disparity should create early separation and an easy victory. There are some important aspects of this game to keep an eye on Sunday afternoon whether you’re in the stadium or on the couch.
5. Strength vs. strength
There are few matchups the Raiders don’t win on paper. That includes the Silver and Black offensive line vs. the Jets defensive front. Gang Green’s first line isn’t as intimidating as year’s past, but star power’s still featured. Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson can still blow up plays, and shut down some offensive drives. The Raiders are more than up to the task, with talent up front, pass protectors in the backfield and a scheme willing to offer help.
The Jets run defense was terrible last week against Buffalo. If the Raiders front can establish itself early, the Raiders run game could follow the Bill’s blueprint and rush rampant.
4. Defense’s men in the middle
The cries for an improved Raiders interior line were quieted after the regular-season opener. Quality Tennessee running backs were stifled. An inside pass rush was established. Mario Edwards Jr. got a sack and Eddie Vanderdoes was consistently ferocious collapsing the pocket. The UCLA rookie was especially good rushing the passer, with two quarterback hits and two hurries.
Treyvon Hester, Denico Autry and Justin Ellis also chipped in as the Raiders match personnel to situation. One game performance doesn’t constitute a trend. It’ll will be important to make offensive coordinators pay loading up on edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
3. Conley’s debut
Gareon Conley will make his NFL debut on Sunday. The first-round cornerback got the green light after increased activity in this week’s practice. He missed the entire preseason with a shin injury, but has gotten back into shape and prepped for a professional game. How much he plays remains uncertain. He’s likely on a snap count, used primarily in certain packages. He played slot corner before getting hurt in the offseason program, and could fit there again.
The secondary’s finest talent can play outside, a possible requirement if Sean Smith can’t play with a neck injury.
2. JDR keeping Raiders locked in
Sportsbooks believe the Raiders will win by double digits. The point spread’s set at 13.5, a massive margin of victory. Fans and media alike are expecting a slaughter. In other words, this game’s easy to overlook. Head coach Jack Del Rio is excellent preventing such lapses. He has built a team culture that frowns on down days even in victory.
This should be a game where veterans can rest late. The Raiders will take some heat if it isn’t, which shows how expectations have changed in the East Bay.
1. Marshawn’s homecoming
Marshawn Lynch has played in Oakland before, as an opponent or in this preseason. Sunday’s game, however, will be a true celebration of Oakland’s most popular citizen. Hard running against Tennessee ignited the sideline and closed out victory in the fourth quarter. An entire stadium, an entire town were go nuts if he does that again at home. He did everything but score a touchdown last week.
Reaching the end zone would give Lynch a chance to soak in the love from a hometown he champions at every turn.