Here is a link to my column previewing the Raiders-Jets game. The full text runs below:
Big test for the Raiders. The New York Jets are in town. Big test.
The fact that the Raiders are having a big test, actually qualify for a big test, is news in itself. Call it big news about the big test. By this time of the season, all tests for the Raiders usually are over and done with. Put down your No. 2 pencils and leave the room. And good luck.
But the Raiders’ record is 3-3, unexpectedly, and last week the Raiders murdered Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. And now the Raiders can show their pedigree, their standing, their gravitas. The New York Jets are in town.
The Jets, 4-2, are a very good team. Not one hell of a team. But a very good team. What the Jets will do to the Raiders is test their offense. It’s what the Jets do to everyone. Against New York (well, New Jersey), Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will be taking his final exam in Advanced Placement quarterbacking. That’s how tough the Jets defense is. And this is exactly what the Raiders should want. Show us how far you’ve progressed. Show us you’re good.
The Jets’ base defense has a boatload (planeload?) of high draft picks — seven first-round picks and two second-rounders. The Jets’ front seven — linemen and linebackers — is legit, filled with real talent. The second tier includes end Sheldon Richardson and cornerback Buster Skrine — no busts those two.
Here’s what all this Jets defensive talent means. For starters, it’s hard to run on the Jets. Last week, the NFL’s best team, the Patriots, ran for exactly 16 yards against them. The Patriots ran, get this, just nine times, four by quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots won. Not easily. Score 30-23.
It’s possible, more than likely, the Raiders won’t run like madmen against the Jets. Gaining yards on the ground will be a grim enterprise. It was so grim for the Patriots Tom Brady threw 54 passes. A honking large number.
That’s where Carr comes in. If the Jets take away the Raiders’ running game, it comes down to Carr. Can he create a win by throwing all over the place? Can he be Tom Brady?
Good luck, Derek.
The Jets’ number of blitz packages is as thick as the Manhattan phone book — not that the Jets play in Manhattan or anywhere in the Empire State. But assume the Raiders’ offensive line, coming along nicely, can protect their scrappy young quarterback, what comes next? Good question. Carr and his receivers have to beat the Jets.
Good luck yet again.
The Jets’ starting corners are Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. Cromartie is a fine craftsman at his position, and Revis is Superman. As good as Richard Sherman. Maybe better. The Raiders’ receivers will have trouble getting open against Cromartie and Revis. This is a serious issue for the Raiders because Cromartie and, especially, Revis, may run the Raiders’ pass routes better than the Raiders’ receivers. You can bet Revis already is in the heads of Raiders receivers. You can bet he’s in the head of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Lord, help the up-and-coming Raiders.
Here’s what the Jets will do. They will take receiver Amari Cooper out of the game. Well, they’ll try to. It won’t be easy because Cooper is a world-class talent. They’ll put Revis on Cooper one-on-one assuming Cooper doesn’t have the experience or football wisdom to beat Revis. And they may be right. Call this the Bill Belichick philosophy of football. He takes away what you do best and forces your second-tier guys to beat him, if they can.
It’s possible Carr will be leery of throwing to Cooper. We’ll see. It’s certain Carr will throw a lot to Michael Crabtree and his tight ends. Rookie tight end Clive Walford is a serious talent, but he’s a rookie. And then there’s Crabtree.
He does certain things well. He catches the ball. He has soft hands and latches onto the football like a lovelorn octopus. But he isn’t fast. Actually, he’s slow. The Jets will put Cromartie and a safety on him, and it’s unclear he can get open. The Jets will force Carr to throw to Walford and fullback Marcel Reece in short, underneath routes. If the Raiders’ offense amounts to Carr throwing 50 times, well …
Good luck yet again.
None of this is to say the Jets will beat the Raiders. I have no idea. You don’t either. But we’ll learn so much about the Raiders from this game, and the learning process is thrilling.
What would be good outcomes for the Raiders?
A win would be a good outcome. More like fantastic, phenomenal, fasten-your-seatbelts time. With a win, the Raiders proclaim themselves a serious football team. Not merely a rebuilding team, which they are. But a playoff contender. Nice.
Or the Raiders could have a good loss. I detest the idea of a good loss because all losses are bad. Except if you’re the young Raiders contending with the Jets. If the Raiders keep the game close into the fourth quarter, if they are driving for a tie or the win at the end — and even if they don’t win — you would say they’ve made meaningful progress. You would say all the streetlights are green, and they’re coming fast.
The Raiders still need more talent. Even they admit it. Notice how close-mouthed first-year coach Jack Del Rio is. He understands what it takes to be successful. He knows you need talent to win. He never brags, never predicts a Super Bowl win. He is sheltering his players, keeping high expectations off their young, frail backs.
Play well against the Jets and the Raiders raise their expectations.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.