With the Raiders matching up with another New York team, it’s time to get back in a New York state of mind and dial up the East coast for this week’s Thoughts From the Other Side. This time we talk to Dennis Velasco from Jetsblogger.com to get our inside information. As usual he had some tough questions for me and I responded with a few probing questions of my own. Here are his answers as the Raiders prepare to face the New York Jets in their regular season home opener.
1. How do you feel about the play of Mark Sanchez thus far in the season?
“It’s Sanchez’s third year in the league and there is an expectation that he will continue to progress. Considering how well he’s done in the postseason his first two seasons (4-2), it’s only logical. Add the fact that this is New York and he’s basically been anointed the face of the franchise, he better. Thus far, while only a small sample size, he seems too inconsistent. Yes his first game against the Dallas Cowboys (26-for-44; 335 yards; 2 TDs; 1 INT) was pretty good, but if you watched the game, you still saw uncertainty from Sanchez. The Cowboys’ constant blitzing didn’t help, but neither did a lazy and unavoidable fumble, as well as the ubiquitous quick pass to the outside on a third-and-long significantly under the first-down marker. The last game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars probably epitomizes more of how I feel about Sanchez: 17-for-24 (70.8 COMP%), BUT only 182 passing yards; two TDs, BUT two INTs. Basically, it’s a pendulum between the promise of production versus the pitfall of potential.”
2. Shonn Greene has just 75 yards in two games this season. To what do you attribute those low numbers?
“Play-calling, whether it’s out of necessity or just the lack of recognizing the need to establish the ‘ground and pound’ manner in which the Jets have been successful the past two seasons. In the first game versus the Cowboys, the Jets were down double-digits in the game and the Cowboys secondary was devastated by injury, both of which called for Sanchez to throw, throw, and throw. In the second game, the Jets built such a lead, it wasn’t necessary to use Greene as much, although he did post better numbers (to a degree). If Joe McKnight gets six carries and neither Greene or LaDanian Tomlinson isn’t hurt, the Jets must be killing the opponent! So, because game situations pretty much dictated, Greene hasn’t really gotten the workhorse number of carries a lot of Jets fans have been waiting for.”
3. On that same note, Greene had low rushing numbers two seasons ago when the Jets played the Raiders but he still put up 144 yards on the ground. Do you see him doing that again?
“It’s definitely possible, especially when you consider that the Raiders are the sixth-easiest team to run on in this short season, giving up 130.5 rushing yards per game. However, the Raiders also give up 265.0 passing yards. A lot will be predicated on game situations, but I do expect a lot of Greene. If the game is close and the Jets have the lead, I’d expect the Jets to run Greene in order to set up the Jets passing offense to catch the defense off balance. If it’s a big lead in the end, obviously, they’d use Greene to kill the clock. And because of the very history you mentioned, as well as the rushing defensive woes I mentioned, this could be the game that Greene breaks out.”
4. Starting corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie get a lot of credit for the Jets defense. What would you say is the unsung area of the defense that helps it be so good?
“The run defense, which allows 88.0 rushing yards per game thus far, which is good for ninth-best in the NFL. Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha should be a couple of names that Raiders fans should keep an ear out for, as well as All-Pro David Harris in the middle. The trio is a solid core in the middle that often get overlooked by Revis, Cromartie, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace. Rookie Muhammad Wilkerson is also looking solid on the defensive line with excellent balance, athleticism, and wingspan. I’d suggest Darren McFadden ask for more sweeps and off-tackle run plays as opposed to any draws or blasts up the middle.”
5. What area of this Jets team is the most vulnerable and should be exploited by the Raiders?
“The Raiders wide receivers have speed. Cromartie has speed. If Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, or Derek Hagan can run sharp routes and fake Cromartie, who always bites looking for the big play, they’ll do well. Jason Campbell is looking a lot steadier this season with a season under his belt with the Raiders. He’s currently ranked 10th in QB rating (99.7) and seems to be playing within himself. Obviously avoid Revis’ side because he’s really that damn good, but Cromartie can definitely be had. Ask any Jets fan and they’ll tell you that they’re ticked off at him 90% of the time because of some boneheaded play. It’s embarrassing as a professional athlete when your secondary coach takes you to the side to teach ball skills in order to make an interception.”
6. Who do you think wins Sunday and why?
“I have to go with the Jets because of talent level and experience. I like McFadden a lot and think he’ll have another big game because of his versatility to kill teams coming out of the backfield, but the Jets have too many playmakers and with their next two games on the road at the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, this is a must-win. Actually, every game is a must-win, but considering future prospects, this game versus the Raiders especially.”
Click here to see my answers to his questions.