By Glenn Naughton
As the Jets prepare to head to the West Coast to take on the 3-3 Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole, JetNation.com takes a look at some key match-ups that should have a significant impact on Sunday’s outcome.
Jets Offensive Tackles vs. DE Khalil Mack and OLB Aldon Smith
Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and right tackle Breno Giacomini will have their hands full with one of the top defensive duo’s in the NFL.
Oakland’s explosive second-year player, Khalil Mack, is playing at a high level, logging three sacks after totaling four all of last season. Mack is also a key cog in a defensive front that currently ranks third in the NFL, surrendering just 84.3 yards per game on the ground.
Along with Mack is Aldon Smith. A supremely talented defender who was cut loose by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this offseason following a string of bizarree off-feild events.
Despite being a late minute addition, Smith has earned the 21st highest rating in the NFL among outside linebackers from PFF.com, with Mack grading out at an even more impressive #2 overall among defensive ends.
WR’s Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker vs. CB’s David Amerson and Neiko Thorpe
As good as the Raiders have been against the run, they’ve been even worse against the pass, ranking dead last in the NFL, and having the distinction of being the only club in the NFL to surrender over 300 YPG at 303.8.
Converse to Mack and Smith at linebacker, PFF.com list Amerson and Thorpe as the 122nd and 126th rated corners in the NFL. DJ Hayden hasn’t fared much better, currently sitting at 157th.
Marshall and Decker should be able to win their match-ups, but much like we saw when the Jets took on the Eagles, if the Raiders’ front-7 can generate enough pressure, Ryan Fitzpatrick, like most middle-of-the-road QB’s, can make any secondary look better if he starts making throws off-balance.
CB Darrelle Revis vs. WR Amari Cooper
Even with Revis being an established All-Pro and Cooper, a rookie, having just a few games under his belt, this is already being viewed as a marquee match-up as Cooper has not disappointed one bit in Oakland.
Tied for the team lead with 33 catches, the former Alabama product has put up 519 yards, a 15.7 YPC average, and 3 scores after being chosen with the 4th overall selection in this year’s draft.
Cooper is said to have the route-running skills of a seasoned veteran and earned high praise from current Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall who said Cooper’s game looks like a combination of Bengals pro-bowler A.J. Green and former Bengals great, Chad Johnson.
If the injured Nick Mangold can’t go, it looks like second-year center Dakota Dozier, a converted tackle/guard will get the call. While there’s not much info on Dozier given his small college (Furman) and lack of playing time as a pro, JetNation.com dug up a few tidbits on the lineman this offseason when we spoke to his former offensive line coach, Scott Smouse. You can check that out here.
Stevan Ridley’s carries are worth keeping an eye on. He’ll be active for the first time this season after tearing ligaments in his knee in October, how ready is he? We shall see.
An interesting addition to the active roster is wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins hasn’t made things easy for himself up to this point in his life following a string of bad decisions, but if he has truly turned things around as it appears he has, it’d be nice to see him find a way to stick with Gang Green.
Knowing Calvin Pryor is out this Sunday means newcomer Dion Bailey will get his first start as a Jet. We recently took a look at the instability Bailey has dealt with up to this point in his career and Sunday gives him a shot to take another step toward bringing an end to the turbulence.
Even with the advantage the Jets receivers should have over Oakland’s cornerbacks, it’s time for Chan Gailey to find a way to get Jeremy Kerley on the field. He’s been far too productive in limited playing time to continue ignoring him.
Here’s JetNation.com’s prediction for the outcome this Sunday.