By Brad Carroll
The New York Jets' Week 1 meeting with the Oakland Raiders is already a must-win game. With a murderer's row of opponents on the schedule following, the Jets will be in major trouble already if they can't beat one of the NFL's bottom dwellers at home. Here is what the Jets need to do to start this season with a victory.
Read our predicitions of the game here.
The pressure will squarely be on the Jets defensive front seven in stopping the Raiders offense, which is operating under rookie quarterback Derek Carr. The Jets have the best defensive line in football and the linebacking core is solid as well, so there should be no reason for them not to dominate the line of scrimmage. But they are going to have to dominate in different ways this season, at least early on. The Jets secondary is suspect, to put it nicely, with the starters Sunday being Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen. Yes, gone are the days of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside. The nickel corner will be Kyle Wilson, who every Jets fan knows varies between terrible and awful each week. If the front seven doesn't get pressure on Carr, and bring him down more than a few times, the Raiders could pick apart those three corners. The Jets should be helped with Calvin Pryor and Dawan Landry at safety, but those corners will be left on their own most of the time. That's how a Rex Ryan defense works. It's going to be imperative for Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, among the rest of the front seven, to get a push up front and force Carr into bad decisions. If Carr has all day to throw the ball, it could be a long day for the Jets secondary, and could turn into a devastating loss.
Walls And Allen On An Island
The Jets front seven is going to be have be great all season long, but the cornerbacks are going to have to do their part as well. Jets general manager John Idzik completely botched the position in the offseason and what is left is Walls and Allen, a converted safety, starting at corner in Week 1. Dee Milliner, the Jets No. 1 pick last year, is out with an injury. Even with Milliner in the lineup, this would be a weak group of defensive backs. Without Milliner, it's just plain scary. Facing Carr and the Raiders offense will be a good starting point for the secondary, however, as they could gain some confidence with a solid showing before heading into a stretch of games that will see the Jets face most of the best quarterbacks in the game, beginning in Week 2 against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Going forward, Milliner actually played very well in his preseason debut before getting injured, so there is promise there. If Allen can develop into a player, the Jets might be OK after all. But the chances of that happening are slim. If the Jets corners get torched by Carr, not only will they lose the opener, the season could already be in jeopardy.
Playmakers Need To Make Plays
The success and failure of the Jets offense will be on the shoulders of quarterback Geno Smith. There's no doubt about that. But he needs help and the Jets have given him a couple of playmakers to help in his development as a franchise passer. The Jets added a No. 1 wide receiver in Eric Decker and an explosive running back in Chris Johnson this offseason. Now, it's time to see what they can do. There's been a lot of talk that Decker was merely a product of a Peyton Manning-run offense in Denver, and isn't a true No. 1. If the Jets, and Smith, are going to take the next step offensively, Decker has to be the lead guy in the passing game. With David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley as the 2 and 3, Decker has even more pressure on him to perform. He's getting paid to do it, so he has to step up. Johnson has looked great in the preseason and if he can carry that over to the regular season, the Jets could have an explosive running game. Chris Ivory is solid, and will get a number of carries in Week 1 and in the future, but Johnson can be the game-breaker the Jets haven't had in years, even decades. The offense's success will go through Smith, but he needs both Decker and Johnson to be the playmakers they were brought here to be. It starts against Oakland.