For a team that has scored just nine points in its past two games, there obviously needs to be an improvement on the offensive ball in just about every aspect. Pass protection needs to make leaps and bounds for any quarterback to succeed in the system, but Geno Smith must be more efficient than his four-completion performance last week.
Still, that does not mean the rest of the team is void of blame. The defense has lacked the same dominant bite from earlier in the season, as woes in the secondary have continued to plague them.
The Jets do get a bit of a break this week going against a four-win Raiders team, but they appear rejuvenated under rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.
Here is a breakdown of how the Jets can put themselves in the best position possible to get their sixth win of the season to pull themselves back into relevancy.
Contain Lamarr Houston
The most dangerous player on the Raiders' roster is defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, and by a significant margin.
The Jets' weak interior offensive line will have to contain a player who has five sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 36 hurries on the season, despite playing nearly half of his snaps as a run-stuffing defensive end (315/800 against the run) according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Lamarr is not a typical edge-rusher, but he is versatile enough to play all across the line, just as he did on this sack on Philip Rivers.
What makes Houston so dangerous is his unique blend of explosiveness and strength, which is sure to give rookie Brian Winters a lot of problems in pass protection.
Since taking over the starting left guard job back in Week 5, Winters has been, by far, the biggest liability on the Jets offensive line, especially when it comes to pass protection. He has allowed a team-high nine sacks in just seven games.
The Jets would be foolish to assume that Winters will magically improve enough in one week to be able to handle Houston. They must provide insurance in protection by keeping in an extra running back in to block, or even roll the dice on a tight end blocking on the outside while left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson helps with Winters. Center Nick Mangold should provide plenty of help in his direction as well.
If the Jets are able to give Smith adequate pass protection for the first time in over a month, they will see a massive amount of improvement in their pass offense immediately.
Use the Pistol Formation
The Jets' top priority for this week (and the rest of the season) is to get Smith back into the comfort zone he was in when he was throwing, well, more than four completions per game.
One of the ways the Jets can do this is with the use of the increasingly popular formation. The pistol formation is lining up the quarterback in front of the running back in a shotgun formation. This allows an easy transition in and out of play-action movements because the quarterback never has to take his eyes off the field.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Smith was in the pistol or shotgun a staggering 96 percent of the time when he was at West Virginia.
The Jets used it at times in the preseason and during the season, but they have since drifted away from it in favor of more conventional formations.
The pistol is also useful in running situations. Another unique aspect of the pistol is that it hides the running back from the defense before the snap, not allowing them to get a good read as to which direction he is going.
Last week, the Cowboys used the pistol formation on this early running play:
The Raiders were forced to be less aggressive at the line of scrimmage, which resulted in a huge running lane for Demarco Murray.
In truth, there really are not a lot of negatives to using the pistol formation—the biggest negative is that it makes it more difficult for the running back to get involved in pass protection because he is behind the quarterback.
Either way, the Jets need to utilize every new wrinkle they can in order to become less predictable and get an edge on opposing defenses.
Test the Secondary
For the first time in a long time, the Jets may actually have a few personnel advantages in the secondary.
Like the Jets, the Raiders secondary has played rather poorly this season. Only safety Charles Woodson has avoided a negative grade in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
The Jets don't exactly have a murderers' row of receivers, but if they are going to move the ball at all this season, it may as well be this week. Specifically, the Jets need to take their shots against their two starting cornerbacks, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter.
|Oakland Raiders Starting Cornerbacks|
|Player||Completion %||Touchdowns||QB Rating||PFF Rank|
|Pro Football Focus|
Stephen Hill may have had just one catch in the month of November (a two-yard bubble screen), but he has a tremendous opportunity to break out in this game. Hill's best resource is speed, something the aging Jenkins and Porter lack at this point in their careers.
If the Jets are unable to move the ball against this secondary, their offensive woes are even worse than they are perceived to be.
Use Cover 2
The Jets' cornerbacks were abused yesterday, but they at least managed to prevent any long passes from flying over their head, thanks in large part to the Jets using a healthy amount of Cover 2 principles (where there are two deep safeties).
Historically, Rex Ryan prefers to use a Cover 1 scheme in which there is only one deep safety, but the Jets' issues in coverage (and their dominant defense line) call for an extra man in deep coverage, especially if Ed Reed continues to be their starter at free safety.
The Jets actually started last week's game in a Cover 2 look (as opposed to adjusting to it midgame). This shows that Rex Ryan has zero trust in his cornerbacks to cover for lengthy periods of time.
The strength of the Raiders offense lies in their speedy receiving corps, highlighted by Denarius Moore. If the Jets want to go a second straight week without allowing an abnormally explosive passing play, they will need to use at least as much Cover 2 as they did last week, as much as it hurts Ryan's pride.
For a team that has struggled so mightily on both sides of the aerial aspect of the game, this is a relatively good matchup for them. If they can take advantage of the Raiders' deficiencies and prevent any huge, game-breaking plays, the Jets stand a good chance to get their sixth win of the season to match last year's total.
Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).
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