Raiders vs. Jets: Takeaways from New York's 37-27 Win over Oakland
Geno Smith was back to his old self, the running game was clicking and the defense made just enough plays to get their first comfortable win in over a month.
There were a few disappointing performances from veterans and rookies alike, but Rex Ryan has to be pleased with how his team has rebounded after such a difficult stretch.
Here are the takeaways following the win over the Oakland Raiders.
Geno Smith Is Back on Track
It may have taken more than a month, but Geno Smith is finally back to playing the kind of winning football that got the Jets in the playoff mix to begin with.
It took Smith about a quarter to get comfortable, as he threw one interception and nearly threw two more.
Once the Jets were able to get a multiple-score lead, however, Smith appeared to calm down with less pressure to score on every drive. He missed a few throws, but he made a lot of key conversions, including a lot of plays with his legs to keep drives alive.
He finished with a solid stat line of 16-for-25 for 219 yards. Most impressively, he only took one sack all game long.
The Jets need to see much more of Smith before they anoint him as the unquestioned starter, but this is a step in the right direction after a long, drawn-out decline.
Pass Protection Was Much-Improved
The biggest key to the Jets win was the fact that they were finally able to properly protect their quarterback for the vast majority of the game.
The Jets have been so reliant on the deep pass this season to generate offense, but they have not been able to give Geno Smith enough time to allow such plays to develop. Now that they were able to give Smith adequate time, the result was 37 points on the scoreboard.
Not only did the protection give the Jets extra time to develop plays, but it helped their young quarterback get back into his groove by not taking so many hits. Smith was sacked just one time in his best game since the bye week.
If the Jets can continue to protect this well, their offensive productivity should only continue to get better.
Dee Milliner Makes Strides
One of the most surprising aspects of this win was how well rookie cornerback Dee Milliner played just one week removed from his third benching of the season.
Outside of one completion to Marcel Reese, Milliner was not responsible for any completions thrown against him. He made a few excellent pass breakups as well, including preventing a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It is too soon to declare Milliner an improving player or a bust, but this was certainly a good sign for the Jets' top draft pick, especially considering how much he has struggled up to this point.
Chris Ivory Runs Angry
It if was not apparent already, running back Chris Ivory is one of the most difficult runners to bring down in the NFL.
Averaging 4.2 yards on 18 carries, Ivory was the most dangerous offensive player on the Jets. He picked up a ton of yards after contact, highlighted by his 15-yard touchdown in which he broke about five tackles.
He was even strong in pass protection, knocking out linebacker Sio Moore on a devastating block in the second half.
Ivory has clearly taken hold of the starting job from Bilal Powell, and for good reason. Powell has played well, but Ivory is running like a man possessed, earning extra yards and negating poor run blocking along the way.
Antonio Cromartie Struggles
While Dee Milliner enjoyed his best game of the year, veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie struggled mightily on the other side.
With Milliner playing so well, the Raiders decided to go after Cromartie and his bad hip. Most of the receptions the Raiders had came against Cromartie in coverage, including a 40-yard strike from the shadow of their own goal post.
It is as clear as ever that Cromartie is nowhere near 100 percent, and he likely has not been all season. Because of his bad hips, he is struggling to transition in his turns and make plays on the football (he drew a pass interference because his back was turned to the ball).
Rex Ryan needs to replace him in the starting lineup with Darrin Walls before he costs the Jets a chance to make the playoffs in the coming three weeks, as much as such a move goes against conventional thinking.
Ed Reed's Role Changes
It may have taken a month, but the Jets are finally using safety Ed Reed in the rotational role they should have been using him in all along.
When the Jets acquired Reed last month, he was immediately thrown into the starting role, with predictable results. The Jets continued to give up big plays at an alarming rate, and a slow, aging Reed was only making things worse.
This time, Reed was used exclusively on third downs, giving younger and more talented players such as Antonio Allen more playing time. The Jets did give up a few big plays, but they were not as a result of poor safety play.
Reed did get an interception, but he was also responsible for a late touchdown on a missed tackle. The Jets may be using Ed Reed differently, but he is still not an upgrade over many players already on their roster.
Defensive Line Disappoints
The Jets have hardly been the model of a consistent team this year, but one thing they have been able to rely on was their defensive line.
However, even working against the Raiders' fullback Marcel Reese as the lead back, they disappointed both in terms of stopping the run and rushing the passer.
The Raiders put up 150 yards on the ground, including 123 from Reese alone. Reese was the first player this season to breach the 100-yard mark against the Jets.
Meanwhile, they struggled to generate an effective pass rush for much of the game. Outside of a coverage sack by Calvin Pace and a few pressures from Quinton Coples, the Jets' pass rush did not live up to its billing.
The Jets were able to get the win and this is more of an anomaly than a trend, but one would expect more from one of the best defensive lines in the league, especially against a poor offensive line for the Raiders.
The Jets Are a Flawed, but Improving Team
The Jets are far from being a complete team that is ready to contend for a championship, but what we can take away from this game is that they are back on the upward trend.
There are many warts on this team; the play of Antonio Cromartie, Ed Reed and the offensive line as a whole must be more consistent.
However, despite their shortcomings, the Jets have shown improvement in nearly every area in just one week. The pass protection was better, Dee Milliner had his best game of the season and Geno Smith got himself back on track and playing winning football.
The Jets are at least a year or two away, but they flashed just how good they can be in certain areas when they play up to their potential.