Raiders-Jets matchups to watch

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Raiders-Jets matchups to watch

ALAMEDA -- While last week's matchup in Buffalo had all the makings of a classic trap game for the Raiders, this week's offers the same predicament for the New York Jets.Consider: the Jets played their first two at home and the last time they came to Oakland, which, by the way, is playing its home opener before a sold-out crowd, New York handed the Raiders their worst-ever home loss, 38-0, in 2009. Plus, the Jets will be without an integral part of their offensive line and just might be looking ahead to the next two weeks with East Coast holy wars at Baltimore and New England on the horizon.A look, then, at some key matchups to watch Sunday afternoon:Raiders defensive tackles Richard Seymour (92), Tommy Kelly (93) and John Henderson (79) vs. Jets center Colin Baxter (64)TALE OF THE TAPESeymour: 6-6, 310, Georgia, eleventh seasonKelly: 6-6, 300, Mississippi State, eighth seasonHenderson: 6-7, 335, Tennessee, tenth seasonBaxter: 6-3, 310, Arizona, first seasonNick Mangold is seen as the best center in the NFL. He is also out with a high ankle sprain. Enter Baxter, an undrafted rookie who was cut by San Diego in September and will be making his first career start.On the road. In the Black Hole. Against behemoths in Seymour, Kelly and, on occasion, Henderson.Surely, the Raiders interior defensive linemen must be licking their chops, right? Meh..."Nothing really, I don't change too much," Kelly said. "We have to really redeem ourselves from last week. Buffalo put up 200 (rushing yards) on us. We can't let that happen again. The Jets run the ball a lot on first and second down. They try to establish the tempo of the game. We've just got to knock their guys back and get early penetration so we can get them into third and long."Thing is, though, through both necessity (Baxter's inexperience) and film (watching Buffalo carve up the Raiders with quick, short passes), the Jets just might switch up their gameplan, making the matchup between Baxter and the Raiders defensive tackles a non-story.Not that the Raiders are anticipating that, either."They play well as a group," Seymour said of the Jets O-line. "So, it's not like they're depending so much on one guy. It's a group effort on the offensive line. They'll do different things -- I'm not saying, cover him up -- but they'll have different plays orit's not like the quarterback's not there, or something like that, a position like that where you're out in the open."It's in the trenches, so to the average fan, they probably won't even notice it."But the grunts down in the trenches most definitely will.Other matchups worth watching Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (26) vs. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) -- Should the Raiders stuff the Jets run game, all eyes will shift to New York's signal caller. And for good reason. With visions of Sanchez chowing down on a hot dog the last time he was in Oakland, as a rookie in 2009, he might have to beat the Raiders himself. Which would play into the Oakland's gameplan, even as the Raiders were carved up by Ryan Fitzpatrick a week ago.And with the Jets boasting a three-headed receiving monster of Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason, not even Routt is sure who his assignment will be on Sunday. He'll just line up on the left side. And Sanchez could take a page from Fitzpatrick's book."This is a copycat league, so whatever you don't handle one week, you will see it until you can stop it," Routt said. "So I wouldn't be surprised."Raiders receiver Denarius Moore (17) vs. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) -- Revis Island is usually on one side of the field. But with Moore's breakout performance in Buffalo, catching five balls for 146 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, wouldn't it be just like the three-time Pro Bowler to shadow Moore to see what the rookie is all about and introduce him to the NFL?"I think he's a solid receiver," Revis said. "They have a lot of weapons on that team and there's been a lot of guys that's been hurt. (Louis) Murphy has been hurt. Jacoby (Ford) has been hurt. So, you know, (Moore) filled right in for those guys, filled some big shoes and he's out there making plays as well."

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

It’s officially NFL draft week. Marshawn Lynch still isn’t a Raider.

A contract impasse remained as of Sunday morning, a few days before general manager Reggie McKenzie’s desire for a by-Thursday resolution.

Deadlines, even soft ones, prompt deals. But Marshawn is unique, adding a level of uncertainty to procedings. 

The Raiders would prefer Lynch agree to terms on a new contract so they can acquire his rights from Seattle -- that’s the easier part – and know where they stand heading into the NFL Draft.

McKenzie left several doors cracked during a Friday pre-draft presser, saying Lynch’s presence wouldn’t stop him from drafting a rusher, not having the Oakland native wouldn’t guarantee it, and that there’s always a chance Lynch could come later no matter what happens during amateur selection.

Those things could be true. Or, you know, not. McKenzie prefers mystery this time of year.

Bottom line: The Raiders need a bigger back to pair with smaller, yet elusive runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.

The Raiders want Lynch to fill the void. Ditto for Raider Nation, especially the Oakland state. A few free-agent options remain, including LaGarrette Blount. Or the Raiders could draft a back, something the Raiders have done well in later rounds.

They got Latavius Murray in the sixth round four years back, and he provided quality before changing uniforms this offseason. They got Washington in the fifth last time and pulled Richard from undrafted free agency. They could mine talent again this year. Waiting seems more likely if Lynch is around. 

Quality abounds in this draft class, with several worthy of early selections and talent easily found late. Let’s inspect McKenzie’s draft options at running back, should he need one:

Good fits: It’s hard to see the Raiders looking at a rusher in the first round, considering the draft’s depth at the position and major defensive needs. A first-round talent might be considered in the second. If controversial former Oklahoma rusher Joe Mixon is available following a free fall due to off-field issues described in detail here, a running back might come early.

Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara could be another Day 2 option, an explosive talent who analysts say has wiggle and power to create coveted yards after contact. He could be a three-down back thanks to quality as a receiver.

Odds are, however, the Raiders will look deeper into the draft. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was an excellent college producer who runs strong and might fit well into the Raiders rotation. Round projections vary, but he should be available on Day 3.

Pittsburgh’s James Conner offers great power at 233 pounds. He could run through tacklers and wear down defenses for the Raiders’ shift backs. He's also well known for drive and work ethic. He is projected as a fifth or sixth round pick.

Brigham Young’s Jamaal Williams might offer value and power rushing later in the draft. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman has tackle-breaking ability, but analysts say he isn’t a strong pass protector.

 

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

The Raiders had an NFL-worst 25 sacks last season, and that’s with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in their employ. That duo had 18 sacks (and 11 forced fumbles) between them. That left only seven for everyone else. Stacy McGee and Denico Autry had 2.5 each, and McGee isn’t here anymore.

Mario Edwards Jr. was certainly missed last season, when he missed 14 games with a preseason hip injury. The versatile defensive lineman is a solid edge run defender and internal pass rusher in the sub package.

If he’s healthy, Edwards Jr. could pose a real threat rushing the passer next to Irvin or Mack.

“Having Mario healthy will make us a better defense, and that’s not just as a pass rusher,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said in March. “He’s a solid run player. We’ve just got to have him healthy.

“But we’ll continue to add there, too.”

McKenzie subtracted one Tuesday, releasing Dan Williams to free salary cap space. He hasn’t yet added a defensive tackle in free agency, but could certainly do so in next week’s NFL draft.

There’s some quality interior pass rushers in this class. Let’s take a look at some options the Raiders could select and when:

Good fits: The Raiders select 24th overall in this draft, far lower than years past. Some quality defensive tackles might be a proper fit there, especially with depth at positions of need.

They could use some versatility, players like Edwards Jr. who can play multiple techniques. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is an strong, athletic freak who analysts believe needs to improve his effort and technique. McDowell could develop into a top talent and be viewed as a steal at No. 24, or not realize full potential.

Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a versatile player in the Edwards Jr. mold, a player who seems to fit Raiders needs. Analysts says inconsistency is troubling but has the leadership quality and character the Raiders love. He can be a base end and move inside when required. He also has the size at 6-foot-5, 298 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level while making an immediate impact.

Florida’s Caleb Brantley is also an intriguing prospect adept at reaching the offensive backfield. Analysts say he’s a powerful player with quickness and an ability to work through blocks despite being slightly undersized. Brantley is potential to be a quality NFL pass rusher, and is confident in his ability. He didn’t play a high snap count at Florida, but the Raiders might use him in sub packages as a rookie and fill an important role right away. He’s viewed as a second round pick, and the Silver and Black might cross fingers he’s available at No. 56.

Auburn’s Montravius Adams could help if the Raiders are looking for more of a run stuffer. Clemson’s Carlos Watkins could also play multiple spots and could be available later in the middle rounds. Old Dominion’s Rashaad Coward also fits that mold and would be available in later rounds, though he hasn’t had much pass-rush production.