Two different vantage points
Raiders: Big favorites against Jets as Lynch set for Raiders’ home debut
Good teams don’t have trap games.
That’s the reality of what the Raiders face Sunday when they host the New York Jets in the home opener at the Coliseum.
Aspire to be in the realm of the New England Patriots in the AFC or Kansas City Chiefs within the division, and there is no room for coming in flat and overconfident when faced with a 13 1/2-point underdog.
Certainly not in front of a home fan base which gets to see hometown hero Marshawn Lynch in a regular-season game for the first time.
Coach Jack Del Rio has talked often of “the process,” and based on the way the Raiders played in Week 1, his team has been listening.
No amount of injury or off-field issues throughout the offseason and training camp distracted the Raiders from putting up an extremely focused all-around performance in Week 1.
“I got asked by the New York media about their team and the point spread,” Del Rio said. “Those things mean nothing to us. It’s about playing the game, understanding the challenges you face, the strengths and weak-
nesses and going after them and preparing accordingly. That’s what we’re about.”
As for Lynch, he will be playing in only his second regular-season game in the Coliseum — with his first homecoming resulting in one of the worst games of his career.
On Halloween in 2010 with the Seattle Seahawks, Lynch was hit for losses four times and gained seven yards in nine carries in a 33-3 loss to the Raiders.
“Super excited to be at home and knowing Marshawn is a home boy,” Del Rio said. “This is his home, like me, grew up here in the East Bay. I know he’s going to have special feelings being out there and it’s going to be great.”
Left tackle Donald Penn said the fun-and-freewheeling Lynch during the week gives way to a more serious one on Sunday.
“Marshawn, man, game day, he’s really just a professional,” Penn said. “He’s a real different person. He’s a business man. I know he’s going to be excited. I’m hoping we can get him in the end zone in front of his home (fans).”
What to watch for in Week 2: 1. GROUND AND POUND >> Getting Penn under contract means the Raiders have their entire offensive line in the fold through next season.
The kind of power and continuity general manager Reggie McKenzie has assembled is the envy of the NFL. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse, the newest acquisition, didn’t allow a pressure and likely will get every snap against the Jets.
While Del Rio talked up the Jets’ front seven, the Jets gave up 190 yards rushing to the Buffalo Bills and LeSean McCoy (110 yards in 22 carries) last week. If the Raiders can get to 150 with Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, it sets the stage for some pyrotechnics with Derek Carr in the passing game.
The Raiders will go as far as their offensive line carries them, and early indications are it could be a long way. 2. TACKLING THE OBVIOUS >> By Del Rio’s count, the Raiders missed three tackles against Tennessee, a very good start in an area where the defense was too often deficient a year ago.
The Jets have two solid backs in Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. Powell in particular can make people miss, averaging 5.5 yards per carry a year ago and gaining 414 yards after the catch out of the backfield.
The duo was the only set of running backs to each record 1,000 yards from scrimmage a year ago.
If the front seven can shed blocks, make tackles and force Josh McCown to pass 40 or more times, well, Raiders fans who remember the 2005 season when McCown wore Silver and Black know how that will play out. 3. GAREON CONLEY’S DEBUT >> The Raiders’ first-round draft pick has two full practices under his belt and faces an ideal opponent in the best possible venue for his first NFL game.
If Sean Smith (questionable with a neck injury) can’t play, then Conley could get a lot of work. It will be important, too, with a game against passhappy Washington looming the following week on the road.
Fans are thirsting for a cornerback who can break on the ball and make plays. McKenzie and the personnel department are confident Conley is that man. Making a play or two would be a boost for the rookie’s confidence.
4. CARR’S ACCURACY >> The field generalship and running of the offense was textbook in Week 1, but the Raiders’ quarterback would be the first to tell you he missed a throw or three.
There was the potential touchdown pass to Lynch, lined up outside, and a throw Carr put behind Amari Cooper in the red zone for a tough drop.
Carr put the 19-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts in a thimble, but he expects to make those throws. The throws he misses are the ones that drive him crazy.
5. SPECIAL FORCES >> That’s what Joe Kapp used to call special teams back in his Cal coaching days, and it was an area where the Raiders excelled in Week 1 against Tennessee.
It was big, too, because the Titans had poached Brynden Trawick and Daren Bates from the Raiders in preseason, as well as drafting Adoree Jackson.
Instead, the Raiders plucked Erik Harris off the waiver wire, brought back final cut Xavier WoodsonLuster, and coach Brad Seely’s unit got the better of the special teams in a way that went well behind Giorgio Tavecchio’s heroics.
Now the Raiders could get back Jamize Olawale and possibly Keith McGill, and a phase that was a question mark could become an exclamation point.
In his Raiders debut, Marshawn Lynch runs past Tennessee Titans’ linebacker Avery Williamson during last week’s season-opening win.