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New York Jets set for tricky matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders (Podcast)

Sabo Radio, Sam Darnold, Denzel Mims, Jon Gruden
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The New York Jets are set for a tricky matchup in the Las Vegas Raiders, one that might not serve the Trevor Lawrence cause well.

Under normal (winning) circumstances, a “tricky matchup” would feature an underdog whose personnel and scheme matches up well with a winning team. The 2020 New York Jets are anything but normal.

There’s just one light at the end of the tunnel for this 0-11 squad. His name is Trevor Lawrence, the kid who represents the grand prize for the team that finishes last in the league.

A tricky matchup for this team constitutes a team that may not match up against the Jets as well as just about every other team in the league. While the Jets probably have a better chance to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars—the team currently nipping at New York’s heels—the 6-5 Las Vegas Raiders don’t match-up tremendously.

Jon Gruden’s team is a strange one. After staying with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs—until Patrick Mahomes did his usual heroic thing on the final drive—the Raiders fell completely flat against a rough-looking Atlanta Falcons squad. Granted, the Falcons have won three of four and look much better under interim head coach Raheem Morris, but for a team whose aspirations are the playoffs, to get spanked 44-6 is nothing short of inexcusable.

The outdated coaching/schemes

Strange football teams are usually one of three things. They can be a talented team devastated by injuries, thus lowering their production. They can be an underlooked team that’s coached well and finds early-season success that gets the ball rolling. Or, they can have the talent and simply not be coached sufficiently.

Gruden’s team might qualify as the last of the three.

It’s not as though Gruden is a bad coach; he’s simply bringing a six-shooter to an AK-47 party. Similar to Adam Gase in this regard, Gruden’s offense predates today’s heavily college-influenced league.

Gruden’s offense features very few edge-pressure principles. There isn’t much jet-motion or anything that features the quarterback in the rushing attack—for obvious reasons. He uses a fullback and relies on a power-rushing attack with an overall heavy west coast feel—something that’s fading away season by season.

Defensively, Paul Guenther also hasn’t been impressive. His defense is currently second to last in sacks per game, and they struggle mightily when defending the pass.

Guenther also plays softer coverages a lot. This would favor Sam Darnold and the Jets offense—that is if Guenther sticks to his regular look. Up to this point, only Vic Fangio didn’t adjust against the Jets. Instead of playing an aggressive brand of defense, Fangio stuck to his familiar Cover 4 scheme earlier in the season.

Guenther loves playing 2-deep on early downs. If he does it against Darnold, he’s giving the struggling quarterback a big-time break. Anything but press on the outside with a single-high and plenty of pressure will be handing out favors to the Jets offense early in the game.

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The personnel/injuries

Las Vegas will be without three key players this Sunday. Running back Josh Jacobs, safety Johnathan Abrams and defensive end Clelin Ferrell will all miss the game. This is huge news.

While Abrams hasn’t been tremendous this season— his 40.8 PFF ranking puts him near the bottom of the league at the position—the Raiders can’t afford to lose anybody in the secondary.

Talent-wise, it’s not as though they’re completely bare in the secondary. They have two nice-looking young corners, but neither Trayvon Mullen nor Damon Arnette hasn’t put together the finest season at cornerback. Mullen’s 58.9 grade and Arnette’s 50.7 grade also place them in a rough spot league-wide. But what’s happening on the back-end has been generated by the front.

The Raiders’ pass-rush is hurting, something that helps Darnold and Gase’s offense. Only the Jags have sacked the quarterback fewer times per game (1.0) than the Raiders’ 1.1 mark. Without Ferrell, Maxx Crosby will be relied upon to carry the team’s rush.

Las Vegas boasts a decent rush defense—13th in the NFL with 113.4 yards relented per game—but it’s at the cost of its 27th ranked passing defense at times.

Guenther is incredibly similar to Gregg Williams in the way he ensures that the rushing attack is first stopped at all costs. At times, this hurts the pass defense to an incredible degree. It’s an old-school principle that worked when the league didn’t see as much passing. Today, that mindset just doesn’t work. (Rex Ryan was also incredibly similar in this regard.)

Additionally, Jacobs’s injury hurts more than it might appear. Usually, running back is a plug-and-play position. Jacobs is much more valuable to the Raiders offense courtesy of Gruden’s power-rushing attack that caters to the kid’s talents.

Final thoughts

Although Darnold and the Jets spanked the Raiders a year ago, there’s just no way anybody can pick the Jets to win with a straight face. A Joe Pesci “what do you mean I’m funny?” line would have to be thrown in.

When analyzing the schemes and personnel, however, the Las Vegas Raiders present a tricky matchup for the New York Jets. I can see Denzel Mims snagging his first professional touchdown this week as Henry Ruggs looks on from the opposite sideline. Without a legitimate pass rush coupled with young corners and key injuries, this would be the week Sam Darnold finds success (if it’s ever going to happen over the last five games).

This tricky matchup and much more is discussed on the latest edition of Sabo Radio:

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