Some much of the talk heading into the Oakland Raiders' season opener has been about starting rookie quarterback Derek Carr. Lost in the Carr story is the other starting quarterback in the game. The New York Jets believe they have a much improved quarterback Geno Smith.
“He’s night and day different,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “He is a guy that is poised, much more than he was last year. He can make the throws. He’s got a big, strong arm. He knows where he’s going with the football, so he looks sharp to me.”
Smith had all kinds of problems starting as a rookie last season. He tossed 21 interceptions to 12 touchdowns and completed only 55 percent of his passes. He did come on toward the end of the season helping the Jets win three of their last four games. The first win in that stretch came against the Raiders where Smith completed 64 percent of his passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception. With the offseason and preseason to develop, the Raiders believe they will see an improved Geno Smith.
“He’s gotten better in everything that he does,” Raiders' defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “His timing is better, his pocket presence has improved through the preseason. He does a nice job of when things break down making plays with his legs.”
Despite Smith's improvements, the Raiders know they can make him feel uncomfortable with pressure. The team revamped their defensive line this offseason for that purpose. Tarver is also known for his aggressive blitz packages to help force Smith into bad decisions. The pass rush is even more important with the injuries and inconsistent play of the Raiders' secondary. Look for Tarver to dial up the activation packages to disrupt Smith.
“We are going to activate players,” Tarver said. “We’re going to activate everybody at some point and time.”
For the Raiders defense, putting pressure on Smith will be important, but the Jets' offense is predicated on running the football. They are a team that wins with defense and ball control through their rushing attack. This will be Oakland's number one priority come Sunday. If the Raiders can stop the New York rushing attack, they can bring fire at Smith.
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