Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Jets matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at MetLife Stadium.
Raiders DC Jason Tarver vs. Jets QB Geno Smith
Tale of the tape:
Tarver: 12th NFL season, second with Raiders, Santa Clara
Smith (7): 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, rookie season, West Virginia
[RELATED: Matchup No. 3: Holmes vs. Cromartie]
Head coach Dennis Allen has begged his Raiders to respect Geno Smith. He’s pleaded at every turn.
Whether Allen believes his own rhetoric is another matter.
The Jets rookie quarterback has largely struggled this season, with just eight touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He’s had moments of brilliance – a three-touchdown performance versus Atlanta comes to mind – but mistakes have been common.
The past six weeks have been particularly unkind to the second-round pick from West Virginia, drawing out eight interceptions without a touchdown pass. It’s no surprise the Jets are 1-4 in that span and have fallen back in the playoff race.
Even so, Allen is saying nice things. It’s clearly a motivational tool to keep his defense on edge for a winnable game Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“When you evaluate the whole season, there have been times where he’s looked exceptional and there have been times where he’s looked like a young player who has made some mistakes,” Allen said. We have to recognize that you don’t draft a guy where he was taken without having ability. He’s got ability. We have to take that into account. Hopefully we can give him some confusing looks and get a takeaway.”
That’s where defensive coordinator Jason Tarver comes in. Tarver has a creative blitz scheme that changes each week, but hovers around a central theme: Any defender can blitz at any time.
Tarver loves the phrase “multiplicity through simplicity,” which in coachspeak means that the Raiders give can execute the same play out of several looks. In other words: Keep it easy for your players, confuse the heck out of theirs.
Tarver has coaxed mistakes out of far more experienced players. If Tarver gets creative and execution is precise, Smith could be fresh meat.
“When we do what we’re supposed to do, we have enough looks to confuse most of them,” Tarver said. “For us, when we’ve done our job and not worried about anything and aligned and challenged and taken care of business, especially on third downs, we’ve played pretty well on defense.”
Tarver’s defense has shown signs of weakness, especially late in recent games. They allowed a game-deciding touchdown to Tennessee after letting Ryan Fitzpatrick seem slippery. Then they wore down against the Dallas Cowboys and let Tony Romo go nuts.
Smith is far worse that either of those passers at this stage. He can be elusive – although his passing under pressure is atrocious -- and throws a decent deep ball, especially to his right. Even Allen must admit rookie mistakes can be coaxed out of this young passer. While Allen has a heavy hand in the defensive game plan, Tarver’s play calling could put bring out the worst in Smith.
“You have to be able to affect the quarterback,” Allen said. “You have to be able to affect them with pressure. You have to be able to affect them with coverage. You have to be able to affect them with pre-snap looks. That really doesn’t change, and it’s just a matter of when you get into the game, how effective are those things that you’re doing against them.”