Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Jets matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at MetLife Stadium.
Raiders secondary vs. Jets QB Geno Smith
Raiders secondary: CBs Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, FS Charles Woodson, SS Tyvon Branch
Smith (7): 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, second season, West Virginia
The Raiders pass defense was torched by starting quarterbacks all preseason long. Minnesota’s Matt Cassel, Detroit’s Matt Stafford and Seattle’s Russell Wilson were near perfect in relatively limited action against the Raiders first-unit.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was just 9-of-20 for 139 yards, but orchestrated three touchdown drives in a half.
Those weren’t positive results for a veteran secondary with new pieces on the outside. Rogers was solid, but Brown seemed to struggle. Woodson was adequate and Branch wasn’t a major factor.
For the Raiders, it’s unsettling and unimportant at the same time. It was, after all, the preseason.
Exhibition struggles won’t matter if the Raiders fare well Sunday against Smith, an easier assignment compared to his preseason counterparts. The mobile quarterback was an easy pick in his rookie season, throwing 21 interceptions to 12 touchdowns.
Even that version beat last year’s Raiders with roughly 270 total yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
This might be an improved model. Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said Smith has gotten better “at everything he does.”
Jets head coach Rex Ryan sees a vastly improved quarterback over a year ago.
“He’s night and day different,” Ryan said. “Each college guy comes from a different system or whatever, but there was no three-step drop, five-step drop, seven-step drop where Geno came from. (The NFL game) was very different for him, but this young man has shown a ton of poise.
At the end of last season, the last month of the year, he had the second-highest quarterback rating in the National Football League. Everybody wants to talk about … Now, he was dead last up until that point, but people assume that he was dead last the whole season and that’s not the case."
“You’ll have a chance to see him up close and personal. 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. He looks sharp to me.”
While Smith has improved, the Raiders secondary believes they have too. They new new veteran corners and a healthy Branch, which should help if these veterans can evoke the rookie in Smith to slow the Jets offense, get off the field on third down and keep things competitive.
The Raiders veterans certainly have the savvy to do so, but they must execute well to erase external fear generated by preseason struggles.