Jets' Strong Defensive Front Hopes to Rebound vs. Raiders

Del Rio says Raiders will be challenged by a group led by Williams and Wilkerson Sunday in 2017 home opener

The New York Jets were 5-11 last season and are off to an 0-1 start this year. With a huge question mark at quarterback, the Jets aren’t expected to contend for anything other than a high draft pick in 2018.

Yet when the Jets come into Oakland Sunday to face the 1-0 Raiders in Week 2 of this season, New York does present a challenge to the Raiders in the form of a strong defensive front that wants to prove itself after being shredded last week in a loss to the Bills. Buffalo ran for 190 yards vs. the Jets, who feature standouts at defensive ends in Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams and veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon in their 3-4 scheme.

Jets head coach Todd Bowles called out a poor performance by his defenders up front this week, and Wilkerson said the message was loud and clear.

Wilkerson said he and his teammates must “accept the challenge” from Bowles.

“We definitely need to do a better job of staying in our gaps up front,” Wilkerson told the New York media. “Last week, myself and the rest of the guys, some players weren’t in our gaps, so we have to make sure we stay fundamental with that.”

Plus, Wilkerson and Co. know they’ll have to put the brakes on running back Marshawn Lynch, who showed in the win over the Titans that he’s as good as ever, especially at running through tacklers.

“We’ve got our hands full,” said Wilkerson. “We’ve got to make sure we gang tackle him.”

Williams, the former USC star who was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has been graded as one of the best players in the NFL at his position over his first two seasons. Williams will have to be blocked by right tackle Marshall Newhouse.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio certainly expects the Jets defense to step up this week in Oakland’s home opener.

“I think they probably have one of the better fronts in the league,” Del Rio told reporters Wednesday. “Their defensive front is as talented as any that we’ll face. They’re very aggressive in their scheme. The two safeties they drafted, we think, are really good football players. I know I liked them both, grading them coming out of the draft.”

Those rookies, who both start, are Jamal Adams of LSU at strong safety and Marcus Maye of Florida at free safety.

Sunday’s game at O.co Coliseum is set to kick off at 1:05 p.m.

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