By Steve Corkran
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 2:06 pm in Oakland Raiders.
For the first time in almost a year, the Raiders will play in front of a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum when they host the New York Jets on Sunday.
A Raiders official confirmed just past noon that the game sold out in advance of the league-mandated deadline, which means the game also will be televised locally.
Only one of the Raiders eight home games sold out and was televised in each of the past two seasons. This also bodes well for the Raiders selling out the New England Patriots game Oct. 2 at the Coliseum.
“It’s going to be a great opening for us,” running back Darren McFadden said. “Raider fans are going to be out in full effect. We’re just looking forward to going out and giving them a show.”
JONES GETTING HIS KICKS
Part of that show figures to entail rookie Taiwan Jones returning kicks for the first time in the NFL.
He returned kicks in practice today, and he almost certainly will take over for Nick Miller against the Jets on Sunday.
Returning kicks isn’t anything new to Jones. He returned 50 kicks during his three seasons in college, at an average of 22.7 yards.
He said he isn’t interested in the yardage, he wants the whole deal on kick returns.
“Definitely, every time I touch the ball, I’m thinking touchdown,” Jones said. “Set your standards high; there’s always good that come from it.”
GETTING THE DIRT
The Raiders don’t have to worry about things such as traction, skin burns and surface unevenness, for a change, this Sunday.
The A’s wrap up their home schedule today, which means the Coliseum grounds crew can have the infield dirt covered with turf in time for the Raiders-Jets game.
PAYBACK ON RAIDERS’ MINDS
The Jets’ 38-0 victory over the Raiders in 2009 represented the worst-ever home loss for the Raiders during a regular-season game.
“It’s been awhile,” McFadden said. “It’s one of those things, once the game is done, you just put it behind you and move forward.”
Several Raiders said they haven’t forgotten how badly the Jets beat them, but they can’t get too consumed with the thought.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said he is encouraged by the way his players have rebounded from an atrocious second-half performance against the Bills.
In particular, the players are hell-bent upon shoring up their run defense. The Bills rushed for 217 yards and averaged almost 9 yards per carry.
“I’d say it’s like any professional,” Bresnahan said. “We’ve got a good group of pros in the room. When you set out to stop the run and you don’t stop the run, you walk into that room, there’s an attitude, there’s a chip on the shoulder. Again, they handled it well. It showed in this week’s practice. I’m excited.”
After breaking down the video from the Bills game, Bresnahan said the Raiders had golden opportunities to force the Bills to punt on four of the five second-half drives that resulted in touchdowns.
Singling out any one thing that went wrong is futile, he said. There were too many breakdowns and missed opportunities to stop the Bills.
“You can look at missed tackles, dropped interceptions, a penalty on a key third down,” Bresnahan said. “It was everything. It was like dropping a deck of cards on the ground and trying to pick out which reason you didn’t get off the field. We have to get that corrected, and we will.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Jackson and defensive tackle Richard Seymour said earlier this week that they expect other teams to spread out the Raiders on defense and see if they can benefit in much the same fashion the Bills did in the second half.
Bresnahan said he, too, expects the Jets and other teams to spread out the Raiders in an attempt to capitalize on a weakness, real or perceived.
“Would you?” Bresnahan said. “And it’s funny because it’s a copy-cat league, and when you watch Buffalo’s offense, if you go back and look at the Jets, who have gone to the AFC championship game two years in a row, it’s very mirrored to what they did.
“We’re expecting some of the same things, but I do know Rex’s mentality is a physical, no B.S. type of deal and they’re going to try to establish the run game, as well.”
MUM’S THE WORD
As usual, Jackson is being tight-lipped about who is starting and who is performing in which role in the upcoming game.
In this case, Jackson won’t divulge who is going to return punts or kicks against the Jets. That’s fine. We know ways to get other people to talk.
Jones said he is under the assumption that he will replaced the injured Jacoby Ford on kick returns. Miller or Denarius Moore will be the punt returner.
MCCLAIN GETS JACKSON’S BACKING
Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain has been the subject of harsh criticism in the wake of his uneven performance against the Bills.
McClain recorded a team-high 10 tackles, as well as the Raiders lone sack, yet he also struggled in pass coverage and against the run on more than a few occasions.
Jackson said he is confident that McClain still has what it takes to be a great NFL player.
“He’s doing some good things,” Jackson said, “but he’ll be the first to tell you that he needs to play better. He needs to get the defensive unit to where he knows that on every play, from a consistency standpoint, that everybody is doing everything they can to make sure that the offensive team gets stopped.
“Obviously I’m sure that we’re referring to a week ago. No one’s happy with that. This young man, again, take it day by day and week by week and here’s the next week. He’ll be up to the challenge.”
McClain wasn’t available for comment Sunday or Monday. He said Wednesday that he talks only on Mondays. However, he was not in the locker room during the media access period.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee), tight end Kevin Boss (knee), kicker Sebastian Janikowski (foot) and safety Jerome Boyd (knee) were at full strength at practice Thursday.
Quarterback Jason Campbell (foot), cornerbacks Chris Johnson (groin) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (knee) and McFadden (shoulder) were limited in practice. Those four likely will play Sunday.
“I guess in their eyes, I’m limited,” McFadden said, “but I’m good. I’m full steam. I’m not taking any reps off or anything, so I’m good.”
Fullback Marcel Reece says, if you think the Raiders offensive is explosive now, just wait until they get back receivers Ford and Louis Murphy, as well as Boss, and Jones becomes a fixture.
“Absolutely. It gets better and better as we get better and better as individuals and as a group every day,” Reece said. “So, I would have to say, yeah, in my four years, this is the best feeling I’ve had about our offense, in explosion, confidence, execution and every way possible.”
Reece also said it didn’t take him long to realize that Moore was unlike other rookies he has seen come and go over the years.
“I said it as soon as I saw him step on the field; that the kid’s the truth,” Reece said. “He can play. He can just flat-out play. There’s something about this organization that finds playmakers. It’s just not Denarius, it’s a lot of guys. It’s Denarius this year.
“It says something about this organization, how long they’ve been doing it and how well they do it. Everyone can say all they want, the negativity, but when it comes down to it, they produce playmakers. That’s what’s here, that’s what’s been here and that’s what’s going to stay here.”
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