Over parts of the last four decades, one symbol has remained common with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders' franchise: winning. From 1968 to 2000, the Raiders had played in five Super Bowls, making them the only NFL team to have played in Super Bowls in four different decades. Whether it was Ken "the Snake" Stabler firing passes to Fred Biletnikoff, Marcus Allen running wild through defenses, or Rich Gannon threading defenses to Tim Brown, the Raiders were a symbol for victory. But sure enough, all the glory disappeared in 2003, one year following a 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Raiders have staggered to a combined 15-49 record over the past four seasons, with an array of several overpriced, underacheiving veteran signings. But nonetheless, with the winning disappeared from Oakland, one symbol has remained common with the Raiders: the 'Black Hole.'
More formerly known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the home of the Raiders has gained the reputation for its rabid fans and hostile environment.
Jets linebacker Eric Barton, who played with the Raiders from his rookie season in 1999 to 2003, provided his perspective on the Raiders' fans inside the 'Black Hole.'
"They're a spirited group of different individuals," Barton said. "They love football there. It's going to be loud and it's probably going to be the first time a lot of [players] have seen something like this."
One of Eric Mangini's finest days as head coach of the Jets' came against the Raiders back in 2006, when Gang Green knocked off Oakland 23-3 on the final weekend of the regular season to secure a surprising playoff birth. However, that win came at the Meadowlands. The last time the Jets have visited the 'Black Hole' was in 2003, when they defeated Oakland 27-24 in overtime.
Mangini will be making his first trip to Oakland with the Jets, but he knows what the experience is like from his days as a defensive assistant with the New England Patriots. The Jets' head coach simply described the atmosphere as "unique."
Although the Oakland fans have gained the reputation for being a raucous crowd and have dressed in outfits resembling Halloween costumes, Mangini is careful to note that the crowd is only one element of the playing experience.
"Nobody in the crowd is going to make any plays," Mangini said. "It's more a function of getting through and being able to communicate with the noise level.
Communicating will certainly be key, especially on the defensive side of the ball where the Jets will be squared up against the Raiders' steady run attack. The trio of Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush have rush for an average of 141 yards per game. Mangini specifically praised McFadden during today's press conference.
"He's an excellent athlete. He's got great speed, the ability to separate from a defense. You saw his athleticism when they put him in the backfield running, throwing, different types of runs," Mangini said.
Perhaps what makes McFadden so elusive is not just his athleticism, but the style in which the Raiders use him. Dating back to McFadden's days at Arkansas, he has often lined up under center in the "wildcat" offense, similar to how the Dolphins have effectively used running back Ronnie Brown. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis says the defense is prepared for such looks.
"We've seen that on film, we know they're going to do that to us, but we have a couple different schemes to play against that so we can stop [McFadden] while he's at the quarterback position," Revis said.
Featuring running backs has often been a scheme saved for the college ranks rather than the NFL, but ever since Brown rushed for four touchdowns and passed for one in a 38-14 victory over the Patriots in a Week 3, the offensive trend has not remained so exclusive.
Through the air the Raiders feature former first-overall pick JaMarcus Russell at quarterback. Revis characterized Russell as having a "one of the strongest arms in the NFL" but the Jets' cornerback is prepared.
"What we see on film is what we know and that's what we're going to practice for. If they come out with different stuff we're going to adjust to it. That's what we're going to do," Revis said.
Even with the head coaching change from Lane Kiffin to Tom Cable, Mangini insists that the Raiders have maintained similarities in their offensive gameplan.
"I think there will continue to be unique things that show up that are specific to the changes that were made [at head coach]. But it's hard to have just a complete overhaul," Mangini said.
Kicker Mike Nugent ran light windsprints through the endzone as Jay Feely continued to handle kicking duties. After kicking during the Jets' opening win at Miami, Nugent has missed the following four weeks with an injury to his right thigh. During today's press conference, Mangini was asked whether Nugent had experienced a setback in his rehab, but Mangini did not provide a direct answer. "Looking at kickers with similar injuries, timetables, things like that, there's no consistent timetable," Mangini said....Linebacker Jason Trusnik (foot) rode the exercise bicylce throughout the practice session. Trusnik is eligible to come off the PUP List and Mangini suggested that the Jets will "probably" reactive him soon....Both cornerback Justin Miller (foot) and wide receiver David Clowney (shoulder) ran smoothly through drills. Clowney is no longer wearing the red pinney, meaning that he is eligible to participate in contact drills....In an 11-on-11 drill between the starting offense and defense, quarterback Brett Favre threw a two-yard screen to wide receiver Brad Smith, a turned the short pass into a 50-yard touchdown run....In one-on-one drills between the wide receivers and cornerbacks, Clowney beat cornerback Hank Poteat for a 35-yard touchdown....Reggie Hodges turned in another consistent punting effort during practice. Hodges consistently boomed his kicks between 40 and 50 yards. Leon Washington and Jerricho Cotchery returned Hodges' punts.
Miller's Status No Longer Physical
With Miller improving from a foot injury which has sidelined him for the previous five games, Mangini explained that the decision to play Miller is no longer based on the cornerback's health. Instead, Mangini said it will come down to a 'coaching decision.' In other words, Miller is healthy to return, but Mangini needs to open a spot on the 53-man roster.
"It will come down to special teams decisions. When you have a group that's overall pretty healthy, then those decisions come down to who can add the most value, who can contribute the most plays," Mangini said.
Poteat's Versatility Looms Large
During today's press conference, Mangini was asked by a reporter why he has continued bringing back Poteat, dating back to their days together in New England. Mangini began with the obvious response of "Because I think he can help us," but then followed with a thorough analysis.
"That versatility is really important because you don't know where you're going to get an injury, where you're going to be light. To have a guy that can play multiple roles I think is always positive.
Mangini on Division
At 3-2 on the season, the Jets sit one game behind first-place Buffalo, but also one-game ahead of last-place Miami. Even so, Mangini is not about to wrap himself up in the standings.
"I don't really go through that. If we take care of the games we play, all that other stuff will fall into place," Mangini explained. "Where we are at game five really doesn't matter."
Out:K Mike Nugent (right thigh)
Limited Participation: WR David Clowney (shoulder), WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), NT Kris Jenkins (back), LB Calvin Pace (foot), LB Bryan Thomas (calf)
Full Participation: DB Justin Miller (foot)
Did Not Participate: DE Derrick Burgess (tricep), TE Ben Troupe (foot)
Limited Participation in Practice: LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder)
Full Participation: DB Nnamdi Asomugha (elbow)