- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets like to believe they have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. No argument here. With the cornerback position in a state of emergency, it needs to be the Magnificent Seven, especially with a rookie quarterback coming to town. Derek Carr gets the start for the Oakland Raiders, and the Jets have to treat him as harshly as big brother David was treated during his years in the NFL.
The ever-confident Sheldon Richardson was asked Tuesday what Carr can expect Sunday from the Jets' front seven.
"Gotta be pure dominance, if (nothing) else," Richardson told ESPN.com in a matter-of-fact tone. "Pure dominance. That's all I can think of right now, just dominating and dominating the run, because this team last year was the only team that ran for over 100 yards (against us)."
Actually, it was 150, the most allowed by the Jets, but that's ancient history. If the Jets want to make it to Halloween still in contention, their defensive line and linebackers must rise up, protect the depleted secondary and carry the team through a potentially lethal run of top quarterbacks.
Everybody knows the story at cornerback. Right now, it looks like Darrin Walls and converted safety Antonio Allen will start the opener. They have a grand total of four career starts, all by Walls. This week shouldn't be a difficult test, at least not compared to next week (Aaron Rodgers), the week after (Jay Cutler) and the few weeks after that. Carr is a warm-up act, as long as the Jets take care of business at the line of scrimmage.
Naturally, they were delighted by the news that Carr, not Matt Schaub, will start for the Raiders. Every defense loves to face a rookie, especially in their own building -- especially in the opener. Under Rex Ryan, the Jets are 7-3 against rookie starters. Ryan's defense is predicated on causing confusion for the opposition. His clever schemes have baffled the best of the best over the years, so they should be able to feast on Carr.
"We lick our chops against every quarterback, not just rookies," linebacker Demario Davis said. "We kick our chops against anybody who is trying to move the ball on us."
The Jets' front seven should be better than a year ago because their top young players -- Davis, Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Quinton Coples -- are on the ascent. They added a proven pass rusher in Jason Babin, who should be able to provide sacks off the bench.
The Jets did a lot of chirping in training camp, especially on defense. Now is the time for the big fellas to back it up, because there's no way these corners can hold up in coverage if the quarterback -- any quarterback -- can stand comfortably in the pocket.
"Do I think we have the potential to be (the best)? Yes, I think we have the potential to be the best," Richardson said, referring to the front seven. "Do we have the potential to stay the best? That's the way we're trying to keep it."
They can start by roughing up Carr. Rookie safety Calvin Pryor said the plan is to bring early pressure, trying to rattle the second-round pick. In his final year at Fresno State, he completed only 29 percent of his passes while under duress, the worst among the top quarterback prospects, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Carr put up crazy stats in college, but it should be noted that a good amount of his throws were screen passes.
The game has changed in recent years, turning the NFL into a pitch-and-catch league. Spread offenses can negate a strong pass rush, which is why we probably will never see another defense like the '85 Chicago Bears. But a formidable front seven is better than a weak front seven, and the Jets will have to ride their horses for as long as their secondary needs protection.
On Sunday, they can test drive a green Carr.
"This is his first official game, he's the starter and it's the NFL," Richardson said. "That's a big plate to handle."