When the Buffalo Bills host the Oakland Raiders for a Week 2 tilt this Sunday, they'll be hosting a team whose head coach is aspiring for his club to become the league's proverbial bully.
Hue Jackson was hired by the Raiders as the successor to Tom Cable in mid-January, stating his goal then very plainly: to field a physical football team that beats up its opponents. The Raiders did that often in 2010, when Jackson was still the offensive coordinator, ripping through the AFC West en route to an 8-8 finish. They've started that process again this year, physically dominating Denver in a win on Monday Night Football.
The first-time head coach remains the Raiders' offensive play-caller - much like Chan Gailey is with Buffalo - and for the moment, almost all is well in Oakland. That was not the case after last season when, after going undefeated in the division and contending for a Wild Card berth, the popular Cable was relieved of his duties. Are there any lingering ill effects?
"The second Jackson was named head coach, the Cable firing became a non-issue," explained Rich Langford of SilverAndBlackPride.com. "Some players voiced their concern when Cable was fired. He seemed genuinely well-liked by his players. However, Hue has the respect of this team, and they were ready to buy into his message. Any grumblings over the Cable guy's dismissal vanished once Hue took over."
Oakland's identity is clear, and it's come straight from Jackson: they're a power rushing offense, and their defense is fueled by an active and physical defensive line. In their win over Denver, the Raiders ran for 190 yards, held Denver to just 38 rushing yards, and sacked Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton five times. They also blocked a punt and forced three turnovers.
Still, there was concern that Jackson had taken on too much responsibility in his first-ever head coaching job, and despite his Week 1 success, not all of that skepticism has abated. But it's getting there.
"There was a concern that Hue may be taking on too much in his first year as head coach being the play caller and coach, but he did fine in this regard in the opener," Langford said. "Clock management was solid, and he was one-for-one on replay challenges. It helps that Jackson has someone as experienced as Al Saunders in the booth piping in advice to his headphones from the coach's box."
The Bills have routinely struggled with physical football teams over the last several seasons, and despite their resounding Week 1 win over Kansas City, that question - whether or not the team has improved against physical clubs - remains largely unanswered. They'll take on a bully in Week 2 to try to find that answer.