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Old-school Raiders getting good grades so far

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / September 28, 2011

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When the Patriots first viewed film this week of the Raiders, there was probably a huge sigh of relief in the defensive meeting room.

The Patriots’ first three opponents - the Dolphins, Chargers, and Bills - looked more like they belonged in the Big 12 with their pass-heavy spread offenses, than the NFL.

In the first three games, the Patriots faced an average of 44.3 passes per games of which 66.7 percent were completed for an average of 442.3 yards per game.

When the Patriots get to Oakland Sunday, it will feel like they’re going back in time - and not just because O.co Coliseum still feels the way it did when it opened in 1966.

Like their 82-year-old owner Al Davis, a Brockton native, the Raiders are old-school, baby. They are a run-first, smash-mouth offense in which quarterback Jason Campbell has attempted 82 passes in three games.

New England’s opponents have completed 86 passes.

So Sunday’s matchup should give the Patriots a chance to actually play their base 4-3 defense (which they didn’t do against the Bills), but it will have to be on point.

The Raiders have the league’s top rushing offense, and top runner, Darren McFadden (131.0 yards per game). They ran roughshod over the Jets last Sunday with 234 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries.

The Jets had the league’s No. 4-ranked rushing defense in 2010 and allowed 90.9 yards before getting run over in the Raiders’ 34-24 victory.

That left them at 2-1, with their only loss being a blown double-digit lead at Buffalo.

A look at the Raiders:

■Quarterback: Campbell (6 feet 5 inches, 230 pounds) is operating with high efficiency (65.9 completion percentage) in the conservative offense of veteran coordinator Al Saunders. Campbell stays away from the big mistake, but the Raiders love to take shots down the field and Campbell has the arm to do it.

■Running backs: McFadden might be the best all-around back in the league. He injured his groin against the Jets, but when he’s right the 6-1, 211-pounder runs to his 4.33 combine time in the 40. The Patriots can’t let him get to the outside so strong-side linebacker Rob Ninkovich will have to battle fullbacks Marcel Reese (6-3, 240) and Rock Cartwright (5-8, 215) in the Raiders’ preferred two-back sets.

■Receivers: Speed, speed, and more speed. Denarius Moore, the fifth-round pick out of Tennessee, has busted onto the scene with 180 yards on nine receptions. He is explosive (4.39) and can leap. The Raiders are hoping that 5-9 receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford (4.22) and 6-2 receiver Louis Murphy (4.32) are back from injuries.

■Offensive line: The Raiders love to run behind the left side of their line with tackle Jared Veldheer (6-8, 315), rookie guard Stefan Wisniewski, and center Samson Satele, who looks reborn after starting his career with the Dolphins. Veldheer (speed) and Satele (power) are weaker against the pass. Right guard Cooper Carlisle (Broncos) and right tackle Khalif Barnes (Jaguars) are solid.

■Defensive line: Tackle Richard Seymour (6-6, 310) doesn’t need any introductions. He’s still stout and commanding double-teams. Tackle Tommy Kelly is flourishing with all the attention being afforded Seymour, and they will flip sides. They each have two sacks. Sub pass rusher Jarvis Moss has three, and he will spell Matt Shaughnessy, who is tough to move against the run.

■Linebackers: Strong-side linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (6-4, 255) has been a huge hit after signing as a free agent. He has 10 quarterback hurries, according to profootballfocus.com. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, the eighth pick in 2010, has trouble in coverage. Quentin Groves is tough against the run.

■Secondary: A beat-up group allowed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to complete 27 of 43 passes for 369 yards. Free safety Michael Huff (concussion) and cornerback Chris Johnson (hamstring) left in the first half and did not return. Rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke (knee) was inactive. Huff and strong safety Tyvon Branch are the best players. Journeyman Matt Giordano had to play for Huff. All the corners, including Standford Routt and Chimdi Chekwa, will have a tough matchup if Tom Brady gets protection.

Special teams: It doesn’t get much better than punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com.

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