After a 2-0 start, the Raiders will head to New England and face the Cam Newton-led Patriots. How does the Raiders’ defense stack up after tallying back-to-back victories?
The Raiders Week 3 matchup against the New England Patriots will be yet another big test for a young defense who enters a crucial road trip having struggled of late. Through two weeks of play, the Raiders’ defense has remained their weak link thus far and things won’t get any easier as they’ll face the revitalized Patriots’ offense led by quarterback Cam Newton.
The Raiders have prevailed in recent contests, with wins over the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, but in doing so they allowed a combined 54 points.
The Raiders added four new defensive starters in free agency and the NFL Draft, putting a clear emphasis to upgrade the area that held them back the most in 2019. However, with youth bundled throughout the secondary, and new starters along the defensive line and linebacking core, cohesion is still developing.
Raiders vs. Patriots: Which Cam Newton Will Las Vegas See?
It’s been a small body of work but Newton looks true to form in 2020. As someone who’s never been opposed to tucking the ball and running, Newton is using his legs more now than ever before.
The former No. 1 overall pick ran the ball 11 times last week and 15 times in Week 1. While offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has completely changed his usual offensive approach, Newton is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt as a rusher.
Throughout his 10-year NFL career, Newton has widely been known as someone who has a rocket arm but has been highly inaccurate. In two games with New England, he’s completed passes at a 71.4% rate — the highest of his NFL career.
Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Newton connected on 15 passes of 10-plus yards — the most of any quarterback in Week 2. Additionally, Newton was responsible for 444 of the Patriots’ 464 yards in Seattle.
The sample size is extremely small, but “Super Cam” is playing arguably his best football and that’s a tall task given he’s a former MVP quarterback. Is it sustainable? It’s only been two weeks, but the Week 3 Raiders-Patriots matchup will provide more answers for what Newton’s future may hold.
Where Must the Raiders’ Defense Focus On?
Stopping Newton’s dual-threat skill set will be the priority for Raiders’ defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Nonetheless, that’s a task easier said than done. Making Newton one-dimensional will be the biggest assignment for the Raiders. With Newton only having two games under his belt in his new offensive system with the Patriots, Guenther will have his hands full in trying to manufacture the proper game plan of slowing him down.
The Raiders have allowed an average of 120.5 rushing yards over the first two weeks. Stopping running backs is much different than a mobile quarterback, but it’s worth noting the Raiders haven’t had much of an answer to stop the highly touted Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara over the first two weeks.
From the offseason overhaul, the Raiders’ defense encountered a superior upgrade in the caliber of speed they possess compared to their 2019 season. Using newly acquired linebacker Cory Littleton to spy Newton will likely be their best shot at detouring the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton.
The last quarterback the Raiders saw who implements a legitimate rushing arsenal was Deshaun Watson last season. Even he isn’t the “tuck-and-go” type of running quarterback that Newton is, but he did record 10 rushing attempts for 46 yards against the Raiders.
The lack of pressure from the Raiders’ defensive front hasn’t been anything to write home about. Creating more push from the defensive line and closing the pocket with more regularity is a tactic they must capitalize on in order to contain Newton from getting outside the pocket where he’s at his best.
This Week 3 contest will likely be the tale of two ends: how the Raiders can contain Newton and how the Patriots can minimize the damage from the Raiders skill players of Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller.