Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Patriots matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at Gilette Stadium.
Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Patriots NT Vince Wilfork
Tale of the tape:
McFadden (20): 6-foot-1, 218 pounds, seventh season, Arkansas
Wilfork (75): 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, 11th season, Miami
There’s no arguing that Darren McFadden ran hard last week. The Raiders running back initiated contact in the defense’s second level, challenging linebackers and safeties while fighting for extra yards. That’s something not always seen from the oft-injured slasher. It was a welcome sight to the Raiders, especially with Maurice Jones-Drew sidelined with an injured hand.
Jones-Drew has practiced twice this week, but it remains uncertain whether he’ll play.
“He was out there, which is a plus, and did some things individually,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “I think it’s still swollen, but it’s healing.”
Regardless, McFadden should still have a chance to invigorate a running game that hasn’t established a rhythm yet this season. McFadden had 68 total yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans, but had just 12 carries while the entire running game had but 17.
They must do better and run more frequently against a Patriots team that has struggled some stopping the run and has been excellent in pass defense.
The Raiders prefer to run inside, meaning they’ll have to contend with nose tackle Vince Wilfork, a hulk who has made his name as a run stopper. If McFadden can run around him – through him might not be fruitful – and make steady gains, the Raiders could keep things competitive.
“We’ve got to establish a rhythm on the ground,” McFadden said. “We haven’t been able to do that early in games. As a running back, you want to touch the ball 20 times and really work on a defense. We need to do that on Sunday. I think it’ll help the entire offense.”