Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, right, is sacked for an 8-yard loss by New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower during the third quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throws under pressure in the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — The New England Patriots' defense is preparing for a bit of the unknown in Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr this Sunday.
Carr has played two games in the NFL, so there's not a whole lot of video on him. New England coaches have watched plays from his days at Fresno State.
"He's an athletic guy back there," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Tuesday. "He can certainly get the ball down the field. We know he's a smart kid.
"I think all the things that we saw from him at Fresno and when he's had an opportunity to do them in this league have continued to show up. Obviously the systems are different but from a skill standpoint, I think his skills are his skills and they're pretty good."
The Raiders have lost both of their games — 19-14 on the road to the New York Jets and 30-14 last week at home to the Houston Texans. Carr went 47 for 74 passing for 414 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. His quarterback rating is 80.6, which happens to be just ahead of New England's Tom Brady near the bottom of the AFC.
Carr is last in the AFC in third-down passing, with Brady just ahead of him. But he's also Oakland's leading rusher. He has 55 yards, 41 of them on the same play.
"He can do something back there that can cause the defense to be under duress for the game," said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. "So you really have to be very disciplined and make sure you don't get beat — not only with his arm, but with his legs if he's out of the pocket.
"He's also doing a nice job of making sure the offense is getting into the right particular plays. He'll take a lot of plays and change them based on the looks and things like that they're seeing from the defense. He's doing a good job of getting the ball to the guys who are going to make plays for him."
Patricia's defense, which fell apart in the second half of the opener at Miami and then looked bad on Minnesota's opening drive, then came alive against old friend Matt Cassel. New England picked off the former Patriot four times.
Now the defense faces a team that has some names but really hasn't scared anyone so far.
"They are certainly going to feature the running game with a player like (Darren) McFadden and if a player like (Maurice) Jones-Drew is out on the field at the same time, you certainly have a dual threat for a run game and now can be threatened on both the inside and outside edges of the run game," Patricia said.
McFadden has gained just 52 yards on 16 carries, while Jones-Drew has 11 yards on nine tries — and the Raiders will also use the wildcat.
NOTES: Belichick said he has no way of knowing if the change in the league's drug policy would get the four-game suspensions of cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms reduced. . Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on 37-year-old Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson: "I almost played against Charles in high school a long time ago. We were going to in the playoffs, and one of us lost — I don't remember who it was. He's obviously been doing it for an incredibly long time at an elite level and he still is." ... The Patriots signed linebacker Darius Fleming, offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke to the practice squad and released running back Marcus Thigpen and defensive lineman Cameron Henderson from the practice squad. Fleming had just been released on Saturday.
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