After years of success as the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Guenther was hoping that success would continue in Oakland. It did not.
It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders fielded one of the worst defenses in the NFL during the 2018 season. Just before the season started, Guenther and the defense had the rug pulled out from under them when Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears. This set a tone for the season and the defense never recovered.
Guenther described 2018 to the media after Tuesday’s practice as “by far my hardest season in coaching.” Most coordinators would have been fired after such a putrid output, but the Raiders’ front office recognized the dearth of talent that they gave Guenther and are rolling with him for another season. Fast forward to 2019 and things are looking a little brighter. The Raiders rewarded Guenther’s patience with three highly-touted defensive draft picks early in the draft. They also added talented veterans like LaMarcus Joyner, Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict. Time will tell if Guenther can make it work in Oakland, but his track record in Cincinnati would indicate that he has the chops to turn this pedestrian defense into a formidable squad.
There were some other notable comments from Guenther’s during his chat the media. It seems like defensive end Arden Key is going to be more of a third-down pass rusher, opposed to an every-down guy. Guenther also commented on the Raiders’ decision to not pick up safety Karl Joseph’s fifth-year option. He said that Joseph is taking it in stride and working hard so that he can get another contract come seasons end.
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Defensive Players Sound Off
Tuesday’s post-practice press conference was all about defense. Several notable defensive players gave some insight on how the OTAs are going.
New Raider linebacker Vontaze Burfict has noted the energy on the practice field.
“The energy here is amazing,” said Burfict to the media.
Burfict heaped a lot of praise on his defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who coached him in Cincinnati. Burfict is considered a volatile player so having someone who he respects on the staff could go along for the pro-bowl level talent.
Burfict also went on to praise the leadership of his new rookie teammate Clelin Ferrell:
“He’s a rookie, but I swear he’s been here like five years.”
Second-year defensive tackle Maurice Hurst also took the podium and talked about the development of the young guys:
“It’s our time to take it over and start to develop our own identity.”
Hurst figures to be a key player on the defense in 2019. He was named the best tackler on the team for 2018 by Pro Football Focus and should only show improvement going forward.
With another year under their belt, expect young guys like Hurst and Arden Key to make an even bigger impact in 2019. 2018 was inexcusable, but there has been a huge influx of talent for the Raider defense. Things seem to be changing for the better in Oakland and not just on the offensive side of the ball.