When the Las Vegas Raiders were able to hire Paul Guenther as the defensive coordinator, it seemed like a really good move. He helped lead some really strong defenses in Cincinnati and even Jon Gruden said that he thinks he’ll be a head coach one day. However, Guenther’s first two years with the team couldn’t have gone much worse as the Raiders have had among the worst defenses in the NFL over both years.
Regardless, Gruden is giving him another shot and has finally given him enough talent to field a solid defense. This offseason, the Raiders went hard after defenders in free agency. The most notable move was signing linebacker Cory Littleton but the move that has been getting the most hype from coaches was the signing of Maliek Collins.
“I’ve been around Geno Atkins a long time in his career. Maliek reminds me a lot of Geno Atkins,” Guenther told reporters Thursday. “He might be our best acquisition of the offseason from what I’ve seen. He’s been tremendous. Obviously, with [Raiders defensive line coach] Rod Marinelli here, he coached the defensive line in Dallas, he showed the guys what Rod is teaching them. He’s tremendous with the younger players, teaching them the techniques, he’s very fast, got his weight down, he’s in great shape. He is the prototypical three-technique that we’re looking for in this defense.”
That echoes what Gruden has said about the defensive tackle. Adding Collins was a somewhat under the radar move but it’s sounding like it’s going to pay off in a big way. If can have the kind of impact that Atkins has had for the Bengals, the Raiders’ defensive line could be sneaky good in 2020.
Guenther Praises Added Depth on Defense
The frustrating part about the Raiders defense last season is that they did look good at times. They were the only team to shutout Patrick Mahomes in the second half of a game. The problem is that they gave up 28 points to him in one quarter. The Raiders really lacked depth last year and once players started dropping, the defense got worse and worse. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be as big of a problem for them in 2020.
“It used to be when we have one guy out with an injury, we bled to death,” Guenther said. “Now we have some depth across the board in the secondary, on the d-line, we can roll guys through and create roles for each and every guy. It may be 10 snaps to help us win, it may be 60 snaps to help us win, whatever it is, we have different guys and different portfolios. We can put those guys in certain spots and utilize their strengths. So, it’s exciting to actually get going and put the pads on.”
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Guenther Excited About Young Talent
The Raiders have used a lot of draft picks on defensive players over the last couple of years. There’s a ton of young talent on the team this year and Guenther is really excited to utilize it.
“We really rebuilt the engine here with some new, young talent,” Guenther said. “Very excited with where they’re at. They’re doing a hell of a job picking up the system, the scheme and techniques of everything we’re doing.”
There will be growing pains but relying on youth worked out well for the Raiders last year.