Raiders’ Guen­ther in un­charted wa­ters

The Sacramento Bee - - Sports - BY MATT SCHNEIDMAN Bay Area News Group

Paul Guen­ther has said it sev­eral times al­ready this sea­son. He’s not used to see­ing teams con­sis­tently blow his de­fense away.

In Guen­ther’s four years as the Ben­gals’ de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor prior to join­ing Jon Gru­den’s staff in

2018, his de­fenses ranked

12th, sec­ond, eighth and

16th in the league, re­spec­tively, in points al­lowed per game. The Raiders cur­rently rank 31st in that cat­e­gory al­low­ing 31.5 points per game, and the only team below them, Tampa Bay, al­ready fired their de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor this sea­son.

When Guen­ther ar­rived home af­ter last Thurs­day’s 34-3 loss to sec­ondyear quar­ter­back Nick Mul­lens and the 49ers, his son had al­ready seen a video on­line show­ing his dad and Gru­den ver­bally spar­ring on the side­line. Af­ter Ra­heem Mostert’s 52-yard touch­down run made it 31-3 in the third quar­ter, Gru­den slapped Guen­ther on the arm and barked some­thing at him. Guen­ther didn’t re­ally have an an­swer, which is un­der­stand­able be­cause his de­fense doesn’t have one ei­ther.

The Raiders own the league’s worst run de­fense, al­low­ing 144.5 yards per game on the ground. They rank 24th in pass de­fense, slightly bet­ter but still well below par, sur­ren­der­ing 262.6 aerial yards per con­test. They sit last in sacks with seven through eight games, the only team with sin­gle dig­its in that cat­e­gory, and last in quar­ter­back pres­sures with 59. The next-worst team in that de­part­ment, the Lions, has pres­sured the quar­ter­back 107 times, per Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus.

On top of all that, the Raiders are al­low­ing 6.8 yards per play through eight games, on pace to break the NFL sin­gle­sea­son record since the

1970 merger set by the

2015 Saints, who al­lowed

6.6 yards per play. And the scari­est part for Guen­ther and the Raiders? That de­fense still has to suit up eight more times, once against the Charg­ers, twice against the Chiefs and once against the Steel­ers. The other four games come against the Car­di­nals, Ravens, Ben­gals and Bron­cos. Things won’t get much bet­ter for Guen­ther’s de­fense, if at all.

“I’ve re­ally never been through any­thing like this be­fore be­cause when I took the job there were a lot of guys that were ei­ther up for free agency or that I thought were go­ing to be on the ros­ter,” Guen­ther said. “Ob­vi­ously, there was a lot of changes. Guys got signed to other teams and we had to fill those spots in with some of the veter­ans with the cap money that we had. It’s been a chal­lenge. Ob­vi­ously, we’re try­ing to build this thing to get it the right way. That’s go­ing to be a mov­ing part the rest of the year, to try and find the right fit of guys, not only for this year but mov­ing down the road.

“We have a vi­sion, Jon and I, of what it’s go­ing to look like down the road. Hope­fully we can just keep get­ting bet­ter ev­ery week. It’s cer­tainly been a chal­lenge.”

When Guen­ther took the Raiders job he had de­fen­sive tack­les Denico Autry, Ed­die Van­der­does and Justin El­lis at his dis­posal. They’ve played less than one game com­bined for the Raiders, as Autry signed with the Colts in free agency, Van­der­does is set to come off the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list be­fore next week’s game against the Car­di­nals and El­lis has yet to re­sume prac­tic­ing af­ter in­jur­ing his foot in Week 1. Add in the trade of his big­gest weapon, Khalil Mack, who Guen­ther only met once in per­son dur­ing the off­sea­son, NaVorro Bow­man not re-sign­ing and the re­leases of Der­rick John­son and Bruce Irvin, and Guen­ther’s de­fense looks a lot dif­fer­ent than what he thought it might when he jumped aboard.

In­stead Guen­ther has leaned on rook­ies Ar­den Key, Mau­rice Hurst and P.J. Hall.

ANDA CHU Bay Area News Group

Oak­land Raiders de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Paul Guen­ther an­swers ques­tions dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Tues­day.

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